National Security

Durbin calls on DOD watchdog to probe ‘wiped’ Jan. 6 texts

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., joined at right by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., takes a question during a news conference following a closed-door policy lunch, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is calling for an investigation following news that the texts for top Department of Defense (DOD) officials were not preserved, losing their communications on Jan. 6. 

American Oversight, a group that had sued for the texts following a public records request, disclosed that DOD notified them in March that it “wiped” the phones of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy in the days after the attack on the Capitol.

“The disappearance of this critical information could jeopardize efforts to learn the full truth about Jan. 6. I don’t know whether the failure to preserve these critical government texts from Jan. 6 is the result of bad faith, stunning incompetence, or outdated records management policies, but we must get to the bottom of it,” Durbin said, noting that he would ask DOD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the matter.

The disclosure follows news that numerous officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also had their messages erased during the transition, including former acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli. Both had their phones reset following the inauguration, losing any texts from Jan. 6 in the process.

DOD provided a similar explanation.

“DOD and Army conveyed to Plaintiff that when an employee separates from DOD or Army he or she turns in the government-issued phone, and the phone is wiped. For those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore could not be searched,” the agencies wrote in a March court filing.

The effort to obtain Pentagon texts could have shed light on why the National Guard faced delays in getting approval to go to the Capitol as it was under siege.

The suit sought the military leaders’ communications with former President Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. The request also asked for communications from Kash Patel, Miller’s chief of staff; Paul Ney, the Defense Department general counsel; and James E. McPherson, the Army’s general counsel.

DOD OIG said it would consider the request.

“The DOD OIG is aware of Senator Durbin’s press release and is awaiting his letter to Acting DOD Inspector General Sean O’Donnell,” a spokeswoman for the office said in an email to The Hill.

“We will review the letter once we receive it.”

Tags American Oversight Chris Miller Department of Defense Department of Defense Office of Inspector General Department of Homeland Security Dick Durbin General Sean O'Donnell Jan. 6 Missing texts Ryan McCarthy Senate Judiciary Committee U.S. Army
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