One of Robert Mueller’s top lieutenants in the Russia investigation said the recent controversy over 27 prosecutors on the special counsel’s team wiping their government-issued cell phones before returning them to the DOJ is no controversy at all. In an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said all of the data contained on the phones was intentionally backed-up prior to the phones being wiped.
“Good questions from CBS on my new book: Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. Debunking phony ‘wiped phone’ conspiracy theory, and more in clip below,” Weissmann tweeted, along with a link to his appearance.
According to DOJ records released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Judicial Watch, as many as 15 phones from members of Mueller’s team were scrubbed of all their data before they were given to the OIG. The reasons provided included from hardware issues, damage, and forgotten passwords (if the incorrect password is typed more than ten times, the phone automatically returns to factory settings).
Weissmann is mentioned twice in the disclosure, with the document first saying that “AAW accidentally wiped cell phone — data lost,” and the second saying he “entered password too many times and wiped his phone.”
Prosecutors whose phones were also marked as “wiped” were James Quarles, Rush Atkinson and Greg Andres, while other names were redacted.
But Weissmann told CBS that none of the data was lost, and questioned why the Department of Justice (DOJ) hadn’t come forward to confirm that fact.
“One of the things I really with the department would put out there is all of the ways in which we had backup systems, and so everything that might be on a phone was backed up on our computers. I don’t think we lost any data whatsoever,” Weissmann said. “And, in fact, one of the things that I detail in the book is, far from not wanting to keep information, we were very concerned that if we were fired that our information would disappear. So we did everything we could to make sure that our records existed and existed in numerous locations in the Department of Justice as well as in the court. So this is one where we had every reason to make sure everything existed for posterity.”
He also said that he’d already provided the information to Judicial Watch, saying “they’re quite aware that they have all of this data.”
“And the Department of Justice should know that as well and I’m curious as to why they are not coming forward with that information,” he said.
Earlier this month Senate Republicans asked the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the matter, saying the reports were “troubling and raise concerns about record retention and transparency.”
President Donald Trump further fanned the flames of outrage over the Mueller teams’ handling of their cell phones on Monday saying, “action must be taken.”
[image via MSNBC screengrab]
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