WASHINGTON – The Secret Service deleted text messages from the day before and day of the 2021 capitol attacks after the communications had been requested by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general.
The disclosure was made to the House and Senate Homeland Security committees in a Wednesday letter from Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, who described “weeks-long delays” in obtaining relevant records in his inquiry of the Capitol assault.
“The (DHS) notified us that many US Secret Service…text messages from January 5 and 6 2021 were erased as part of a device replacement program,” Cuffari wrote. “The USSS erased those messages despues de (the inspector general) requested records of electronic communications from USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6.”
Cuffari went on to report that investigators were told by DHS staffers that the records could not be provided until they were reviewed by department attorneys.
“This review led to weeks-long delays in obtaining OIG records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced.” the inspector general wrote.
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Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described the claims as “categorically false.”
“I will be responding in detail,” he tweeted late Thursday.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-MI, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the inspector general raised “concerning allegations.”
“We need to get to the bottom of whether the Secret Service destroyed federal records or the Department of Homeland Security obstructed oversight,” Peters said. “The DHS Inspector General needs these records to do its independent oversight and the public deserves to have a full picture of what occurred on January 6th.”
The inspector general’s disclosure comes as the service has been thrust into the spotlight by the special House committee’s investigation of the Jan. 6 attack.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadowstold the panel last month that the Secret Service resisted Trump’s repeated entreaties to join the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
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Hutchinson said she was told that an angry Trump at one point physically lunged at an agent and sought to re-direct the Secret Service vehicle as it was returning him to the Oval Office. Hutchinson was recalling an account provided by Anthony Ornato, a former White House official who now serves as a Secret Service executive.
Hutchinson’s testimony came under scrutiny last week after both Ornato, the then-White House deputy chief of staff in charge of operations, and Robert Engel – the agent who was allegedly accosted by Trump – told the Secret Service that the president did angrily demand to be taken to the Capitol but that he never grabbed Engel or the steering wheel.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism