The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General has accused the Secret Service of deleting text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, around the pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The watchdog said in a letter to the Senate and House Homeland Security Committees that the texts were erased after the Inspector General requested the Secret Service’s communications surrounding the Capitol riot.
The letter was first reported by The Intercept Thursday. The outlet said it was not clear from the letter whether some or all of the agency’s texts from the two days were deleted.
The Secret Service said on Friday that the deletion was due to a pre-planned system migration in which the agency’s mobile phones had to be reset to factory settings. Data on some phones were lost during the process, it said.
The agency said DHS’s request for its electronic communication was made after the migration was underway, and that the Secret Service notified the IG of the data loss. It said none of the texts the IG was seeking had been erased.
The agency said that “the insinuation” that it “maliciously deleted text messages” after receiving an oversight request “is false.”
“In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) in every respect — whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts,” the agency said in a statement.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the matter Friday when pressed by reporters aboard Air Force One.
“This is a Secret Service matter,” she said. “We’re just not going to comment on it.”
The Secret Service has re-entered the spotlight in the House Jan. 6 committee nearly yearlong probe into the Capitol riot.
In public testimony last month, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the panel that President Trump ordered the Secret Service to take him to the Capitol after rallying his supporters at the Elipse ahead of the election certification in Congress.
Ms. Hutchinson testified that, in a fit of rage, Mr. Trump attempted to grab the steering wheel of the presidential limousine to steer it toward the Capitol and got into a physical confrontation with agents.
Secret Service officials have disputed portions of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony, including her portrayal of events inside the president’s motorcade.