'Uniformed and armed' federal agents 'kept waiting' blocks away from Capitol as violence raged: report
Capitol rioters (Photo by Joseph Prezioso for AFP)

The House select committee hearings have renewed questions about the security response to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The hearings have shown that multiple agencies received specific warnings about the potential for violence that day, but the response by federal agencies and law enforcement remained puzzlingly inadequate, and the revelation that the U.S. Secret Service deleted thousands of electronic communications from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, raises new questions.

"Whether you're talking about Capitol police, other parts of DHS," said NBC News reporter Julia Ainsley. "We reported here that CBP, Customs and Border Protection, were actually uniformed and armed, ready to go but kept waiting in the basement of the Reagan Building during the insurrection that was happening just blocks away."

"A lot of questions about law enforcement response, Secret Service being pivotal, and the fact that they were responsible for the president's security that day, would have known his every detail, every movement and request, and also, of course, protecting the vice president as a mob was chanting that they wanted to hang him."

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"I can't even believe I'm saying that," she added.

Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, told Congress in the letter dated Wednesday that his office has had difficulties obtaining records from the Secret Service from January 5 and 6, 2021.

The messages could be crucial to the House of Representatives and Justice Department investigations into whether Donald Trump and his close advisors encouraged the deadly insurrection by the former president's supporters at the US Capitol, which aimed to prevent the certification of Democratic rival Joe Biden as the winner of the November 2020 election.

Secret Service agents were with Trump during the day of the uprising, and were also with vice president Mike Pence, who went into hiding at the Capitol after pro-Trump rioters called for him to be hanged.

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On June 29 a former White House staffer told the House January 6 investigation that Trump had attempted to force the Secret Service to take him to the Capitol to join his supporters on that day.

"The Department notified us that many US Secret Service (USSS) text messages, from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device replacement program," Cuffari wrote in the letter first reported by The Intercept and later published by Politico.

"The USSS erased those text messages after OIG requested records of electronic communications" for a review of January 6, he said, referring to the Office of the Inspector General.

In addition, he said, the department has stalled on providing other records to the OIG.

In a statement, Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi rejected the inspector general's allegation.

He said the agents' phones were being wiped as part of a planned replacement program that began before the OIG requested the information six weeks after the insurrection.

"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," he said.

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With additional reporting by AFP