“First, the Department notified us that many US Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device-replacement program. The USSS erased those text messages after OIG requested records of electronic communications from the USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6,” the letter from DHS IG Joseph Cuffari stated.
“Second, DHS personnel have repeatedly told OIG inspectors that they were not permitted to provide records directly to OIG and that such records had to first undergo review by DHS attorneys,” Cuffari added. “This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced.”
The US Secret Service and the Homeland Security inspector general did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, chairs both the House Homeland Security and January 6 committees. He acknowledged in a statement Thursday evening that the panel had gotten the letter.
“The Committee on Homeland Security received a letter from the DHS Inspector General regarding the Secret Service deleting text messages the Office of Inspector General requested as part of its investigation into the January 6th attack on the Capitol,” Thompson said. “The Committee will be briefed about this extraordinarily troubling destruction of records and respond accordingly.”
While the letter does not say whether the DHS watchdog believes these text messages were erased intentionally or for a nefarious reason, the incident adds to growing questions about the Secret Service’s response to the US Capitol attack.
A former adviser to then-Vice President Mike Pence also referenced the Secret Service in his testimony. Greg Jacob, Pence’s former counsel, told the panel that Pence refused to get into the vice presidential vehicle after being evacuated from the Capitol, raising concerns that the driver would have taken him to a secure location and thus prevent him from certifying the electoral results.
More than a year after the riot, the Homeland Security inspector general review of the Secret Service and its actions on January 6 remains ongoing.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.
CNN’s Whitney Wild and Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.