The US Secret Service, the law enforcement agency that protects the president, deleted agents’ text messages sent during the January 6 Capitol riot, a government watchdog says.
Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, tells Congress in a letter dated Wednesday that his office has had difficulties obtaining records from the Secret Service from January 5 and 6, 2021.
The messages could be crucial to the House of Representatives and Justice Department investigations into whether Donald Trump and his close advisors encouraged the deadly insurrection by the former president’s supporters at the US Capitol, which aimed to prevent the certification of Democratic rival Joe Biden as the winner of the November 2020 election.
On June 29 a former White House staffer told the House January 6 investigation that Trump had attempted to force the Secret Service to take him to the Capitol to join his supporters on that day.
“The Department notified us that many US Secret Service (USSS) text messages, from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device replacement program,” Cuffari writes in the letter first reported by The Intercept and later published by Politico.