Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Jan. 6 Secret Service Summons Panel for Deleted Texts

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed the Secret Service late Friday for text messages that agents allegedly deleted around Jan. 6, 2021.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement that the committee is seeking “relevant text messages as well as any after-action reports that have been issued on any and all USSS divisions that belong to or relate to in some way. to the events of January 6, 2021.”

The subpoenas come hours after the nine-member panel received a closed briefing from the Department of Homeland Security watchdog. The committee had originally searched the electronic records in mid-January and made an official request in March for all communications received or sent by DHS employees between January 5 and 7, 2021.

THIS IS A LAST MINUTE UPDATE. The previous Associated Press story follows below.

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog Friday briefed the nine-member House committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol on the matter.

While lawmakers didn’t say anything about what they heard, the closed-door briefing with Inspector General Joseph Cuffari came two days after his office sent a letter to leaders of House Homeland Security committees. and the Senate in which he stated that Secret Service agents deleted the messages. between January 5 and 6, 2021 “as part of a device replacement program.” The removal came after the watchdog office requested the officers’ records as part of its investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack, according to the letter.

For the January 6 panel, the watchdog finding raised the alarming possibility that evidence could be lost that could shed more light on Donald Trump’s actions during the insurrection.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chair of the Jan. 6 House panel, told the Associated Press on Friday that the committee is looking further into whether the records may have been lost. “There have been some conflicting positions on the matter,” the Mississippi lawmaker said.

The private briefing was confirmed by two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss it.

The Secret Service insists that proper procedures were followed. Agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said: “The suggestion that the Secret Service maliciously deleted the text messages after a request is false. In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in all aspects, whether it be interviews, documents, emails or text messages.”

It said the Secret Service had begun resetting its mobile devices to factory settings in January 2021 “as part of a pre-planned three-month system migration.” In that process, some data was lost.

The inspector general first requested the electronic communications on Feb. 26, “after the migration was underway,” Guglielmi said.

The Secret Service said it provided a substantial number of emails and chat messages that included conversations and details related to Jan. 6 to the inspector general. He also said text messages from Capitol Police requesting assistance on Jan. 6 have been preserved and turned over to the inspector general’s office.

The Senate Internal Affairs committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service, is also awaiting a briefing from the inspector general on the letter, according to a person familiar with the committee’s discussions who was not authorized to discuss them publicly. .

The Jan. 6 committee has renewed its interest in the Secret Service following dramatic testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who recalled what she heard about former President Donald Trump’s actions on the day of the insurrection.

Hutchinson recalled being told about a confrontation between Trump and his Secret Service team when he angrily demanded to be taken to the Capitol, where his supporters would then storm the building. He also recalled hearing Trump tell security officials to remove the magnetometers from his Ellipse rally, even though some of his supporters were armed.

Some details of that account were quickly questioned by those agents. Robert Engel, the agent who was driving the presidential van, and Trump’s security officer, Tony Ornato, are willing to testify under oath that no agents were assaulted and that Trump never lunged for the wheel, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. the case. The person did not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

With evidence still emerging, House Jan. 6 committee officials scheduled their next hearing for Thursday in prime time. The 8 p.m. hearing, which is the eighth in a series that began in early June, will look further into the more than three-hour period in which Trump did not act as a crowd of supporters stormed the Capitol.

It will be the first prime-time hearing since June 9, the first on the committee’s findings. It was seen by 20 million people.

Associated Press writer Gary Fields contributed.

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