WASHINGTON, July 16 — The US congressional panel probing the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol plans to ask the Secret Service about its alleged deletion of text messages sought by a watchdog investigating the agency’s response to the assault, the panel’s chairman said.
The watchdog yesterday met the House of Representatives panel after accusing the Secret Service of deleting “many” text messages in a letter to lawmakers.
Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who chairs the panel probing the attack, told CNN that the committee plans to contact Secret Service officials to ask about the alleged erasure of text messages, including the agency’s process for cleaning out files to see if that policy was followed.
The inspector general, Joseph Cuffari, met with the committee probing the attack behind closed doors yesterday, footage from CNN showed.
“We now need to talk to the Secret Service.... Our expectation is to reach out to them,” Thompson told CNN.
Committee member Jamie Raskin told reporters yesterday that the panel was determined to retrieve text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021, that were allegedly deleted.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general’s office (OIG) sent a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday, saying that “many” messages had been erased by the Secret Service with a device-replacement programme after the watchdog asked for the records.
The Secret Service disputed that accusation on Thursday, saying some phone data was lost during a routine device migration, but that all of the requested texts had been saved.
“A ‘routine’ cleaning of files will require a process, so we want to see what that process is,” Thompson said yesterday.
Representative Raskin, a Democrat, also raised concerns and said yesterday: “We need to get to the bottom of it. But if those texts are gone, we are determined to find them.” He also acknowledged there were “contradictory representations” from the Secret Service and the watchdog about whether texts were deleted.
It was not clear from the letter what messages the inspector general’s office believed had been deleted or what evidence they might contain.
The January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump followed weeks of false claims by the former president that he won the 2020 election. — Reuters