Data from more than 25 government-issued phones used by members of the special counsel’s team was wiped or deleted during the course of the Trump-Russia probe, according to Justice Department records released Thursday.
Several prosecutors on the special counsel’s team claimed they accidentally wiped their devices by entering incorrect passwords too many times. Others said they intentionally deleted data from their phones.
Andrew Weissmann, a top deputy on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, “wiped” his phone twice, according to the documents, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.
Weissmann “entered password too many times and wiped his phone” on March 8, 2018, the Justice Department spreadsheet says. He claimed to have “accidentally wiped” his phone on Sept. 27, 2018.
“Data lost,” the spreadsheet reads.
A phone used by James Quarles, one of Mueller’s closest aides, “wiped itself without intervention from him,” the Justice Department document says.
A phone used by prosecutor Greg Andres was wiped due to a forgotten password on May 30, 2018.
Kyle Freeney’s phone “was accidentally wiped prior to records review” on Nov. 27, 2018, according to the spreadsheet. Another unidentified special counsel team member also claimed to have accidentally wiped data prior to the records review.
L. Rush Atkinson said he accidentally wiped data from his phone two days later, Nov. 29, 2018.
Two other users said heir phones were accidentally scrubbed Dec. 12, 2018, and Jan. 2, 2019.
The records cite numerous other incidents in which data from unidentified special counsel team members’ phones was erased because of errant password entries.
There is no indication from the records that any of the special counsel’s prosecutors scrubbed their phones to intentionally hide their communications. The prosecutors likely knew their phones were subject to review from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, however.
Three FBI employees who worked on Mueller’s investigation were removed from the probe after their anti-Trump text messages were discovered during the inspector general’s investigation of how the FBI handled of the Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email while conducting official business as secretary of state.
An inspector general’s report released June 11, 2018, detailed derogatory text messages that FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page exchanged about Donald Trump. The report detailed anti-Trump messages that FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith sent to a colleague shortly after Trump’s election win in November 2016.
Clinesmith, who worked on the special counsel’s team, pleaded guilty last month to altering an email during the Trump-Russia probe.
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