- Trump administration aides deleted official records from their government-issued gadgets.
- The latest instance involves texts and emails wiped by immigration officials.
- “We cannot stand by as agency after agency admits that it destroys public records,” say watchdogs.
Trump-era immigration officials scrubbed work-related information from their cell phones just before leaving office, a practice watchdog group American Oversight is raising the alarm about, following similar reports about widespread data wiping at the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the US Secret Service.
“We cannot stand by as agency after agency admits that it destroys public records,” American Oversight executive director Heather Sawyer told CNN, adding that text messages “often contain crucial information on what federal employees are doing and why they are doing it.”
“The obligation to retain these records is not optional — it is the law,” Sawyer said in a statement.
American Oversight is seeking information from former Trump administration Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials Thomas Homan, Matthew Albence, and Ronald Vitello regarding a criminal case involving Massachusetts state Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph. Joseph has been charged with helping an undocumented immigrant evade the law.
CNN reports that ICE Chief Technology Officer Richard Clark told American Oversight he couldn’t provide any related emails or text messages because Homan, Albence and Vitello’s phones had all been wiped clean and deactivated. American Oversight contends that the scrubbing was done after the group put in a request to review the records in 2019.
Earlier this month the Secret Service provided the January 6 select committee with cell phone numbers for various agents after improperly purging data sought by investigators looking into the deadly siege at the US Capitol.