Secret Service Erased Text Messages from Jan. 6 Following Capitol Riot, Inspector General Says

·4 min read
Donald Trump Se
Donald Trump Se

Drew Angerer/Getty From left: Donald Trump and a Secret Service agent

New information about what happened behind the scenes in Washington, D.C. following the Capitol Riot last year has come to light.

On Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari sent a letter to the House and Senate Homeland Security Committee, saying that the U.S. Secret Service deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021. The messages were allegedly erased after his office requested the texts for their probe of the riots.

In the address, first obtained by The Intercept and published by CNN, Cuffari said that the deletion was part of a "device-replacement program."

"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 inspector general wrote.

In another twist, Cuffari said that there were "weeks-long delays" in the Office of the Inspector General receiving the records, exacerbating their investigation of the situation.

"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," he wrote. "This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been procured."

Cuffari did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

RELATED: Trump's Former Chief of Staff Urges Republicans to 'Pay Attention' to Jan. 6 Hearings

Secret Service at the White House
Secret Service at the White House

Tasos Katopodis/Getty

After the letter went public, the Secret Service released a statement, pushing back on the allegations, CNN reported. In the statement, the USSS said that "the insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false. In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect – whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts."

The statement continued, "DHS OIG requested electronic communications for the first time on Feb. 26, 2021, after the migration was well under way. 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."

The Secret Service claimed the loss was part of a preplanned three-month "system migration" in January 2021.

RELATED: Senate Expected to Close Electoral College Loopholes, Clarify That VP's Role in Certifying Votes is Ceremonial

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing Harlingen, Texas on January 12, 2021
US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing Harlingen, Texas on January 12, 2021

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

The allegations made in Cuffari's letter are critical amid the ongoing hearings aiming to understand what happened on Jan. 6, including the Secret Service's actions.

Another allegation that recently surfaced is that former President Donald Trump assaulted a Secret Service agent in an attempt to reach the Capitol. Revealed during Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, she relayed an anecdote she heard from Trump's head of Secret Service, Robert Enge

Following his fiery speech to supporters on Jan. 6, Trump had expressed an interest in traveling to the Capitol, Hutchinson said, but his security was against the idea. So Trump, she testified under oath, took matters into his own hands.

RELATED: Aide Warned Secret Service of Security Risk to Mike Pence on Day Before Capitol Riots: Report

Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato explained to Hutchinson how, when Trump, 76, got in his presidential limousine following his speech, "he was under the impression that he could still go to the Capitol."

"When [Engel] relayed, 'We are not ... it's not secure,' the president had a very strong, very angry response to that ... Tony described him as being irate," she said.

According to Hutchinson, Engel said that Trump yelled, "I'm the f------ president, take me up to the Capitol now," to which Engel responded, "Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing."

"The president then reached up to grab at the steering wheel," Hutchinson said, recalling what she was told.

When Engel grabbed Trump's arm to tell him not to take over the steering wheel, Hutchinson said Trump then grabbed at Engel's "clavicle," gesturing to her own throat to demonstrate what she had been told.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

In addition, the hearings also revealed what former Vice President Mike Pence was doing during the insurrection.

Information on Vice President and the Secret Service were revealed in the testimony of Greg Jacob, a former adviser of the VP, CNN reported. Jacob told the panel that Pence, 63, refused to get into the vice presidential vehicle after being evacuated from the Capitol by the Secret Service.

"I'm not getting in the car," Pence reportedly told the agent, The Intercept reported. "If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off." His insistence was crucial because if he had entered the vice presidential limo, he would have been unable to certify the presidential election results, making the attempted coup even more likely.