Two top Senate Republicans are pressing Justice Department officials to investigate whether special counsel Robert Mueller’s team violated federal record keeping laws during a probe by the Justice Department’s watchdog into the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on Friday pointed to a recent Freedom of Information Act release from the Justice Department that shows at least 27 instances of phones assigned to Mueller’s team being “wiped” or reset for various reasons, including 15 due to passcodes forgotten or being entered too many times.
In a letter to the Justice Department and FBI, Grassley questioned whether it was a “widespread intentional effort” given the “number of times and the stated reasons for the deletions.” He demanded that DOJ turn over all phone records from the Mueller team and any recovered records to the committee.
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson asked that DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz to investigate the matter and whether any wrongdoing occurred.
The Justice Department told CNN it was reviewing Grassley’s letter. A representative for Mueller declined to comment.
According to the DOJ records released this week in response to a FOIA petition by Judicial Watch and reviewed by CNN, Andrew Weissmann, who was the top prosecutor on Mueller’s team, is listed twice on separate dates. One record states: “AAW accidentally wiped cell phone – data lost”: a second states: “entered password too many times and wiped his phone.”
CNN has reached out to Weissmann for comment.
Other users whose phones were marked as “wiped” include James Quarles, Rush Atkinson and Greg Andres. (The names of many of those with wiped phones are redacted.)
President Donald Trump and his supporters have long sought to discredit the FBI’s Russia probe and Mueller’s findings, questioning whether the FBI even had reason to open an investigation into his presidential campaign.
Trump talked about Weissmann during his Saturday evening rally in Nevada, saying there “has to be repercussions” for the deletions.
The FBI in July 2016 launched a counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between the Kremlin and Trump campaign officials. Mueller took over the investigation in 2017 when he was appointed special counsel.
At Barr’s direction, the Justice Department launched an investigation last year into the origins of the FBI Russia probe.
In a report released in December, Horowitz found that the FBI properly opened its investigation into Russian election interference, but that there were major errors in how the agency conducted the probe.
Barr disputed Horowitz’s finding that the FBI properly opened a full investigation, called Crossfire Hurricane, based on the evidence it had.
Trump and Republicans have also pointed to text messages between former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to argue that an anti-Trump bias exists at the bureau.
Horowitz in his report said Strzok and Page did not affect the start of the investigation or didn’t act out of political bias.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Evan Perez contributed to this