Secret Service Deleted Texts Five Minutes After Capitol Riot? Seriously, WTF?

Six days ago, Secret Service (USSS) spokesman Anthony Guglielmi indignantly insisted that "none" of the relevant texts from January 2021 had been "lost." How dare the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General Joseph Cuffari suggest that the USSS had engaged in document retention practices that were at best sloppy and illegal, and at worst prima facie evidence of a coverup? The very nerve!

Turns out ... not so much. In fact, the sum total of new messages produced yesterday in response to a House January 6 Select Committee subpoena to the USSS was ONE.

As the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Maria Sacchetti reported last night, agents "were instructed to upload any old text messages involving government business to an internal agency drive before the reset," according to an anonymous senior official, "but many agents appear not to have done so."

We'd note that on July 15, these same reporters gave many column inches for Guglielmi to slime the DHS IG Cuffari, who flagged the deletions in a July 13 letter to the Homeland Security committees in the House and Senate and testified to the House January 6 Select Committee on Friday. Sacchetti and Leonnig, who just published a book on the Secret Service, don't appear to have pushed back on his statement that "The Secret Service notified DHS OIG of the loss of certain phones’ data, but confirmed to OIG that none of the texts it was seeking had been lost in the migration.”

Furthermore, they gave an anonymous source free rein to claim that the agency had begun a "long preplanned, agencywide replacement of staff telephones to improve communication" in January of 2021, before the IG came knocking in February of that year. If low-level agents failed to follow instructions to back up their phones to the cloud before getting new ones, hey, can't blame the Service, right?

They didn't acknowledge that this directly contradicts Guglielmi's furious insistence that nothing relevant was lost. And they didn't point out the absolute batshit insanity of the Secret Service insisting that it simply had to delete data from government phones, two weeks after an attack on the Capitol. Moreover, this wasn't data from years earlier. The agency's position is that it was somehow obligated to disappear messages from one day to the next, and if low-level agents didn't voluntarily hand it over, there was nothing DHS could do about it. The Post offered not a whit of pushback, although they did note last night that the National Archives is now investigating “the potential unauthorized deletion” of government records. Because it sure as hell looks like that's what happened here.

It took The Guardian's Hugo Lowell to point out that the first request for the information came from Congress on January 16, 2021, just 10 days after the attack on the Capitol. So if the Secret Service needed someone with subpoena power to tell them not to delete messages about an attack on the seat of government — and that seems like something you shouldn't need an authority figure to tell you, TBQH — they had their marching orders before this mass deletion event took place on January 27.

Lowell, who at just 23 is breaking stories at a furious pace, reports that the Secret Service failed to conduct its own after-action report on the events of January 6, 2021, despite the USSS playing a central role in the White House's response to the Capitol Riot. Instead the agency treated IG Cuffari's inquiry as the official audit, only to stymie his efforts to get information, suggesting that DHS counsel had to first vet any disclosures. To be fair, Guglielmi denies this allegation which ... okay, dude. But the agents were apparently allowed to delete the messages which would have memorialized their immediate impressions of and communications about the events of that day, and which is mighty bloody convenient!

"Nobody along the way stopped and thought, well, maybe we shouldn't do the migration of data and of the devices until we are able to fulfill these four requests from Congress," Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a committee member, said incredulously on MSNBC. "The process as explained to us was simply to leave it to the agent to determine whether or not there was anything on their phones worth saving that was necessary to save for federal records."

So we're probably not going to get the texts from Secret Service agents gossiping about whatever went down in the limo that day when the driver refused to take Trump to the Capitol so he could egg on the mob as they tried to hang Mike Pence. The Service can denigrate Hutchinson's claims about Trump lunging for the steering wheel and attacking the driver, safe in the knowledge that contemporaneous written evidence about those events was conveniently destroyed 18 months ago. And let's go out on a giant limb here and guess that Tony Ornato, the Secret Service agent turned Trump lackey who is now back at the agency (not normal!), will not be testifying publicly.

We are old enough to remember when Republicans practically burned the White House down because Hillary Clinton deleted email coupons from Bed, Bath, & Beyond from her stupid homebrew server. We are also old enough to remember the forensic reconstruction of deleted texts between FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, which were conveniently leaked to reporters and then weaponized by congressional Republicans so they could pretend that it was illegitimate to investigate Trump's coordination with the Russians ratfucking our election.

So maybe Dems could take a page from Rep. Liz Cheney and grow a pair in time to hold some goddamn hearings on this apparent coverup, because this shit reeks to high heaven.

[WaPo / WaPo / Guardian / CNN]

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Liz Dye

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.


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