Jan. 6 texts, data deleted from Secret Service, Pentagon phones lead to accusations of cover-up

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Evidence of 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 riot that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is now apparently under scrutiny by the House select committee hearings investigating 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 electronic devices wiped in the same process.

A video of Donald Trump speaking is displayed above the members of the committee.
A video of then-President Donald Trump speaking is shown at a hearing last month of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

“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, to add to the hours of witness testimony, reams of documents and immersive graphic displays already presented at the hearings. Staff for the panel declined to comment for this story.

Trump aides and advisers have denied any wrongdoing.

But the apparent attempt at obfuscating the evidence 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 that elapsed after Trump finished his speech to supporters on the Ellipse near the White House and then finally called off the rioters.

Security footage shows rioters in winter clothes milling about on the tiled floors of the Capitol in a haze of smoke. In the background, a line of Capitol Police hold hands in an attempt to bar entry to a closed door.
This exhibit from video released by the House select committee shows security video with Secret Service radio traffic audio in the background discussing the evacuation of Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021. (House select committee via AP)

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 to 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.

On-screen text on video shown at a hearing last month says: January 6th Committee Interview, The President wanted to lead tens of thousands of people to the Capitol. Voice of: White House Security Official.
Anonymous testimony as seen on video during the House select committee hearing on July 21. (House TV via Reuters video)

One of the greatest caches 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, a unexpected trove of information came to light during the defamation trial of longtime conspiracy theorist and Jan. 6 coordinator Alex Jones, when it was revealed that Jones’s lawyers accidentally sent two years of text messages from his cellphone to Mark Bankston, a lawyer representing the parents of a boy killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Bankston said the Jan. 6 committee had requested the messages and related documents.


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