Watchdog says Secret Service deleted Jan. 6 text messages

A Secret Service agent stands guard with a rifle pointed downward
A Secret Service agent stands guard at then-President Trump’s golf club in Sterling, Va., on Nov. 8, 2020, the day after the election.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Secret Service agents deleted text messages sent and received around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol even after an inspector general requested them as part of an investigation into the insurrection, the government watchdog has found.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, in a letter obtained by the Associated Press, said the messages on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were erased “as part of a device-replacement program.” The erasure came after the watchdog office requested records of electronic communications among the agents as part of its inquiry into events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack.

Additionally, Homeland Security personnel were told they couldn’t provide records to the inspector general and any such records would first have to be reviewed by Homeland Security attorneys.


“This review led to a weeks-long delay in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced,” states the letter, which was dated Wednesday and sent to leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees.

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July 14, 2022

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, “We take strong issue with these categorically false claims and I will be responding in detail shortly.”

The erasure of the messages is sure to raise new questions for the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack, which has taken a renewed interest in the Secret Service since the dramatic testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about then-President Trump’s actions the day of the insurrection.

Hutchinson recalled being told about a confrontation between Trump and his Secret Service detail as he angrily demanded to be driven to the Capitol, where his supporters would later breach the building and assault police officers. She also recalled overhearing Trump telling security officials to remove magnetometers for his rally that day on the Ellipse outside the White House even though some of his supporters were armed.

That account was quickly disputed by those agents. Robert Engel, the agent who was driving the presidential SUV, and then-White House Chief of Staff Anthony Ornato are willing to testify under oath that no agent was assaulted and Trump never lunged for the steering wheel, a person familiar with the matter told AP. The person would not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The erasure of the text messages was first reported by the Intercept.