The Secret Service has reportedly seized 24 phones from agents in connection with a controversial investigation by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general into the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The two dozen agents’ phones, which are not believed to include messages from Jan. 6, were handed over to DHS IG Joseph Cuffari in July shortly after he opened a probe into missing text messages from the day of the attack, NBC News reported Tuesday.
It’s not clear what information if any Cuffari, a Trump appointee who previously worked for Republican officials in Arizona, has gleaned from the agents’ phones, which are government property.
The revelation about the phone seizures does little to clear up puzzling questions about Cuffari’s probe and his oversight over the Secret Service in the months since the attack.
He revealed over the summer that text messages from Secret Service agents involved in the response to the Jan. 6 attack were mostly scrubbed in what the agency has described as a pre-planned tech upgrade coinciding with the incoming administration of President Biden.
Cuffari’s office apparently knew about the lost messages for more than a year before notifying the congressional committee investigating the attack, a delay that has infuriated lawmakers.
[ ‘Pretty crazy’: Jan. 6 committee members not happy about scrubbed texts from agents ]
Any texts sent by agents on Jan. 6 and the run up to the attack on the Capitol are of obvious interest to investigators, raising serious questions about the decision by Secret Service brass to scrub the phones just days after the historic effort to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to Biden from former President Donald Trump.
The messages took on even greater importance in June when former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told a Jan. 6 committee hearing that Trump physically accosted a Secret Service agent when he refused to drive Trump to the Capitol to lead the insurrection in person.
[ Cassidy Hutchinson delivers bombshell testimony about Trump’s dangerous behavior on Jan. 6 ]
Hutchinson said she was told about the incident, which Trump has denied, by Deputy White House Chief of Staff Tony Ornato and the agent who was leading presidential security that day.
Ornato, a staunch Trump loyalist and former veteran Secret Service agent, insisted he would contradict Hutchinson’s account under oath, but has since refused to do so. He recently announced his retirement but insisted it was long planned.
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