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A member of the Secret Service speaks to then-President Donald Trump at the White House on August 10, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

A member of the Secret Service speaks to then-President Donald Trump at the White House on August 10, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

'Looks... Pretty Bad': Secret Service Erased Jan. 6 Texts After Being Asked for Them

"Key evidence on the insurrection from the Secret Service's records may never be made public," said one advocacy group. "You bet we have questions."

Kenny Stancil

Thursday reporting by The Intercept that the Secret Service deleted text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021 "shortly after oversight officials requested the agency's electronic communications" has elicited many questions and concerns about what evidence regarding last year's deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol was destroyed.

The Secret Service claims that the messages were erased as "part of a device-replacement program."

But the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) wrote in a Wednesday letter to the leaders of the House and Senate homeland security committees that the Secret Service deleted the messages "after OIG requested records of electronic communications" from the agency as part of its evaluation of the January 6 riot instigated by former President Donald Trump.

Moreover, "DHS personnel have repeatedly told OIG inspectors that they were not permitted to provide records directly to OIG and that such records had to first undergo review by DHS attorneys," the letter states. "This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced."

Veteran journalist Dan Rather responded to the revelations on Twitter.

"What is happening with the Secret Service? What secrets might they be hiding in service to the former president?" he asked. "Urgent questions. The gravity of this situation cannot be underestimated or allowed to proceed without answers."

"Key evidence on the insurrection from the Secret Service's records may never be made public," tweeted Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "You bet we have questions," the advocacy group added.

The OIG's letter, which does not specify whether all of the messages were erased or just some, was eventually given to the House committee investigating the build-up to January 6 and the violence that took place on that day.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs both the House Committee on Homeland Security and the chamber's January 6 panel, told Axios on Thursday that "it's concerning, obviously."

"If there's a way we can reconstruct the texts or what have you, we will," he added. The panel's hearing next Thursday is expected to focus on the right-wing mob's attack on the Capitol.

Others, such as Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, were less guarded in their reactions.

"Yet more evidence that Trump's crimes were worse than Watergate," Baker tweeted in response to the news of a potential cover-up. "Nixon only erased 18 ½ minutes of tape, Trump did a whole day."

"Some of these Secret Service folks really need to go to jail for a long time," Baker continued.

"If it was not deliberate destruction," he added, "then the Secret Service people involved have to be immediately fired for ungodly levels of incompetence. They certainly can't be trusted with guarding the president and other public officials."

The Secret Service "has emerged as a key player" in the momentous congressional hearings on the Trump-led effort to prevent the certification of then-President-elect Joe Biden's victory, The Intercept reported. "That day, then-Vice President Mike Pence was at the Capitol to certify the results. When rioters entered the building, the Secret Service tried to whisk Pence away from the scene."

"I'm not getting in the car," Pence reportedly told the Secret Service agents on January 6. "If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off."

"Had Pence entered the vice presidential limo," The Intercept noted, "he would have been taken to a secure location where he would have been unable to certify the presidential election results, plunging the U.S. into uncharted waters."

"People need to understand that if Pence had listened to the Secret Service and fled the Capitol, this could have turned out a whole lot worse," a congressional official not authorized to speak publicly told the outlet. "It could've been a successful coup, not just an attempted one."

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