News that the Secret Service deleted text messages from January 5 and 6 in a system migration is not adequate to explain away the destruction of critical communications from the day of the insurrection. These text messages were already the subject of investigation by the DHS Office of the Inspector General before they were erased–after their deletion, OIG head Joseph Cuffari indicated that the deletion was a part of a greater pattern of DHS resistance to investigation.
CREW has requested expedited records from the Secret Service technical support arm on the three-month system migration which included a reset of agents’ phones begun in January 2021, directives on whether or how to preserve text messages and emails, and communications on the recordkeeping responsibilities of departing agents, including the preservation of text messages.
The Secret Service’s preparation and response to the insurrection has already been under serious scrutiny with the records already publicly available, indicating delays in reporting threats to members of Congress and failures to take threats of violence and white supremacist groups seriously.
Testimony from the January 6 Committee hearings have also pointed to the critical role the Secret Service played that day, and the texts could have further revealed insight into agency actions. For example, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified she was told that Trump “lunged” at his lead Secret Service agent after being told “it was too dangerous for him to go” to the Capitol. The Committee also has received evidence that then-Vice President Mike Pence refused to get in a car with the Secret Service after rioters entered the Capitol, reportedly fearing they would take him “to a secure location where he would be unable to certify the presidential election results.”
Secret Service texts that could have provided critical insight into the agency and Trump’s actions on January 6 might never see the light of day, but that shouldn’t stop us from getting answers about how this was allowed to happen, and whether the deletion could have been a politicized scheme to cover-up and stymie investigations into the agency overall.