The U.S. Secret Service erased a number of text messages on Jan. 6, 2021 — the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by radical supporters of former President Donald Trump — as well as the day before, a government watchdog said in a letter to lawmakers this week.
The inspector general of the Homeland Security Department — which operates the Secret Service — revealed the erasures in a letter to four lawmakers dated Wednesday.
Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said in the letter, addressed to the House and Senate homeland security committees, that the agency said the messages were erased as “part of a device-replacement program.”
“The [Secret Service] erased those text messages after [the Office of the Inspector General] requested records from electronic communications from the USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6,” Cuffari’s letter said.
“The DHS personnel have repeatedly told the OIG inspectors that they were not permitted to provide records directly to OIG and that such records had to first undergo review by DHS attorneys.”
Cuffari said the review led to “weeks-long delays” in his office obtaining records and created confusion about whether all the records had been provided.
The letter was sent to Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and ranking member John Katko, R-N.Y., along with Gary Peters, D-Mich., chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and its ranking member Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Thompson also is leading the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi responded that the agency erased the text messages before they were requested by the committee. Guglielmi noted the Secret Service has fully cooperated with the investigation.
“The insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false,” Guglielmi said according to NBC News. “In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect — whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts.”
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