A government watchdog has alleged that members of the U.S. Secret Service erased texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 after the messages were requested.
Joseph V. Cuffari, the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, wrote a letter addressed to the leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees to reveal text messages on Secret Service member’s phones before and during the Capitol riots had been deleted, the Washington Post reported. Even more damning, Cuffari indicated that the messages were only deleted after the office requested copies of the text messages as part of its investigation.
“The Department notified us that many U.S. Secret Service (USSS) text messages, from January 5 and 6, 2021 were erased as part of a device-replacement program," reads the letter. The deletion of the messages suggests that the ongoing efforts to investigate Jan. 6, 2021 were being hindered to some degree. Staff members are required to surrender records by law, but they “repeatedly” refused to do so before an attorney could review them.
“This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced," the letter continued. If the messages were handed over, it would give further insight into how the Secret Service had acted on that day. Donald Trump had been accused of provoking the events of Jan. 6, encouraging his supporters to reclaim the Capitol after he falsely claimed the 2020 election results were fraudulent.
Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi denied accusations that members of the agency deleted such messages with malicious intent. "The Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect – whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts,” said Guglielmi. "First, in January 2021, before any inspection was opened by OIG on this subject, USSS began to reset its mobile phones to factory settings as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration. In that process, data resident on some phones was lost."
The messages were requested on Feb. 26, 2021, and Guglielmi said that migration was already “well under way” by this point.