POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Secret Service erased texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 — after oversight officials asked for them, watchdog says

Jul 14, 2022, 2:55 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 10:34 am
WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 22, 2018:  An American flag flies over the south facade of the White House...
WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 22, 2018: An American flag flies over the south facade of the White House in Washington, D.C. Additional security fences and barriers were added along the south perimeter to prevent people from jumping the fence and entering the restricted White House grounds. The Secret Service tightened the security on the south side in 2017 by closing access to the entire fence line on the South Lawn. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Originally Published: 14 JUL 22 16:26 ET
Updated: 14 JUL 22 16:45 ET

(CNN) — The US Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, shortly after they were requested by oversight officials investigating the agency’s response to the US Capitol riot, according to a letter given to the House select committee investigating the insurrection and obtained by CNN.

The letter, which was originally sent to the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, says the messages were erased from the system as part of a device-replacement program after the watchdog asked the agency for records related to its electronic communications.

Utah connection: Senator Romney, Representative Moore remember chaos and fear during the attack on Jan. 6

“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.

“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 added. “This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced.”

The Intercept was first to report the DHS IG letter.

Utah connection: Southern Utah man sentenced for his involvement in U.S. Capitol riot

The US Secret Service and the Homeland Security inspector general did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. The House select committee declined to comment.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, chairs both the House Homeland Security and January 6 committees.

While the letter does not say whether the DHS watchdog believes these text messages were erased intentionally or for a nefarious reason, the incident adds to growing questions about the Secret Service’s response to the US Capitol attack.

The Secret Service has been in the spotlight since witnesses have described how former President Donald Trump angrily demanded that his detail take him to the Capitol following his speech at the White House Ellipse — shortly before rioters breached the building.

Utah connection: Former Salt Lake City police officer arrested in connection with Jan. 6 riot at U.S. Capitol

A former adviser to then-Vice President Mike Pence also referenced the Secret Service in his testimony. Greg Jacob, Pence’s former counsel, told the panel that Pence refused to get into the vice presidential vehicle after being evacuated from the Capitol, raising concerns that the driver would have taken him to a secure location and thus prevent him from certifying the electoral results.

More than a year after the riot, the Homeland Security inspector general review of the Secret Service and its actions on January 6 remains ongoing.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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Secret Service erased texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 — after oversight officials asked for them, watchdog says