The government watchdog found that secret service agents deleted text messages sent and received around January 6, 2021, even after an inspector general requested them as part of a investigation into the uprising.
The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (OIG), in a letter obtained by the Associated Press, said the messages between January 5 and January 6, 2021, were deleted “as part of of the device replacement program.” The letter said the erasure came after the watchdog’s office requested records of electronic communications between the agents as part of an investigation into the events surrounding the January 6 attacks. .
In addition, Department of Homeland Security personnel were informed that they were unable to provide records to the inspector general and that any such records would first have to be reviewed by DHS attorneys.
“This review has resulted in weeks-long delays in OIG’s collection of records and created confusion as to whether all records have been produced,” the letter said Wednesday. and addressed to the leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees.
Deleting the messages is sure to raise questions for the House January 6 hacking committee, which has rekindled the interest of the Secret Service after the former aide’s impressive testimony. White House Counsel Cassidy Hutchinson late last month about former President Donald Trump’s actions on the day of the uprising.
Hutchinson recalls being told about Trump’s confrontation with Secret Service details when he angrily demanded to be taken to the Capitol, where his supporters would then demolish the building. She also recalls wiretapping Trump telling security officials to remove the magnetometer for his rally on the Ellipse, a park just south of the White House, even though some of his supporters were armed. weapon.
Secret Service objects for characterization
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi countered the letter Thursday night, saying: “The suggestion that the Secret Service maliciously deleted the text messages upon request is untrue. In fact, the Secret Service has fully cooperated with OIG in every way – whether it’s interviews, documents, emails or text messages.”
He said the Secret Service began resetting their mobile devices to factory settings in January 2021 “as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration. ” In the process, some data was lost.
It’s not clear why the data migration happens as soon as a presidential administration gives way to a new one, or if that was standard practice in the past.
The inspector general first requested electronic communication on February 26, “after the move was going well,” Guglielmi said.
“The Secret Service notified DHS OIG of the loss of data on a number of phones, but confirmed to OIG that none of the texts they were looking for were lost in transit,” he said.
He said the allegation that officials at the inspector general’s office did not have timely access to the document because it was reviewed by Department of Homeland Security attorneys was raised by the inspector general, and neither true.
“DHS has repeatedly and publicly denied this allegation, including responding to OIG’s last two semi-annual reports to Congress,” Guglielmi added.
The response of the Democratic congressman from Tennessee:
This is wrong behavior. It was also a mistake for Trump to make the Secret Service his deputy chief of staff. We need to ask the Secret Service to follow the law and be the civil service as well as the Secret Service https://t.co/P86qGZBh9Y
The agency said it provided a significant number of emails and chat messages including conversations and details related to January 6 to the inspector general and said text messages from Police The Capitol request for assistance on January 6 was kept and provided to the inspector general’s office. .
The text message deletion was first reported by The Intercept.