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Jan. 6: Secret Service deleted texts requested by investigators, watchdog report says

The Secret Service deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan 6, 2021, that were requested by officials investigating the breach of the U.S. Capitol, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office said in a report this week.  

Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said in a letter to the Congressional committees investigating the Jan. 6 riot that “many” messages were “erased as part of a device-replacement program” after his office had requested electronic communications from the Secret Service during their “evaluation of events at the Capitol on Jan. 6.”

“It’s concerning, obviously,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, House Jan. 6 committee chairman and House Homeland Security Committee chairman, told Axios Thursday. “If there’s a way we can reconstruct the texts or what have you, we will.”

Cuffari also wrote that the requested document collection was delayed for weeks because the Department of Homeland Security insisted that all records needed a legal review, creating “confusion over whether all records had been produced.”

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The Secret Service denied the inspector general’s claim, saying some records had been lost during a device migration that happened before the request but all the requested records were delivered. 

A U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division police car is parked in front of the White House in Washington, April 21, 2022. 

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“The insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false,” Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said.

Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) leaves for a break during the seventh hearing held by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on July 12, 2022 in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. 

He said the device migration started in January well before the OIG requested the records in late February and none of the texts being sought “had been lost in the migration.”

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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