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Homeland Security

US Capitol Riot Panel Expects to See Secret Service Texts

By Ken Bredemeier July 17, 2022

The U.S. congressional panel probing the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 of last year expects to be able to look at text messages sent by Secret Service agents from the day before the mayhem and as it unfolded, a member of the investigative committee said Sunday.

"We expect to get them by this Tuesday," Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren told ABC's "This Week" show. "We need all of the texts from the fifth and sixth of January."

The riot unfolded as about 2,000 supporters of then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, stormed into the Capitol to try to block Congress from certifying that Democrat Joe Biden had won the 2020 election. The certification of the Electoral College vote showing Biden had turned back Trump's reelection bid was delayed for hours as the rioters scuffled with police, vandalized the Capitol building and ransacked congressional offices.

Lofgren said the investigative committee needs the Secret Service texts "to get the full picture" of what occurred before and during the Capitol insurrection. The Secret Service said last week that some phone data was lost during a routine reset of iPhones, but that all the requested texts had been saved.

"I was shocked to hear that they didn't back up their data before they reset their iPhones," Lofgren said. "That's crazy, and I don't know why that would be, but we need to get this information."

"We went into it trying to do our job. We were assigned the task as a committee of uncovering all of the facts about the sixth and all of the events leading up to the sixth so that we could report on that," Lofgren said. "We hope to do it in a way that is accessible to all Americans."

The Secret Service said last week that any "insinuation" that it intentionally deleted texts was false and that the committee had its "full and unwavering cooperation."

The texts could be relevant to understanding how Trump berated his security detail about its refusal to drive him to the Capitol after he finished speaking at a rally near the White House, and just ahead of the time in the early afternoon when the first of the rioters breached the Capitol as lawmakers were starting to certify Biden's victory.

Witnesses testifying before the committee and police radio communications show that Trump demanded to join his supporters at the Capitol but that his Secret Service detail refused to take him there out of fear for his safety in a volatile situation.

One witness, Cassidy Hutchinson, then a top assistant to Mark Meadows, Trump's last White House chief of staff, testified about a secondhand account she heard that Trump attempted to grab the wheel of his limo to head to the Capitol, although the Secret Service has disputed her account.

In what could be its last public hearing, the committee is hearing testimony Thursday night about what Trump was doing for three hours and 17 minutes between the time he finished his rally speech contending, as he does to this day, that he was cheated out of another four-year term in the White House, and the time he issued a short video telling the rioters at the Capitol to leave the building.

Witnesses have already said that Trump watched the insurrection unfold on television, while ignoring entreaties from his aides and his daughter Ivanka, a White House adviser, to publicly tell the rioters to disperse.

At one point, according to insider accounts of his comments during the rioting, Trump voiced approval of the demonstrators who were chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" The then-vice president had refused to accede to demands by Trump to return the election results to legislatures in states that he narrowly lost so that pro-Trump electors could replace the official Biden electors.

In the United States, presidents are effectively chosen in separate elections in each of the 50 states, not through the national popular vote. Each state's number of votes in the Electoral College is dependent on its population, with the biggest states holding the most sway.

Eventually, Trump told the rioters, "I know your pain, I know you're hurt. But you have to go home now; we have to have peace. We have to have law and order; we have to respect our great people in law and order."

In another tweet sent later, he said, "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"

After the rioters were cleared from the Capitol, lawmakers in the early hours of January 7, 2021, certified that Biden had won the election by a 306-232 margin in the Electoral College, and he was inaugurated as the country's 46th president two weeks later.

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