The Secret Service reportedly deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 after oversight officials requested the agency’s electronic communications, a letter sent to the Jan. 6 Select committee indicates. The Intercept first reported the news.
The letter was initially sent by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS IG) to the House and Senate homeland security committees, according to The Intercept. The Secret Service maintains that the messages were deleted from the system as part of a device-replacement program, but the letter issued by the DHS IG reportedly said the erasure of the messages occurred shortly after oversight officials requested the agency’s records related to its electronic communications.
“First, the Department notified us that many US Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device-replacement program. The USSS erased those text messages after OIG requested records of electronic communications from the USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6,” the letter from DHS IG Joseph Cuffari stated, CNN reported.
“Second, DHS personnel have repeatedly told 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 continued, according to CNN. “This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced.”
The letter reportedly does not indicate whether the DHS watchdog believes the text messages were deleted intentionally or whether there was a nefarious motive behind the move, according to CNN.
Additionally, The Intercept notes that it is unclear from the letter whether all of the messages from the Secret Service between January 5 and 6 were erased, or just a portion of the messages was deleted.
The development comes as the Jan. 6 Select Committee continues to hold its public hearings that outline its argument that the Capitol insurrection was a multi-step, concerted effort to subvert the 2020 election results — a push that was carried out by former President Trump and his allies.
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) also chairs the House homeland security committee.
The Secret Service has emerged as a focus during the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s recent public hearings. Late last month, Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified that she recalled Trump demanding the Secret Service get rid of metal detectors at the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse that occurred hours before the Capitol insurrection so that his armed supporters could move closer to the stage, making the crowd appear larger. Hutchinson also testified about Trump’s anger on Jan. 6 as figures in his inner circle pushed back at his demand to march to the Capitol with his supporters.
Greg Jacob, former counsel to Vice President Mike Pence, also referenced the Secret Service when he testified to the committee last month about the then-VP’s refusal to leave the Capitol as the insurrection unfolded. Jacob testified that when the Secret Service directed Pence and his top aides to get into the waiting cars amid the attack on the Capitol, Pence made clear that he did not want to be whisked away from the Capitol because he was determined to fulfill his constitutional duty of certifying the election results.
“The vice president did not want to take any chance that the world would see the vice president of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol,” Jacob testified. “He was determined that we would complete the work that we had set out to do that day, that it was his constitutional duty to see it through and that the rioters who had breached the Capitol would not have the satisfaction of disrupting the proceedings beyond the day on which they were supposed to be completed.”