The Columbus Dispatch

Jan. 6 Secret Service texts are missing

- Farnoush Amiri

WASHINGTON – Secret Service agents deleted text messages sent and received around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol even after an inspector general requested them as part of an investigat­ion into the insurrecti­on, the government watchdog has found.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, said the messages between Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were erased “as part of a device-replacemen­t program.” The erasure came after the watchdog office requested records of electronic communicat­ions between the agents as part of its probe into events surroundin­g the Jan. 6 attack, the letter said.

Additional­ly, Homeland Security personnel were told they couldn’t provide records to the inspector general and any such records would first have to be reviewed by DHS attorneys.

“This review led to a weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced,” states the letter, which was dated Wednesday and sent to leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees.

Secret Service spokespers­on Anthony Guglielmi objected to the letter Thursday night, saying: “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.”

He said the Secret Service had started to reset 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 inspector general had first requested the electronic communicat­ions on Feb. 26, “after the migration was well under way,” Guglielmi said.

“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,” he said.

The allegation that officials at the inspector general’s office were not given timely access to the material because of a review by Homeland Security attorneys had been raised by the inspector general before and is also not true, he said.

“DHS has repeatedly and publicly debunked this allegation, including in response to OIG’S last two semi-annual reports to Congress,” Guglielmi added.

The agency said it provided a substantia­l number of emails and chat messages that included conversati­ons and details related to Jan. 6 to the inspector general and said text messages from the Capitol Police requesting assistance on Jan. 6 were preserved and provided to the inspector general’s office.

The erasure of the messages is sure to raise new questions for the House panel investigat­ing the Jan. 6 attack, which has taken a renewed interest in the Secret Service following the dramatic testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about former President Donald Trump’s actions the day of the insurrecti­on.

The erasure of the text messages was first reported by The Intercept.

 ?? J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP FILE ?? A government watchdog has found that Secret Service agents deleted text messages sent around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP FILE A government watchdog has found that Secret Service agents deleted text messages sent around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

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