Missing Jan. 6th texts due to Signal, personal phone use
The reason the government is missing text messages for Trump’s acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli from the period around the January 6th attack on the Capitol could be due to their use of the encrypted messaging app Signal as well as Cuccinnelli’s use of a personal phone for government business, according to declarations made by federal officials in a case brought by CREW.
In the declaration from the Department of Homeland Security, filed under penalty of perjury, DHS claims that following a data breach in December 2020, Wolf and Cuccinnelli were given temporary phones and instructed to use Signal to communicate in December 2020 and January 2021. DHS claims the agency retained the Signal messages, but given that one of Signal’s selling points is its “disappearing messages” feature, the accuracy of this claim may be questionable.
The DHS declaration confirms that Cuccinelli also used a personal phone to communicate about government business. The declaration describes no efforts to recover those messages from Cuccinelli’s private phone.
As part of ongoing litigation brought by CREW to bring to light the Trump administration’s activities around the insurrection, several federal agencies filed sworn declarations describing what they claim happened to missing January 6th text messages from top Trump officials, as well as their efforts to recover them. Officials from the Secret Service, DHS, Department of Defense and the Army claim, under penalty of perjury, that certain January 6th text messages were deleted and are now unrecoverable.
According to the Department of Defense, the phones of former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, former Chief of Staff Kash Patel and former General Counsel Paul Ney were reset and wiped of data “on or around January 20-22, 2021.” This action was taken“[b]efore DOD could initiate a search of the mobile devices for relevant text messages.” The Army also “reprovisioned” the phones of former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, General James McConville, and Lt. General Walter Piatt in 2021, removing any potential messages about the insurrection when they wiped the phones.
The Secret Service’s declaration confirms that from January 27 to April 1, 2021, the agency carried out a systemwide “migration” that “caused all data on [government issued] iPhones to be erased.” The agency claims it relied on employees to backup any federal records on their government phones prior to the migration.
Finally, a declaration from the National Archives and Records Administration reveals that the Secret Service informed it on July 22, 2022 that the DHS Inspector General “directed the Secret Service to cease investigation into the collection and preservation of text messages, and that they would comply with the request.”