WASHINGTON – When rioters breached the Capitol building, filling its hallways with rioters and chants to hang former Vice President Mike Pence, the Secret Service detail began “to fear for their own lives.”
During the January 6 Committee’s eighth public hearing, the committee played a recorded interview with a White House security official who had access to Secret Service communications revealing the extent of agents’ consternation.
At one point, agents from the vice president’s detail made goodbye calls to family members, believing they would soon perish at the hands of a violent mob of Trump supporters.
The calls were so “disturbing,” the White House official said they “didn’t like talking about it.”
The committee played a recording of radio traffic as Pence’s security detail worked to secure an evacuation route.
“If we lose any more time, we may lose the ability to leave,” said one Secret Service agent, responding to reports that rioters had breached the Capitol building.
The radio chatter, according to the official, consisted of “reassurances” that reinforcements were arriving to control the riot.
But the chatter, the official emphasized, “was just chaos. They were just yelling.”
Judging from the commotion they heard on the radio, the official said Secret Service became close to “having to use lethal options or worse.”
“If they’re screaming and saying things like, say goodbye to the family. The floor needs to know this is going to a whole ‘nother level soon,” said the official.
Scrutiny after deletion of Jan. 6 texts
The Secret Service has faced newfound scrutiny after it was discovered it deleted text messages from the day before and day of the Capitol attack. The Department of Homeland Security announced it had launched a criminal investigation into the erasure of the text messages.
The text messages could provide more detail into Trump’s actions during the attack.
In a letter to the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general Joseph Cuffari wrote that Secret Service “erased those messages after (the inspector general) requested records of electronic communications from USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6.”
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi denied any form of malicious intent and said data was lost due to a routine system migration. Guglielmi said Secret Service will “ensure that we are fully cooperative” with the investigation.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson