New Justice Department records reveal that several phones belong to members of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team were wiped of important information after former FBI agent Peter Strzok‘s and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page’s politically charged text messages surfaced.
The text exchanges between Strzok and Page raised questions about the credibility of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, which was something Mueller was also investigating at the time.
Strzok and Page openly bragged about “stopping” Trump from becoming president, and said disparaging things about then-candidate Trump on their government-issued phones.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that “the messages raised serious questions about the propriety of any investigative decisions in which Strzok and Page played a role.”
After those messages became public, several former Mueller team members’ phones were wiped—and it is not clear why.
Andrew Weissmann, a manager on the Mueller team, reported that two of his special counsel’s office phones were wiped—one by accident, and another by entering the wrong password too many times, according to the documents.
“Wiped phone due to attempting the incorrect password to [sic] many times, believed had less than 10 text messages, and 5 photos of non-investigative or informational significance,” read one entry for assistant special counsel Greg Andres.
Another entry for Kyle Freeny, a former prosecutor on the team, read: “Phone was accidentally wiped prior to records review.”
At least 15 other phones were similarly wiped of information before their review by the DOJ, according to the Federalist’s Sean Davis.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said the timing was no coincidence.
“It looks like it occurred at a very interesting time; this is when the lovebirds’ text messages were discovered,” Nunes told Fox News on Sunday.
He added that the devices were wiped before Horowitz was able to review them as part of his internal investigation.
Because of this, the wiped data could be “obstruction of justice,” he argued.
“Regardless of that, this is destruction of federal records,” Nunes said. “We cannot have a justice system—whether it’s at the federal level, or the state level, or the local level—where records are being destroyed.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, agreed and said that the “number of times and the stated reasons for the deletion calls into question whether or not it was a widespread intentional effort” in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Bill Barr.
“It appears that Special Counsel Mueller’s team may have deleted federal records that could be key to better understanding their decision-making process as they pursued their investigation and wrote their report,” Grassley wrote.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., argued that this is further proof that Mueller’s investigation cannot be trusted.
“If you can’t manage your own phone, why should we trust you to investigate a crime?” he asked. “The question is, did they obstruct justice, did they intentionally delete information from their phone because Horowitz was on the case?”