Andrew Weissmann denied mishandling his government-issued phones after recently released documents showed devices belonging to him and other members of former special counsel Robert Mueller's team were "wiped" for various reasons.

For the first time the former Justice Department official addressed the disclosure, which has outraged Republicans who suspect there was a cover-up in the Russia investigation, when MSNBC's Ari Melber brought it up at the end of an interview focused, in part, on U.S. Attorney John Durham's criminal inquiry into misconduct by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials who were examining links between President Trump's 2016 campaign and the Kremlin.

"I know I didn’t, and I’m confident that my colleagues didn’t either," Weissmann said when asked a second time whether he did anything improper with phone evidence.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch received 87 pages of partially redacted Justice Department records earlier this month that raised news questions about the Russia investigation.

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 the Justice Department inspector general to investigate the deletions.

The records show that Weissmann said he accidentally wiped the data from his government-issued phones two separate times. Notes from March 3, 2018, show that he “entered password too many times and wiped his phone,” and records on Sept. 27, 2018, indicate that he “accidentally wiped cell phone — data lost.” The Justice Department notes recount similar issues related to information being wiped from phones belonging to Mueller prosecutors Greg Andres, Kyle Freeny, L. Rush Atkinson, and James Quarles.

Many other names are redacted, but the notes show similar instances of Mueller team member phones being "wiped" for various reasons, including forgotten passwords and incorrect passwords being entered too many times. In some cases, the phones were set to airplane mode.

Andrew Weissmann. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

Critics of Mueller's efforts, including Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, have been quick to point out that obstructing an investigation by knowingly deleting records is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. However, there is documented evidence of issues with government phones given to investigators, particularly those given to former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, whose anti-Trump text messages became fuel for 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. Still, the independent watchdog noted there was "no evidence" that they "attempted to circumvent the FBI's text message collection capabilities."

Weissmann, who is now an MSNBC legal analyst, said he will talk more about the phone deletion controversy this week as he embarks on a media tour for his new book, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation, which makes the case that the special counsel investigation "made mistakes" and "could have done more."

In the meantime, he challenged journalists to ask questions of the Justice Department.

"I think one thing I would ask reporters like you to do is to ask the Department of Justice to speak about all of the processes that were in place in the Mueller investigation to lock down and back up all written and electronic records," he told Melber. "Because I’m quite suspect that the Department of Justice is actually sitting on that information as opposed to coming out with it, which I think that would go a long way to debunk these stories."

The Washington Examiner reached out to the Justice Department for comment on Monday and has not received a response.