January 6 select committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson said that the panel will try to ”reconstruct” missing Secret Service text messages from the day that chaos erupted at the U.S. Capitol, texts that were requested by a government watchdog but were deleted in the latest development in the ongoing investigation.
In a letter from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General that was sent to lawmakers which has been reported on by multiple media outlets, the text messages which could contain vital information from January 5 and January 6, 2021 were erased as part of a “device-replacement program,” a revelation that will almost certainly fuel conspiracy theories of a massive cover-up.
According to the letter dated July 13, 2022 and sent to lawmakers by DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, “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.”
“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 reads. “This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced.”
Chairman Thompson responded to the letter, telling Axios, “It’s concerning, obviously. If there’s a way we can reconstruct the texts or what have you, we will,” adding that the IG “was not clear as to how” the messages were deleted and that the committee “asked them some time ago to look at it.”
When asked if Secret Service agents would be summoned to attempt to reconstruct the messages, Thompson said “I think it’s important for us to get as much information about how this discrepancy occurred.”
Secret Service Chief of Communications Anthony Guglielmi issued a statement slamming the IG’s accusations.
“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 Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) in every respect – whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts,” he wrote in the statement dated July 14.
Statement of Anthony Guglielmi, Chief of Communications for the United States Secret Service on Accusations of Deleted Text Messages From DHS Inspector General: https://t.co/iHIYgnkP3P pic.twitter.com/WhUYEdzkfJ
— U.S. Secret Service (@SecretService) July 15, 2022
“First, in January 2021, before any inspection was opened by OIG on this subject, the Secret Service 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,” Guglielmi said. “DHS OIG requested electronic communications for the first time on Feb. 26, 2021, after the migration was well under way. 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.”
“Second, DHS OIG’s allegation regarding DHS’s cooperation with its investigation is neither correct nor new. To the contrary, DHS OIG has previously alleged that its employees were not granted appropriate and timely access to materials due to attorney review. DHS has repeatedly and publicly debunked this allegation, including in response to OIG’s last two semi-annual reports to Congress. It is unclear why OIG is raising this issue again,” the statement reads.
The existence of the IG letter was first reported by The Intercept which noted: “The Secret Service has emerged as a key player in the explosive congressional hearings on former President Donald Trump’s role in the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to prevent the 2020 election results from being certified. That day, then-Vice President Mike Pence was at the Capitol to certify the results. When rioters entered the building, the Secret Service tried to whisk Pence away from the scene.”
The outlet reported that former VP Mike Pence told his Secret Service detail “I’m not getting in the car,” on January 6. “If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off,” stating that “Had Pence entered the vice presidential limo, he would have been taken to a secure location where he would have been unable to certify the presidential election results, plunging the U.S. into uncharted waters.”
“People need to understand that if Pence had listened to the Secret Service and fled the Capitol, this could have turned out a whole lot worse,” The Intercept quotes an anonymous “congressional official who hasn’t been authorized to speak publicly.”
“It could’ve been a successful coup, not just an attempted one,” the official added.
The Intercept also quoted J6 committee Democrat Jamie Raskin as saying that Pence’s words that he wasn’t getting in the car are the “six most chilling words of this entire thing I’ve seen so far.”
The missing text messages are likely to be a factor in whatever the J6 committee is cooking up for its grand finale.
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