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House Committee Subpoenas Secret Service After Agency Reportedly Erased Text Messages Dated Jan. 6 and the Day Before the Capitol Attack

 
House January 6th Select Committee Holds Its Third Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 16: A noose is displayed as U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Chair of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, delivers opening remarks during the third hearing on the January 6th investigation in the Cannon House Office Building on June 16, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

The House Committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol has subpoenaed the Secret Service following reports that the agency erased text messages dated Jan. 5 and 6, 2021.

“The Select Committee has been informed that the USSS erased text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021 as part of a ‘device-replacement program,'” the committee’s Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote in a letter on Friday evening. “In a statement issued July 14, 2022, the USSS stated that it ‘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.’ However, according to that USSS statement, ‘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,” Thompson added.

On Thursday, The Intercept was the first to obtain a report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General stating that the Secret Service deleted the messages after the watchdog asked for them. The Secret Service disputed the timeline.

The Secret Service’s actions have loomed large over the Jan. 6 Committee’s proceedings in the wake of testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, formerly the top aide to former President Donald Trump’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows. During her testimony, she repeated an account that Trump demanded that the Secret Service drive the presidential limo to the Capitol for him to join his supporters, and when they refused, lunged toward the driver and tried to grab the wheel.

Hutchinson attributed the story to Tony Ornato, a Secret Agent whom Trump made his deputy White House chief of staff. Secret Service officials — including Ornato — disputed Hutchinson’s account.

Former Vice President Mike Pence reportedly resisted the Secret Service’s attempt to whisk him away from the Capitol after the pro-Trump mob breached the building. He was quoted telling his detail: “I’m not getting in the car.”

Unpacking the significance of the refusal, an anonymous congressional official told The Intercept that Pence could have been taken to a secure location where he would have been unable to certify the presidential election results.

“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,” the official told The Intercept. “It could’ve been a successful coup, not just an attempted one.”

The Secret Service’s communications chief Anthony Guglielmi denied the messages were maliciously deleted and insisted the agency has provided “full and unwavering” cooperation with the committee.

“Over the last 18 months, we have voluntarily provided dozens of hours of formal testimony from special agents and over 790,000 unredacted emails, radio transmissions, operational and planning records,” Guglielmi tweeted. “We plan to continue that cooperation by responding swiftly to the Committee’s subpoena.”

The committee scheduled its next public hearing for Thursday, July 21 at 8 p.m., which is expected, at least for now, to be its final one. Its letter is addressed the agency’s director James M. Murray.

Read the letter, below:

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.