Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Texts As Secret Service Shouts 'NOTHING TO SEE HERE!'
It's been three days since the news broke about the Secret Service deleting texts from January 5 and 6, 2021, and the story keeps getting weirder.
In a July 13 letter to the Homeland Security Committees in the House and Senate, DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari described "ongoing records access issues" with the agency in the IG's investigation of the events surrounding the Capitol riot. Cuffari reports that "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," which is disturbing enough on its own. But according to the IG, he's discovered that "many US Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device-replacement program," even after his office requested the documents in February.
Secret Service spox Anthony Guglielmi put out a statement furiously contesting Cuffari's allegations, insisting that "in January 2021, before any inspection was opened by OIG on this subject, the Secret Service began to reset its mobile phones to factory settings as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration."
Okay, fine. Let's pretend we buy Guglielmi's statement for a moment.
First of all, are they really asking us to believe that their tech guys couldn't transfer the data to the agents' new devices? That the federal government was handing the Secret Service new phones with no contact information, email, or text history, and no way to retrieve it? Ten days after an attack on the seat of government? And that there's no backup for this stuff anywhere?
COME THE FUCK ON.
Or, as GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee, told CBS, "In the very least, it is quite crazy that the Secret Service would actually end up deleting anything related to one of the more infamous days in American history, particularly when it comes to the role of the Secret Service."
Second, as The Guardian's Hugo Lowell notes, the first request for the information came from Congress on January 16, 2021, just ten days after the attack on the Capitol. So DHS has known for 18 months that it needed to preserve this data, and if it's really and truly gone, that's not an accident.
Third of all, there's a lot of noise lately around the Secret Service's role in the events of January 6, 2021. From Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony that the agents refused to take Donald Trump to the Capitol during the riot, to Mike Pence's refusal to get in the car that afternoon, because he knew his guards would evacuate him, likely to Joint Base Andrews, preventing certification of Joe Biden's electoral win, it's clear the Secret Service guys were in the center of the action that day, and they know their time in the barrel is coming. Recent revelations that Trump promoted Tony Ornato from his Secret Service detail to deputy White House chief of staff for operations, and that he is now back at the Secret Service, is also a red flag. It's not "normal" to transition back and forth between positions as a career bureaucrat and a political appointee.
For the record, Guglielmi says none of the texts the DHS IG is looking for were lost in the migration. And it looks like we'll find out soon whether this is true, since the January 6 Select Committee has now subpoenaed the records in question.
On Friday, the committee members met with Cuffari, and apparently his testimony was concerning enough that they immediately issued a demand for "the relevant text messages, as well as any after action reports that have been issued in any and all divisions of the USSS pertaining or relating in any way to the events of January 6, 2021."
"You can imagine how shocked we were to get the letter from the inspector general saying that he had been trying to get this information and that they had, in fact, been deleted after he asked for them," Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren told ABC. "We did get a briefing from the inspector of general of Homeland Security. And then there was a statement made by the spokesperson for the department saying that it wasn't true, it wasn't fair, and that they, in fact, had pertinent texts — and we go, fine, if you have them, we need them. And we expect to get them by this Tuesday. So we'll see."
You can color us skeptical that the federal government is going to conduct any kind of complete records search within just four days — legit or otherwise. But we've been skeptical about this story from the jump, and nothing that happened in the past week has disabused us of that impression.
So, let's just note that this episode is a fitting coda to the Trump administration, which dug up personal texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and fed them to reporters under cover night, in an attempt to make it seem like the FBI had framed poor, innocent Donald Trump to make it appear he was trying to get election help from Russia. Odds that Tony Ornato and the rest of those guys are about to find out that nothing digital is every really gone?
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.