'Cover-up as well as crime': Legal experts react to Trump Administration officials' deleted texts

'Cover-up as well as crime': Legal experts react to Trump Administration officials' deleted texts
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead.

Legal experts are quickly weighing in on the bombshell news that the cell phones of top Trump administration officials at the Pentagon were wiped after the January 6 insurrection.

“The Defense Department wiped the phones of top departing DOD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting any texts from key witnesses to events surrounding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, according to court filings,” states CNN, which was first to report the latest development in destruction of possible January 6 insurrection evidence.

The discovery of the wipe, and that records from the time surrounding the insurrection were lost, was made after the watchdog group American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information request against the Defense Dept. and the U.S. Army. By law all those records were required to be preserved.

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The phones of former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller (photo), former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy appear to have been wiped. CNN notes the individuals themselves do not appear to have executed the action.

The news that vital information and federal government records were not retained after one of the biggest criminal conspiracies in the nation’s history comes on the heels of the news that “many” text messages from U.S. Secret Service agents and officials from around the time of the insurrection were also destroyed after January 6.

“Cover-up as well as crime,” wrote Georgetown Law School professor of law Heidi Li Feldman in response to the CNN report.

“Intentional destruction of government records, including text messages, is a crime,” noted former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, who served during the George W. Bush administration. “Destruction of government records in the midst of a law enforcement investigation is obstruction of justice.Somebody should be going to the slammer for this.”

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Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney, now a law professor and legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, pointed to the timing of certain events.

“DOD wiped the phones of top departing officials as the Trump administration ended, deleting texts from key witnesses to 1-6, per court filings. Trump replaced the Secy of Defense & 3 top officials at DOD with loyalists AFTER he lost the election.”

NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss sums up the events:

“OK, Secret Service phones were wiped. So were those of Homeland Security. Now reportedly the same with the Pentagon. Anyone want to explain what was going on here?”

Several noted journalists are also strongly suggesting this is evidence of a coverup.

“I’m picking up subtle hints that there may have been a wide-ranging coverup,” Brian Beutler, editor-in-chief of Crooked Media noted, apparently sarcastically.

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Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family,” an investigation into power brokers of the far Christian right, asked: “Is it possible that all these J6 texts were deleted by coincidence. Sure, anything’s possible. Doesn’t matter: at this point any good faith observer has to err on the side of caution and proceed as if there’s a coverup.”

“So yes, there is a pretty massive coverup going on,” declared Abdallah Fayyad, a Boston Globe opinion writer.

“I’ve seen enough,” wrote YES! Magazine senior editor Chris Winters. “This is all part of the attempted cover-up of Trump’s attempted coup. There’s no “accidental” purge of texts. Subpoena, indict, convict.”

Talking Points Memo founder and Editor Josh Marshall served up a sarcastic observation: “Guess what!?!? Trump DOD officials somehow also got in on the secret service phone reboot.”

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