WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – Secret Service agents deleted text messages sent and received around January 6, 2021, even after an attack on the U.S. Capitol was requested by an inspector general as part of an investigation into the rebellion, a government watchdog has found. .
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General said that messages dated between January 5 and January 6, 2021 were erased “as part of a device-replacement program”. The letter said the surveillance office erased after requesting records of electronic communications between agents as part of an investigation into the events surrounding the January 6 attack.
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Additionally, Homeland Security personnel were told that they could not provide records to the Inspector General and that any such records must first be reviewed by DHS attorneys.
“This review caused a week delay in obtaining the records for the OIG and created confusion as to whether all records had been prepared,” said the letter, which was dated Wednesday and issued by the House and Senate Homeland Security. The leaders of the committees were sent.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi objected to the letter Thursday night, saying: “To say that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following the request is false. In fact, the Secret Service is at odds with the OIG in every way.” Fully cooperating – whether it’s interviews, documents, emails or texts.
He said the Secret Service began resetting its mobile devices to factory settings in January 2021 “as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration.” In that process, some data was lost.
“The migration was going well,” said Guglielmi, who first requested electronic communications on February 26.
“The Secret Service informed the DHS OIG of the loss of data for some phones, but confirmed to the OIG that any text it wanted was lost in the migration,” he said.
He said the allegation that officers in the Inspector General’s office were not given timely access to materials due to a review by the Homeland Security Attorney had been raised by the Inspector General in the past and also is not true.
“DHS has repeatedly and publicly denied this allegation, including in Congress in response to the OIG’s two previous semi-annual reports,” Guglielmi said.
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The agency said it provided a substantial number of emails and chat messages that contained conversations and details relating to January 6. ,
The erasing of the messages is sure to raise new questions for the House panel investigating the January 6 attack, which has been renewed in the Secret Service after dramatic testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about the actions of former President Donald Trump. took interest. Rebellion day.
Hutchinson recalled that the confrontation between Trump and his Secret Service detail was told as he angrily sought to go to the Capitol, where his supporters would later tear down the building. He also recalled that Trump told security officials to remove the magnetometer for his rally on the Ellipse, even though some of his supporters were armed.
However, that account was quickly disputed by those agents. Robert Engel, the agent who was driving the presidential SUV, and Trump security officer Tony Ornato are set to testify under oath that none of the agents were attacked and that Trump never lunged for the steering wheel, in this case. A person familiar with the news told the Associated Press. That person would not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The deletion of text messages was first reported by The Intercept.
Associated Press reporter Mike Balsamo contributed to this report.