A top Senate Democrat is demanding an investigation into missing text messages from Defense Department leadership concerning the preparation for and response to the attack on the Capitol complex on Jan. 6.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the military’s inspector general needs to investigate the incident to help restore faith in the department.
“The disappearance of this critical information could jeopardize efforts to learn the full truth about Jan. 6,” he said in a statement. “I don’t know whether the failure to preserve these critical government texts is the result of bad faith, stunning incompetence, or outdated records management policies, but we must get to the bottom of it.”
CNN reported on Tuesday that DoD officials wiped the phones of top departing DoD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration, potentially deleting any texts concerning their response to the Jan. 6 violence.
Hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump breached the Capitol building that day in an attempt to disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results.
In recent months, a special House panel has held a series of public hearings to investigate Trump’s role in instigating, continuing and later covering up the attack.
Those hearings have included reviewing the phone and text records of key Trump administration officials. However, CNN reported that military officials deleted that data for former Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy after they left the posts.
Durbin, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said all three men were involved in decisions to deploy the National Guard to the Capitol complex to help restore order, a move that House panel investigators have alleged was delayed by hours because of Trump’s inaction.
The DoD officials have referred all questions on the matter to the Department of Justice, since the cell phone records are part of ongoing litigation. Justice Department officials declined to comment on CNN’s report.
Durbin’s call for a DoD investigation comes days after he sent a similar letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to take over the investigation into missing Secret Service text and phone records from the same time period.
The House Jan. 6 commission is scheduled to resume public hearings in September. Past hearings have mentioned the National Guard delay issues, but not specifically focused on that aspect of the chaos that day.
Reporter Meghann Myers contributed to this story.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.