The Secret Service has deleted text messages that could help verify or disprove some of the most astonishing accounts of President Donald Trump’s actions during the January 6, 2021, uprising.
Secret Service officials say the deleted messages were part of a pre-programmed “reset” of their phones. But House lawmakers have cast doubt on that explanation for the missing messages, which cover the critical moments leading up to and through the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“I smell a rat,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told a reporter on Wednesday.
Members of the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, along with others, pushed the Secret Service to turn over texts and other documents as part of their investigations into the attack.
Last week, revealed reports that the Secret Service deleted the requested messages, according to the government watchdog that oversees the Department of Homeland Security.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi called the reports “categorically false” at the time. The agency engaged in a pre-scheduled reset of the devices before receiving the DHS inspector general’s request to protect the records, according to a Secret Service Statement.
However, the text messages were requested before they were deleted. “Congress notified the Secret Service that it needed to preserve and produce documents related to January 6 on January 16, 2021, and again on January 25, 2021, for four different committees investigating what happened. , according to the source”, CNN reported on Wednesday. “Secret Service migration did not begin until January 27, 2021.”
Immediately after the reports, the January 6 committee, which includes Raskin, assigned the secret service for texts. Earlier this week, the agency delivered a text message to the panel, according to a committee aide who said lawmakers were still looking for ways to find the messages.
“We are concerned about a system migration that we were told resulted in the erasure of Secret Service cellphone data,” the Jan. 6 committee said in a statement. statement released on Wednesday.
A committee staff member said in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday that “members are still figuring out exactly how to get the information we’re looking for.”
The Secret Service was swept up in an offshoot of the extensive January 6 hearings late last month after former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson relayed a story from colleague Tony Ornato – who previously served in the Secret Service and is currently a senior official. in the organization – that Trump pounced on his security detail and tried to force them to drive him to the Capitol to join the rioters.
secret service agents, speaking anonymously, declined this account. But Ornato and another agent, Bobby Engel, have yet to speak publicly about the incident. A Washington, DC police officer who was part of Trump’s motorcade that day confirmed Hutchinson’s testimony in an interview with House investigators recently, according to a CNN report.
The startling depiction of Trump pushing his own protectors has drawn the most attention, but House investigators have uncovered several other events about which questions linger.
In a particularly chilling scene recounted by former Vice President Mike Pence’s attorney, Greg Jacob, agents wanted to drive Pence from a safe location under the Capitol to Joint Base Andrews during the Capitol storming.
The seemingly innocuous request, however, may have been enough for Trump to claim that the election result was never certified and therefore the transfer of power to Joe Biden was not complete, based on the legal reasoning by Trump attorney John Eastman.
“I know you, I trust you, but you’re not the one driving” Pence told one of his agents with him at the time, according to Jacob.
Pence and his team did not explain exactly what he meant by that statement. But Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker reported in their book“I Alone Can Fix It,” which Pence was suspicious of Trump’s unchecked support among the ranks of the Secret Service.
And Pence’s former national security adviser, Keith Kellogg, said he should tell Ornato on Jan. 6 not to order the vice president removed from the Capitol.