A letter given to the January 6 committee says the erasure took place shortly after oversight officials requested the agency’s electronic communications.
Ken Klippenstein - July 14 2022
“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 Intercept. “It could’ve been a successful coup, not just an attempted one.”
But, the Office of Inspector General letter suggests, key evidence in the form of the Secret Service’s electronic communications may never see the light of day. The Department of Homeland Security — the Secret Service’s parent agency — is subject to oversight from the DHS Office of Inspector General, which had requested records of electronic communications from the Secret Service between January 5 and January 6, 2021, before being informed that they had been erased. It is unclear from the letter whether all of the messages were deleted or just some.
Department officials have also pushed back on the oversight office’s records request by arguing that the records must first undergo review by DHS attorneys, which has delayed the process and left unclear if the Secret Service records would ever be produced, according to the letter.
A Customs and Border Protection official provided The Intercept with a document illustrating the challenges. A briefing memo produced by the agency for a leadership meeting with the DHS Office of Inspector General on July 7 instructs participants on how to push back against what it calls the inspector general’s “persistent” request for “direct, unfettered access to CBP systems,” as part of its “high number of OIG audits covering a variety of CBP program areas.” In a section titled “Watch Out For/ If Asked,” the memo describes a number of exemptions Customs and Border Protection can rely on to evade records requests from the inspector general’s office — including national security exemptions.
Julia Ainsley reports on the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog’s allegation that the Secret Service deleted a “significant number” of text messages from both Jan. 6 and 5. The Secret Service claims the deletions were part of a previously scheduled device replacement program, which Mika Brezinski refers to as “a huge stretch, at best.”