“I made my peace with the Secret Service early in ’72,” journalist Hunter Thompson recounted to High Times magazine in a 1977 interview, “when I went to a party in the Biltmore Hotel here in New York after McGovern’s primary victory, and there were about ten agents in a room. Three of them were obviously passing a joint around. The look on their faces when I walked in there, all of them turning to look when I walked in, it was a wonderful moment of confrontation.”
The idea of Secret Service agents existing as patriotically robotic steely-eyed bullet eaters — despite the best efforts of the movie industry — was exploded a while ago. “Another way to put it,” reports The Atlantic, “is that the Secret Service has been a rolling disaster, with almost too many breaches to keep track of.”
Most of these blunders have involved grossly inappropriate behavior abroad, drunken foolishness at home, a consistent failure of leadership, and more than a few disturbing breaches in White House security. As bad as it has been, if there is even a whisper of truth to the new accusations being leveled against the Secret Service, the entire agency should be razed to the ground and salted with quicklime.
It began with a report by The Intercept detailing how the service “erased text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021,” the day before and the day of the insurrection attack on the Capitol. This erasure was part of a planned equipment upgrade, according to agency officials, but took place after oversight officials had ordered that all communications from those days be preserved. The House Select Committee on the January 6 attack has issued a subpoena for all deleted texts.
After the deletion of these texts was revealed, a number of disturbing pieces began falling into place. On the day of the attack, as former Vice President Mike Pence was being led away from the violence, his Secret Service detail tried to get him into a limo. “I’m not getting in the car,” Pence replied; he knew that if he left the building, the process of certifying the election would falter, and Pence suspected such an end was the ultimate goal.
“[Pence] uttered what I think are the six most chilling words of this entire thing I’ve seen so far,” committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin said at a recent Georgetown appearance. “He knew exactly what this inside coup they had planned for was going to do.” For its part, the Secret Service has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
The two men in charge of Donald Trump’s public appearances — like the rally held that day — were current and former senior Secret Service agents. Their allegiance to Trump was absolute; in fact, President Biden was required to take on a whole new security detail when he took office, as the one that had served Trump before him had become entirely politicized.
This train of evidence — incomplete as it presently stands — leads to some truly bleak possibilities. The worst of them would have the Secret Service in cahoots with Trump’s efforts to thwart Pence’s duties that day by removing him from the scene. In this scenario, when the plot failed, text message evidence of the plotters in action was deliberately deleted, with the explanation for why jumping around like a frog on a hot plate.
Even if none of this proves true, the agency still tried to obliterate evidence needed by the Select Committee, evidence it had been directly ordered to preserve. The best of all possible outcomes still makes this perhaps the most gruesome scandal in Secret Service history.
What may prove to be the final hearing of the Select Committee will take place at 8 pm on Thursday night. Part of the anticipated program is a minute-by-minute breakdown of Trump’s actions — and specifically, his inactions — over the hours the violence unfolded at the Capitol. Raskin has this Secret Service story in his teeth, however, so don’t be surprised if these allegations receive the airing they deeply deserve.
The essential nature of the story of January 6 is as straightforward as it is grim: The more we look into it, the worse the story gets. What began with a president apparently not caring about a violent attack on democracy has metastasized into a deep plot driven by that president to deliberately crash the presidential election and deliver him, tyrant-like, back into power. Now, we are faced with the distinct possibility that the government’s own watchers on the walls may have been at least peripherally involved in the coup attempt.
Dog only knows what Thursday night will bring.