4 min read

Top Pentagon Officials' Phones were Wiped, Deleting Texts and Emails Related to Jan. 6

While the longest sentence to date for a Capitol rioter is handed down, an advocacy group discovers that key Pentagon officials' phone records, including on and around Jan. 6, were deleted when they left the government.
Top Pentagon Officials' Phones were Wiped, Deleting Texts and Emails Related to Jan. 6

The Defense Department revealed in court records it erased text messages and emails sent and received around the time of the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, from the phones of top Pentagon officials, reports the USA Today.

"For those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore could not be searched, although it is possible that particular text messages could have been saved into other records systems such as email," Pentagon lawyers said in their filing.

“It now appears as if multiple federal agencies may have failed to preserve records surrounding the January 6th attack on the Capitol,” Heather Sawyer, executive director at American Oversight, said in a statement. “There are still too many open questions about the role of the Pentagon, Secret Service, and others before and during the attack.”

Pentagon 'wiped' phones of top Defense officials despite request for Jan. 6 texts and emails (USA Today)

Excerpt from USA Today: The advocacy group American Oversight sought the texts through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, to learn more about the attack. The group requested emails, texts and calendar invitations for former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, his former acting chief of staff Kash Patel and former Defense Department general counsel Paul Ney. But in a court filing July 12, the Pentagon and Army said when an employee leaves the government, "the phone is wiped." American Oversight had requested the records less than a week after the riot, which the Pentagon acknowledged, but the top officials left the government at the end of former President Donald Trump's term Jan. 20, 2021.
Embed from Getty Images

In a related story from The Hill, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official is reminding its employees to preserve the contents of their government phones following revelations that the texts for top Defense Department officials were not preserved and their communications on Jan. 6, 2021, were lost.

Pentagon reminds top officials not to wipe phones after Jan. 6 data scrub (The Hill)

Excerpt from The Hill: In a memo sent to senior leaders on Wednesday, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks reminded officials that the retention of records as required by the Federal Records Act "is a solemn responsibility and legal obligation for all federal employees, civilian and military." This memo "further directs that, effective immediately, all mobile device service providers in DoD will capture and save the data resident on DoD-provisioned mobile devices when devices are turned-in by users," Hicks wrote. The Pentagon wiped the phones of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and former Pentagon chief of staff Kash Patel in the days after the attack on the Capitol and the end of former President Trump’s term. The scrubbed records are significant as they could have shed more light on why the National Guard was delayed approval to go to the Capitol as it was under siege.
Embed from Getty Images

In another related story, a federal judge on Monday sentenced Guy Wesley Reffitt, the first defendant to go on trial in the Justice Department’s sprawling criminal inquiry into the Jan. 6 attack, to more than seven years in prison, the longest sentence to date in a case stemming from the Capitol riot, writes The New York Times.

The sentencing capped a trial that was seen as an important test for the Justice Department, which is only beginning the marathon process of trying what could be scores of rioters. In particular, prosecutors and defense lawyers had been watching to see how the obstruction [of Congress's certification] charge, a rarely used count central to many of the cases yet to reach trial, would hold up in court.

First Capitol Rioter to Face Trial Gets 7 Years, Longest Sentence So Far (The New York Times)

Excerpt from The New York Times: After a six-hour hearing, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich handed down a sentence at the low end of the guideline range. She noted that was still significantly longer than any given so far to any of the more than 800 people arrested in connection with the riot, many of whom have struck plea bargains. Prosecutors had asked that Mr. Reffitt be given 15 years after adding a sentencing enhancement used in cases of domestic terrorism. But Judge Friedrich rejected those terms, sentencing him to seven years and three months in prison with three years of probation, and ordering him to pay $2,000 in restitution and receive mental health treatment. A jury found Mr. Reffitt guilty on five felony charges in March, including obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election, carrying a .40-caliber pistol during the riot and two counts of civil disorder. Unlike others who breached the building, Mr. Reffitt did not go inside.
Reffitt cried when his son testified against him during his trial (WILLIAM J HENNESSEY JR / CBS)

Jump to this week's edition of:
World News (Part 1)
World News (Part 2)
US News (Part 1)
US News (Part 2
US News (Part 3)