Jan. 6 texts and data deleted from Secret Service, Pentagon phones spark ‘cover-up’ accusations

The hours of witness testimony, reams of documents, immersive graphic displays and sheer astonishment of the revelations from the House select committee hearings investigating the riot that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, may be one of the most compelling stories to come out of the U.S. Congress — but perhaps more compelling has been all the information erased, wiped, deleted and otherwise obscured by members of former President Donald Trump’s administration in the days, weeks and months after the failed insurrection.

Text messages and other data were wiped from the phones of Secret Service agents, despite Congressional and government watchdog requests to keep evidence from that day. Senior Pentagon officials involved in responding to the attack had their government-issued phones "wiped" as part of what the Pentagon called a standard process for departing employees. Top aides, including former acting secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and former acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli, had their electronics wiped in the same process.

"The same mindset that would seek sweeping pardons is likely the same that would engage in a cover-up," said Ryan Goodman, a former Defense Department lawyer who chronicled multiple deletions surrounding the Jan. 6 attack. "All of the data points currently align with a cover-up as the most likely explanation."

The House committee is continuing to probe for more evidence related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, including seeking deleted texts. Staff for the panel declined to comment for this story.

Trump aides and advisers have denied any wrongdoing.

But the seeming obfuscation has been impossible to ignore. When the Jan. 6 committee hosted its "season finale" last month, it focused on the "187 minutes" — the more than three hours between when Trump finished his speech to supporters on the Ellipse near the White House to when he finally called off the rioters.

White House call logs and the president’s daily diary for much of that stretch of time were empty, and Trump’s photographer at the White House was told “no photographs” during that period as he sat glued to Fox News watching the riot unfold. But, as the committee detailed, Trump was on the phone extensively with Rudy Giuliani, one of his lawyers at the time, and was even lobbying senators, as they were being evacuated, to try and overturn his election loss.

Investigators have been able to use documents from various court cases and even public interviews to fill in gaps in the timeline of that day. But breakthroughs sometimes seem to have been almost accidental.

One of the greatest treasure troves of information came from former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows before he stopped cooperating with investigators. And that doesn't account for the papers he burned in the White House after meeting with one of the top lawmakers who helped coordinate the insurrection, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn.

This week, an accidental trove of information came in the defamation trial of longtime conspiracy theorist and Jan. 6 coordinator Alex Jones when it was revealed Jones's lawyers accidentally sent two years of text messages from his cell phone to Mark Bankston, a lawyer representing Sandy Hook parents. Bankston said the Jan. 6 committee requested the messages and related documents.

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The rioters got within 2 doors of Vice President Mike Pence's office. See how in this 3D explainer from Yahoo Immersive.

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