Devin Nunes: Mueller team members may have obstructed justice by wiping phonesby Daniel Chaitin
Former special counsel Robert Mueller's team may have obstructed justice, according to a top Republican investigator.
California Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, reacted on Sunday to documents that show more than a dozen phones belonging to Mueller team members were "wiped" for various reasons.
"This looks like it occurred at a very interesting time," Nunes said during an interview on Fox News's Sunday Morning Futures. "This is when the lovebirds' text messages were discovered. So, clearly, after that, everybody on the Mueller team went and wiped their phone."
The congressman was referring to the anti-Trump text messages between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page that became fuel for President Trump and his allies to dub the Russia investigation a "witch hunt."
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report in late 2018 that said there were technical problems that made it difficult to recover and review the text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page, who were integral members of the investigations into Hillary Clinton's private email server and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, on their government-issued phones. But the independent watchdog noted there was "no evidence" that they "attempted to circumvent the FBI's text message collection capabilities."
The newly revealed records show that data on the official phones of several members of Mueller's team, including former prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, got deleted "accidentally" before Horowitz could review the devices. Some of the reasons included entering the wrong password too many times.
"The question here is: Was there an investigation? Because if there was, that could be obstruction of justice," Nunes said. "But I think, regardless of that, this is destruction of federal records. We cannot have a justice system, whether it's at the federal level or the state level or local level, where records are being destroyed, Maria, because that's how we have a fair and equal justice system here that, if there's misconduct of any kind, that you can go back and look at what the prosecutors were doing."
Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, who was interviewing Nunes, noted that obstructing an investigation by knowingly deleting records is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The documents, released last week through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, prompted outrage among Republicans.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley wrote to the Justice Department and FBI, saying the deletions call "into question whether or not it was a widespread intentional effort.” Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who is the chairman of the homeland security panel, asked Horowitz to investigate the deletions.
Nunes said the Republican Party has to "prioritize" making sure members of Mueller's team "are prosecuted and held accountable."
The conduct of the Russia investigation is being reviewed by U.S. Attorney John Durham, and it appears Attorney General William Barr may release an interim report ahead of the 2020 election.