September 26, 2022

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol assault has subpoenaed the U.S. Secret Service to obtain text messages from around the time of the attack, the committee said Friday night.

The subpoena comes two days after the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general told lawmakers that the Secret Service had erased text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021. In a letter sent to congressional committees, Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said his office was notified that texts were erased as part of a “device replacement program.” But Cuffari told lawmakers the erasures came after he requested the messages as part of an investigation into the agency’s response to the Capitol attack.

The Secret Service has denied it maliciously deleted the messages, saying instead some data was lost during a pre-planned system migration.

In a letter to the Secret Service, Jan. 6 select committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson said the committee has spent months trying to obtain documents from segments of the Department of Homeland Security pertaining to the events of January 5-7. 

He acknowledged the committee was informed the erased text messages were part of a “device-replacement program.” 

Thompson pointed out, however, that the Secret Service said in a July 14 statement that even though the “pre-planned, three-month system migration” caused some data to be lost, “none of the texts it [DHS Office of Inspector General] was seeking had been lost in the migration.”

“Accordingly, the Select Committee seeks the relevant text messages, as well as any after action reports that have been issued in any and all divisions of the USSS pertaining or relating in any way to the events of January 6, 2021,” the letter said. 

The letter asked that the information be provided no later than July 19. 

Thompson’s letter comes hours after Cuffari briefed members of the Jan. 6 committee on the text message erasures. Thompson told reporters after the briefing that members “wanted to get the IGs perspective on what he thought was going on.”

He said the committee was still interested in obtaining the texts, and would engage with the Secret Service.

“The communications within the Secret Service, who was protecting the president and vice president at the critical time on Jan. 6 when the violence broke out, that’s of the utmost interest to the committee,” another member of the panel, Rep. Elaine Luria, said.

On Thursday, U.S. Secret Service spokesperson Steve Kopek called “the insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages” following the DHS Inspector General’s request “false.” He said the agency has been “fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect – whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts.”

Kopek said that in January 2021, before the inspector general’s investigation had begun, the Secret Service “began to reset its mobile phones to factory settings as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration.” 

“In that process, data resident on some phones was lost,” he said. 

The agency said Thursday that the Secret Service turned over 786,176 unredacted emails, and 7,678 Microsoft Teams chat messages to the DHS inspector general, all referencing conversations and operational details related to Jan. 6 and preparations leading up to it. Those messages include text messages from the U.S. Capitol Police to the chief of the Secret Service Uniformed Division requesting emergency assistance at the Capitol.   

Ellis Kim contributed reporting. 

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