Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) fired off a letter to the FBI and Justice Department on Friday, demanding records from all government phones used by employees in Special Counsel Mueller’s office. Grassley’s letter comes after records released on Thursday indicated that top members of Mueller’s investigative team intentionally wiped their phones to thwart an investigation into their work.
The documents show that data from at least fifteen cell phones were “wiped” for various reasons during their investigation of Russian collusion in the 2016 election.
Newly released DOJ records show that multiple top members of Mueller's investigative team claimed to have "accidentally wiped" at least 15 (!) phones used during the anti-Trump investigation after the DOJ OIG asked for the devies to be handed over. https://t.co/VVUnfZVolm pic.twitter.com/p50PnoCBse
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) September 10, 2020
In light of this newly released information, the senator demanded to know if the DOJ is investigating whether or not Mueller’s team violated “federal record keeping laws, rules, and regulations.”
This latest shoe to drop in the ongoing RussiaGate saga came via a lawsuit from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch,” Fox News reported.
The records show at least several dozen phones were wiped of information because of forgotten passcodes, irreparable screen damage, loss of the device, intentional deletion or other reasons — and came before the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) could review the devices.
The documents show that Mueller deputy Andrew Weissman “accidentally wiped” his phone twice after entering the wrong passcode too many times in March 2018. Lawyer James Quarles’ phone “wiped itself” without his intervention, the records say.
Although it’s technically possible to accidentally wipe a phone clean by entering too many incorrect passwords, it’s actually pretty hard to do it in practice.
“After the 5th failed attempt, iOS requires a 1-minute timeout before you can try again. During this timeout the only thing you can do is place an emergency call to 911. After the 6th attempt, you get a 5-minute timeout. After the 7th, 15 minutes. These timeouts escalate such that it would take over 3 hours to enter 10 incorrect passcodes.”
Somehow Mueller’s “pit bull” Andrew Weissmann managed to do this twice.
“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. Indeed, many officials apparently deleted the records after the DOJ Inspector General began his inquiry into how the Department mishandled Crossfire Hurricane,” Sen. Grassley wrote in his letter to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“Moreover, based on this new information, the number of times the stated reasons for the deletions calls into question whether or not it was a widespread intentional effort,” Grassley added.
One team member, Andrew Weissmann, appears to have deleted all of the data on his phone more than once. On March 8, 2018, records show that Weissmann “[e]ntered [his] password too many times and wiped his phone.”
On September 27, another report reads, “AAW accidentally wiped cell phone – data lost.” On two occasions, officials admitted to deleting data, and multiple individuals stated that the phone automatically wiped the data after they used the wrong password too many times.
The senator from Iowa went on to note that Mueller’s team appear to have “deleted federal records that could be key to better understanding their decision-making process as they pursued their investigation and wrote their report. ”
Significantly, many of the deletions appear to have occurred “after the DOJ Inspector General began his inquiry into how the Department mishandled Crossfire Hurricane,” Grassley pointed out. “Moreover, based on this new information, the number of times and the stated reasons for the deletions calls into question whether or not it was a widespread intentional effort,” he added, pointing out that this was not the first time the Special Counsel’s office had “misused records within their possession.”
On March 8, 2019, I wrote a letter to the Justice Department regarding Special Counsel Mueller’s selective use of emails in the George Papadopoulos Statement of Offense.
In that letter, I provided references to a footnote in the Statement that was used by Mueller to suggest that a Trump “Campaign official suggested ‘low level’ staff should go to Russia.”
In full context, however, the emails in question actually show that the Trump Campaign wanted someone “low level” to decline these types of invitations.
Grassley requested that the FBI and DOJ provide the following records regarding Mueller’s investigation:
1. All records from the FOIA request in unredacted form.
2. All records, including text messages, from all government phones used by employees in
Special Counsel Mueller’s office.
3. All records relating to the explanations that each employee within Special Counsel
Mueller’s office provided as to why their phone data and records were deleted.
4. When were you first made aware that Special Counsel Mueller’s employees deleted data
and records from their government phones?
5. Are you investigating whether or not Special Counsel Mueller’s employees violated
federal record keeping laws, rules, and regulations? If so, when did that investigation
begin? If not, why not?
6. Has the Justice Department attempted to forensically recover any deleted records? If so,
please provide all recovered records in unredacted form. If not, why not?
7. Has the Justice Department referred this matter to the Inspector General? If not, why
“Congress and the American people are owed answers regarding Special Counsel Mueller and his team,” Grassley wrote. He requested that the DOJ and FBI respond to his demands by no later than September 25, 2020.