The United States Secret Service appears to have violated federal criminal law by destroying text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021 after receiving a request for records related to the attack on the Capitol from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, according to a complaint sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the Department of Justice. 

In a letter to Congress this week, DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari alleged that the Secret Service deleted key messages from the insurrection and the day preceding it after his office requested the messages as part of an investigation into the insurrection. The Inspector General also noted that the Secret Service has provided shifting explanations for the lost records.

“It is extremely troubling to think that the Secret Service would destroy key evidence in any investigation, let alone one that is central to getting answers and accountability for the unprecedented attack on our democracy that occurred on January 6, 2021,” said CREW Chief Counsel Donald Sherman. “The Justice Department must investigate immediately.”

The Secret Service has become a focal point of the January 6th Select Committee hearings. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified she was told that President Trump “lunged” at his lead Secret Service agent after the Secret Service refused to take him to the Capitol following his speech at the Ellipse. The Committee also received testimony that then-Vice President Mike Pence refused to get in a car with the Secret Service after rioters entered the Capitol. Records obtained by CREW further show that the Secret Service downplayed threats of violence from far-right extremists in the days leading up to the Capitol attack.

“The Federal Records Act requires that agencies like the Secret Service preserve records so that there is a complete and accurate history of the government’s actions and decisions,” said Sherman. “It is especially distressing to see such behavior from a federal agency that had such critical duties during the attack on the Capitol and had a front row seat to former President Trump’s behavior that day. The Justice Department must take this apparent violation of federal law seriously.”

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