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BREAKING U.S NEWS: Secret Service text messages sent on day of US Capitol attack were deleted, government watchdog says

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#AceBreakingNews – Secret Service agents deleted text messages sent and received around the time of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol after they were requested for an investigation into the insurrection, the government watchdog has found.

An explosion caused by a police munition in front of the US Capitol building during a Trump supporter riot.
The Capitol riot happened on January 6, 2021, in Washington DC.(Reuters: Leah Millis)none

In a letter seen by the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) said messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021 were erased “as part of a device-replacement program”. 

The letter said the texts were deleted after the watchdog office requested records of electronic communications between the agents as part of its probe into events surrounding the January 6 attack.

In addition, Homeland Security personnel were told they could not provide records to the inspector general and any records would first have to be reviewed by department’s attorneys.

“This review led to a weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced,” the letter said.

The letter, dated Wednesday, July 13, 2022, was sent to leaders of the House and Senate homeland security committees.

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi objected to the letter on Thursday. 

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

“In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect โ€” whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts.”

Trump supporters climb a stone wall during a riot at the US Capitol.
Donald Trump supporters climb the west wall during the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.(AP: Jose Luis Magana)none

Mr Guglielmi 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.

He said the inspector general had first requested the electronic communications on February 26, “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,” Mr Guglielmi 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 was also not true, Mr Guglielmi said.

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

The agency said it provided a substantial number of emails and chat messages that included conversations and details related to January 6 to the inspector general.

It said text messages from the Capitol Police requesting assistance were preserved and provided to the inspector general’s office.

The panel investigating the attack has taken a renewed interest in the Secret Service following the testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about former president Donald Trump’s actions on the day of the insurrection.

Cassidy Hutchinson sits in front of a microphine and looks ahead
Former aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified at the hearing for the investigation into the January 6 attack on June 28. (AP:  J. Scott Applewhite)none

Ms Hutchinson recalled being told about a confrontation between Mr Trump and his detail as he demanded to be driven to the Capitol, where his supporters would later breach the building.

Her account, however, was quickly disputed by those agents.

A source told AP that Robert Engel, the agent who was driving the presidential SUV, and Tony Ornato, a security official for Mr Trump, were willing to testify under oath that no agent was assaulted and Mr Trump never lunged for the steering wheel.

The source would not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

AP

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