Text messages between Secret Service agents that could clear up controversy over bombshell allegations made last month by a former Trump administration official are nowhere to be found.
In testimony before the House January 6 Committee earlier this month, Cassidy Hutchinson made several explosive claims that then-President Donald Trump grabbed the steering wheel of the presidential limo that was shuttling him back to the White House following his speech after being told, allegedly, by Secret Service agents he couldn’t go to the Capitol, where a riot was in progress.
Within hours, however, the account was being disputed.
“The former aide said that she was told of the altercation in the SUV immediately afterward by a White House security official and that Bobby Engel, the head of the detail, was in the room and didn’t dispute the account at the time. Engel had grabbed Trump’s arm to prevent him from gaining control of the armored vehicle, she was told, and Trump then used his free hand to lunge at Engel,” The Associated Press reported.
“Engel, the agent who was driving the presidential SUV, and Trump security official Tony Ornato are willing to testify under oath that no agent was assaulted and Trump never lunged for the steering wheel, a person familiar with the matter said. The person would not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity”, The AP added.
But as Hutchinson’s version of events continues to be disputed or supported by various political factions, text messages between Secret Service agents that could clear up the controversy once and for all have mysteriously disappeared, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
“The US Secret Service has determined it has no new texts to provide Congress relevant to its January 6 investigation, and that any other texts its agents exchanged around the time of the 2021 attack on the Capitol were purged, according to a senior official briefed on the matter”, the paper reported.
“Also, the National Archives on Tuesday sought more information on ‘the potential unauthorized deletion’ of agency text messages”, the report noted further. “The US government’s chief record-keeper asked the Secret Service to report back to the Archives within 30 days about the deletion of any records, including describing what was purged and the circumstances of how the documentation was lost”.
But there’s more intrigue, however, per the Post report:
The agency, which made this determination after reviewing its communication databases over the past four days, will provide thousands of records, but nearly all of them have been shared previously with an agency watchdog and congressional committees, the senior official said. None is expected to shed new light on the key matters the committee is probing, including whether Trump attacked a Secret Service agent, an account a senior White House aide described to the Jan. 6 committee.
The paper noted further that several Secret Service agents’ texts were purged permanently beginning in mid-January 2021, just days after the riot at the Capitol. Agency officials say that is the result of a widespread resetting of staff phones and a replacement effort that had allegedly been planned for months.
Secret Service agents, many assigned to protect Trump, then-Vice President Mike Pence, and other senior officials were ordered to upload old texts involving government-related business to an internal hard drive set up by the agency, according to a senior Secret Service official.
But, the Post reported, many did not do so.
As for Hutchinson’s claims that Trump got violent, CNN reported:
Engel and Ornato have both testified to the committee behind closed doors, but their statements were not used in the hearing Tuesday.
After the testimony, a Secret Service official familiar with the matter told CNN that Ornato denies telling Hutchinson that the former President grabbed the wheel or an agent on his detail.
Meanwhile, former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann has dismissed another portion of Hutchinson’s testimony: Her claim that she penned a note for the former president to read on January 6, was done by him and not her, ABC News reported.
“The handwritten note that Cassidy Hutchinson testified was written by her was in fact written by Eric Herschmann on January 6, 2021”, a spokesperson for Herschmann told the outlet.