The Secret Service destroyed the January 5 and 6, 2021 text messages — after surveillance officials overheard them, the watchdog said.
“First, the Department has informed us that several United States Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021 were destroyed as part of a device replacement program. The USSS destroyed these text messages after the OIG has requested records of electronic communications from the USSS A review of events on Capitol Hill on January 6 as part of this,” the letter from DHS IG Joseph Gaffari said.
“Second, DHS staff repeatedly told OIG inspectors that they were not authorized to provide records directly to the OIG and that such records must first be reviewed by DHS attorneys,” added Cuffari. “This review resulted in weeks of delays in receiving OIG records and created confusion as to whether all records had been produced.”
The Inspector General of the US Secret Service and Homeland Security did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Gary Peters, said in a statement Thursday that the allegations were “worrying.” “We need to know if the Secret Service destroyed any federal records or prevented Department of Homeland Security surveillance. The DHS Inspector General needs these records to perform his independent oversight and is entitled to a full picture of what happened to the public. January 6,” the Michigan Democrat said.
Representing. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, chairs both the House Homeland Security and Jan. 6 committees. He acknowledged receipt of the letter to the committee in a statement Thursday evening.
“The Homeland Security Committee has received a letter from the DHS Inspector General regarding the Secret Service’s deletion of text messages requested by the Office of Inspector General as part of its investigation into the attack on the Capitol on 6 January,” Thompson said. “The committee will be informed of this extraordinarily disturbing destruction of documents and will react accordingly.”
While the letter did not say whether the DHS watchdog believed the text messages were destroyed intentionally or for nefarious reasons, the incident raises questions about the Secret Service’s response to the attack on the US Capitol.
A former adviser to the then Vice President, Mike Pence, also mentioned the Secret Service in his testimony. Greg Jacobs, a former adviser to Pence, told the committee that the vice president refused to get into the vehicle after Pence was escorted out of the Capitol, raising concerns that the driver took him to a safe place and thus prevented him from certifying the results of the elections.
More than a year after the riots, a public review by the Inspector General of Homeland Security of the Secret Service and its operations is underway on January 6.
This story was updated Thursday with additional updates.
CNN’s Whitney Wilde and Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.
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