Members of the US Secret Service destroyed the messages between January 5 and 6 after they were requested, the watchdog said

Members of the U.S. Secret Service destroyed text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, shortly after the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general requested them as part of an investigation into the agency’s response to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a letter the inspector general wrote to congressional leaders and obtained by CBS News.

In a letter to the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees, DHS Inspector General Joseph Gaffari wrote that the devices were wiped after a request for electronic communications, even though his office had been notified that the texts had been destroyed as part of a device replacement program. .

“First, the Department notified us that several U.S. Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, were destroyed as part of a device replacement program. The USSS destroyed those text messages after the OIG requested records of electronic communications from the USSS. A review of the events at the Capitol on January 6 As part of doing,” Ghaffari wrote in the letter.

“Second, DHS personnel have repeatedly told OIG inspectors that they are not permitted to provide records directly to the OIG and that such records must first be reviewed by DHS attorneys,” the letter continued. “This review led to weeks of delays in receiving OIG records and created confusion as to whether all records had been produced.”

U.S. Secret Service spokesman Steve Kopec said in a statement late Thursday that the Secret Service “maliciously deleted the false text messages” following the DHS inspector general’s request, adding that the agency is “cooperating fully with the OIG in every matter.” Courtesy – be it interviews, documents, emails or texts.”

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“First, in January 2021, before any investigation was initiated by the OIG in this matter, the USSS began resetting its mobile phones to factory settings as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration. In the process, data on some of the phones was lost,” the report continued.

“DHS OIG first requested electronic communications on February 26, 2021, and the migration was well underway. The Secret Service notified DHS OIG of the loss of data on some phones, but confirmed to OIG that no texts had been sent. What was being sought was lost in the migration.”

According to Kopec, the inspector general’s insistence that his staff was not given “proper and timely access to material due to the attorney’s review” was “repeatedly publicly debunked” in reports before Congress. “It is not clear why the OIG is raising this issue again,” he added.

But the agency did not deny the inspector general’s claim that some messages from USSS agents were destroyed during the migration.

The Secret Service sent 786,176 unredacted emails and 7,678 Microsoft Teams chat messages to the DHS inspector general, the agency said, as of Jan. 6 refers to all discussions and operational details and arrangements for the same. Those messages included text messages from the U.S. Capitol Police to the head of the Secret Service Uniformed Division requesting emergency assistance at the Capitol.

The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol declined to comment. The DHS Inspector General’s Office did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.

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“We need to get to the bottom of whether the Secret Service destroyed federal records or obstructed Department of Homeland Security oversight,” said Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “The DHS Inspector General needs these records to conduct its independent oversight, and the public deserves a full picture of what happened on January 6th. I will be learning more from the DHS Inspector General about these allegations.”

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement to CBS News that he was “deeply troubled” by the letter. “It is imperative that the department be transparent with its inspector general, Congress and the American people,” Portman added.

House Homeland Security and Jan. 6 Representative Penny Thompson of Mississippi, who chairs both committees, said in a statement to CBS News that “the former will be briefed on the destruction of these unusually disturbing records and will be responded to accordingly.”

News of the agency’s efforts to wipe out the communications comes after a week in the US Secret Service Director James Murray announced his retirement from his post. The 32-year veteran head of the central government plans to leave at the end of July.

DHS’s top watchdog did not say whether it believed the electronic communications were intentionally deleted in an effort to avoid transparency, but added to the uncertainty surrounding the Secret Service’s response to the Jan. 6 insurgency.

Last month, White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson described former President Trump as wanting to visit the Capitol With his supporters, during the committee’s hearing on January 6, when the Congress was in joint session counting electoral votes.

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Hutchinson testified that on January 6, he spoke with White House aide Tony Arnado in a room with Secret Service Special Agent Robert Engel. During the meeting, Ornado announced that he had become president. He was “angry” in his vehicle when told he couldn’t go to the Capitol. Hutchinson said he said something like, “I’m the president, take me to the Capitol now.” The Intercept first reported the letter from the DHS inspector general.

When it was announced that he had to return to the West Wing, Trump reached the front of the vehicle and grabbed the steering wheel, prompting Engel to take his hand, Hutchinson said Ornado told him.

But a source close to the Secret Service confirmed to CBS News that Engel and the driver are willing to testify under oath that neither man was physically assaulted or assaulted by Trump and that the former president never peered behind the wheel of the vehicle.

After Hutchinson’s testimony, Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the agency was “cooperating” with the group and would “continue to work,” including responding to new allegations that emerged in the investigation.

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