Posts tagged with "Then-VP Mike Pence"

Secret Service deleted January 6 text messages after oversight officials requested them

January 18, 2022

The U.S. Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021, according to a letter given to the January 6 Committee—and reviewed and reported by The Intercept.

The letter was originally sent by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees. Although the Secret Service maintains that the text messages were lost as a result of a “device-replacement program,” the letter says the erasure took place shortly after oversight officials requested the agency’s electronic communications.

The Secret Service did not respond to a request for comment from The Intercept. In a statement to The Washington Post, Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi disputed the timeline—saying that some electronic communications had been deleted in January, while the Inspector General made its request in February.

According to The Intercept, the Secret Service has emerged as a key player in the explosive congressional hearings on former President Donald Trump’s role in the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to prevent the 2020 election results from being certified. That day, then-Vice President Mike Pence was at the Capitol to certify the results. When rioters entered the building, the Secret Service tried to whisk Pence away from the scene.

“I’m not getting in the car,” Pence reportedly told the Secret Service detail on January 6. “If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off.” Had Pence entered the vice presidential limo, he would have been taken to a secure location where he would have been unable to certify the presidential election results, plunging the U.S. into uncharted waters.

“People need to understand that, if Pence had listened to the Secret Service and fled the Capitol, this could have turned out a whole lot worse,” a congressional official not authorized to speak publicly told The Intercept. “It could’ve been a successful coup, not just an attempted one.”

Representive Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), a member of the January 6 committee, called Pence’s terse refusal — “I’m not getting in the car” — the “six most chilling words of this entire thing I’ve seen so far.”

But, the Office of Inspector General letter suggests, key evidence in the form of the Secret Service’s electronic communications may never see the light of day. The Department of Homeland Security—the Secret Service’s parent agency— is subject to oversight from the DHS Office of Inspector General, which had requested records of electronic communications from the Secret Service between January 5 and January 6, 2021, before being informed that they had been erased.

It is unclear from the letter whether all of the messages were deleted or just some. Department officials have also pushed back on the oversight office’s records request by arguing that the records must first undergo review by DHS attorneys, which has delayed the process and left unclear if the Secret Service records would ever be produced, according to the letter.

Asked about the matter, a DHS Office of Inspector General spokesperson told The Intercept, “To preserve the integrity of our work and protect our independence, we do not discuss our ongoing reviews or our communications with Congress.”

On June 28, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson  testified before the January 6 committee—disclosing that Trump had ordered Secret Service to take him to the Capitol so he could address his supporters. Later that day, Secret Service officials disputed aspects of her account, including her allegation that Trump had reached for the wheel of the presidential limousine and lunged at Secret Service.

A top Secret Service official allegedly involved in the attempt to spirit away Pence on January 6 remains in a leadership position at the agency. Tony Ornato, a Secret Service agent whom Trump made the unprecedented decision to appoint as his deputy White House chief of staff, reportedly informed Pence’s National Security Adviser, Keith Kellogg, on January 6 that agents would relocate the vice president to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. “You can’t do that, Tony,” Kellogg reportedly told Ornato. “Leave him where he’s at. He’s got a job to do. I know you guys too well. You’ll fly him to Alaska if you have a chance. Don’t do it.” (Ornato has denied the account.)

Today Ornato serves as the assistant director of the Secret Service’s Office of Training.

Agencies, especially those involved in national security, often use the sensitivity of their work to sidestep oversight—stymying the work of offices of inspectors general. It is not uncommon for inspectors general, particularly effective ones, to face institutional resistance during the course of investigations. Tasked with rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse, inspectors general are not always welcomed.

Research contact: @theintercept

Trump adviser Peter Navarro lays out how he and Bannon planned to overturn Biden’s electoral win

January 29, 2021

A former Trump White House official says he and right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon were actually behind the last-ditch coordinated effort by rogue Republicans in Congress to halt certification of the 2020 election results on January 6 and keep President Donald Trump in power earlier this year, in a plan dubbed the “Green Bay Sweep.”

In his recently published memoir—In Trump Time, published by All Seasons Press—Peter Navarro, then-President Donald Trump’s trade adviser, details how he stayed in close contact with Bannon as they put the Green Bay Sweep in motion with help from members of Congress loyal to the cause, reports The Daily Beast.

But in an interview last week with The Daily Beast, Navarro shed additional light on his role in the operation—and his and Bannon’s coordination with GOP politicians Representative Paul Gosar (Arizona) and Senator Ted Cruz (Texas).

“We spent a lot of time lining up over 100 congressmen, including some senators. It started out perfectly. At 1 p.m., Gosar and Cruz did exactly what was expected of them,” Navarro told The Daily Beast. “It was a perfect plan. And it all predicated on peace and calm on Capitol Hill. We didn’t even need any protestors, because we had over 100 congressmen committed to it.”

That commitment appeared as Congress was certifying the 2020 Electoral College votes reflecting that Joe Biden had trunced Trump. Senator Cruz signed off on Gosar’s official objection to counting Arizona’s electoral ballots—an effort that was supported by dozens of other Trump loyalists.

Staffers for Cruz and Gosar did not respond to requests for comment. Also, there’s no public indication whether the January 6 Committee has sought testimony or documents from Senator Cruz or Representative Gosar.

But the committee has only recently begun to seek evidence from fellow members of Congress who were involved in the general effort to keep Trump in the White House—including GOP Representatives Jim Jordan (Ohio) and  Scott Perry (Pennsylvania).

This last-minute maneuvering never had any chance of actually decertifying the election results on its own, a point that Navarro quickly acknowledges. But their hope was to run the clock as long as possible to increase public pressure on then-Vice President Mike Pence to send the electoral votes back to six contested states, where Republican-led legislatures could try to overturn the results.

And in their minds, ramping up pressure on Pence would require media coverage. While most respected news organizations refused to regurgitate unproven conspiracy theories about widespread election fraud, this plan hoped to force journalists to cover the allegations by creating a historic delay to the certification process.

“The Green Bay Sweep was very well thought out. It was designed to get us 24 hours of televised hearings,” he said. “But we thought that we could bypass the corporate media by getting this stuff televised.”

Navarro’s part in this ploy was to provide the raw materials, he said in an interview on Thursday. That came in the form of a three-part White House report he put together during his final weeks in the Trump administration with volume titles like, “The Immaculate Deception” and “The Art of the Steal.”

“My role was to provide the receipts for the 100 congressmen or so who would make their cases .… who could rely in part on the body of evidence I’d collected,” he told The Daily Beast. “To lay the legal predicate for the actions to be taken.” (Ultimately, states have not found any evidence of electoral fraud above the norm, which is exceedingly small.)

The next phase of the plan was up to Bannon, Navarro says. “Steve Bannon’s role was to figure out how to use this information—what he called ‘receipts’—to overturn the election result. That’s how Steve had come up with the Green Bay Sweep idea,” he wrote.

“The political and legal beauty of the strategy was this: By law, both the House of Representatives and the Senate must spend up to two hours of debate per state on each requested challenge. For the six battleground states, that would add up to as much as 24 hours of nationally televised hearings across the two chambers of Congress.”

His book also notes that Bannon was the first person he communicated with when he woke up at dawn on January 6, writing, “I check my messages and am pleased to see Steve Bannon has us fully ready to implement our Green Bay Sweep on Capitol Hill. Call the play. Run the play.”

The rest is history.

Research contact: @thedailybeast