The United States Secret Service deleted text messages sent on Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 after a government watchdog investigating the U.S. Capitol breach requested them, a letter obtained by CNN first revealed Thursday.
The Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security originally notified the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees on July 13 that the messages were erased.
“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 Inspector General 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,” the letter added. “This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced.”
According to CNN, the U.S. Secret Service rejected the Inspector General’s assertions, saying a statement that “the insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false. In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect — whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts.”
“DHS OIG requested electronic communications for the first time on Feb. 26, 2021, after the migration was well under way,” the statement continued. “The Secret Service notified DHS OIG of the loss of certain phones’ data, but confirmed to OIG that none of the texts it was seeking had been lost in the migration.”
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the Inspector General’s letter is “concerning.”
“We need to get to the bottom of whether the Secret Service destroyed federal records or the Department of Homeland Security obstructed oversight. 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,” Peters said.
The head of both the House Homeland Security and Jan. 6 committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), said in a statement that the allegations were “troubling.”
“The Committee on Homeland Security received a letter from the DHS Inspector General regarding the Secret Service deleting text messages the Office of Inspector General requested as part of its investigation into the January 6th attack on the Capitol,” Thompson said. “The Committee will be briefed about this extraordinarily troubling destruction of records and respond accordingly.”