Fifty-nine cell phones assigned to multiple people on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team are unaccounted for, and Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson are demanding answers.
In a letter to the Justice Department Monday, the senators inquired why a majority of the 96 phones assigned to members of the investigation were mysteriously missing, as well as why some of the Special Counsel Office (SCO) phones were apparently not subject to record preservation.
In September 2020, the two senators asked the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to probe documents suggesting Mueller’s team erased information from official phones in September 2020. The information, Grassley wrote in September, “could be key to better understanding [the Mueller’s team’s] decision-making process as they pursued their investigation and wrote their report.”
“These reports are troubling and raise concerns about record retention and transparency,” Johnson wrote in a letter to then-inspector general Michael Horowitz. “Therefore, I respectfully request that your office open an investigation into this matter to determine what, why, and how information was wiped, whether any wrongdoing occurred, and who these devices belonged to.”
Grassley and Johnson’s Monday letter indicates the OIG responded to their request on May 11, 2021, with evidence that 59 of the 96 SCO phones were missing.
“Based on the OIG’s May 11, 2021 response, we understand that the Department’s Justice Management Division (JMD) provided the OIG with information relating to the Special Counsel’s Office cell phone records. JMD informed the OIG that 96 phones were assigned to the SCO and JMD currently cannot account for the location of 59 SCO phones,” the senators said in their letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Grassley and Johnson are pressing for further information, asking for the names of SCO employees whose cell phones were not officially reviewed, if the DOJ is taking action to recover the 59 phones, and if the “JMD or any other Department entity reviewed the SCO cell phones to determine whether they were used to leak sensitive or classified information.”
The Mueller team already conducted wholesale evidence destruction when they suspiciously “accidentally wiped” data off of official phones. Lost phone records may provide new information about the team’s theatrical investigation into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, which had unlimited resources and little oversight.