Secret Service erased text messages from Jan. 6 and the day before, the Homeland Security watchdog says

WASHINGTON — The Secret Service erased text messages from both Jan. 6 and the day before the attack on the Capitol after the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog requested records of electronic communications tied to the insurrection, according to a letter sent to congressional committees that was obtained by NBC News.

The details about the erased messages were revealed in a letter to two congressional committees Wednesday, in which Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said he was informed that many of the messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, had been erased “as part of a device-replacement program.”

The Intercept first reported the content of the letters.

A spokesperson for the House Homeland Security Committee confirmed the letter, which was also given to the Jan. 6 committee, a source familiar with the matter confirmed.

Cuffari’s letter was also addressed to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“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,” Cuffari said in his letter.

He added that DHS personnel had repeatedly told inspectors that “they were not permitted to provide records directly” to the watchdog and that the records first needed to be reviewed by the agency’s attorneys.

“This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced,” he said.

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi insisted in a statement that the agency has fully cooperated with the inspector general’s review and that the text messages were lost before they were requested.

“The insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false,” Guglielmi said. “In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect — whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts.”

According to Guglielmi, the Secret Service began a “pre-planned, three-month system migration” in January 2021 that included resetting its mobile phones to factory settings, resulting in the loss of data for some phones….