The Secret Service reportedly confiscated the cellphones of 24 agents involved in the agency's response to the Jan. 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol and gave them to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, according to two sources, NBC News reported.
The cellphones were handed over in late July. DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari's office launched a criminal probe into the Secret Service's missing text messages from Jan. 6, 2021, but it is unclear what, if any, information has been gleaned from the cellphones, NBC reported.
Some agents were disturbed that their leaders were quick to confiscate the phones without their input, but the phones belong to the agency.
Earlier in July, Cuffari told Congress his office couldn't get text messages from the cellphones of agents. The Secret Service has said the texts were lost as part of a previously planned systems upgrade that restored the phones to factory settings, NBC reported.
The cellphone texts sent by agents on Jan. 5-6, 2021, became relevant in June after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the Jan. 6 select House committee that she heard that former President Donald Trump lunged toward a Secret Service agent when the agent refused to drive the president's car to the Capitol during the protest. Trump has denied this, NBC reported.
The House committee has obtained other records and documents from the agency, but only one text message from the 24 Secret Service agents involved with the Jan. 6 response, The Hill reported. In recent weeks, the committee has said it has begun to get more information from the Secret Service.
"The work to investigative the travesty of the Jan. 6th Insurrection is extremely important to us and aligns with the mission of the Secret Service which is to safeguard our nation's highest government leaders. We have and will continue to cooperate fully with all of the oversight efforts, and we have provided everything that has been requested as part of these inquiries," the Secret Service said in a statement.
The DHS Office of Inspector General did not immediately respond to a request for comment, The Hill reported.
In a letter obtained by the Project on Government Oversight and released Friday, anonymous staff in his office accused Cuffari of "significantly editing reports to remove key findings" and "interfering with staff efforts to gather information necessary to perform independent oversight."
Cuffari is a former adviser to Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Gov. Doug Ducey, and was nominated by President Trump to become DHS inspector general and confirmed by the Senate in July 2019.
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