August 14, 2022

Jan. 6 Committee subpoenas Secret Service for destroyed texts

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee is investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol The Secret Service subpoenaed agents on Friday night for the text messages they allegedly fired on Jan. 6, 2021, as the group probed Donald Trump’s actions during the deadly siege.

Committee Chairman Penny Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement that the committee understands the “destroyed messages.” Thompson outlined a tight deadline to produce the documents by Tuesday.

“The USSS, as part of a ‘device replacement program,’ has destroyed text messages effective January 5 and 6, 2021,” Thompson said late Friday.

“The team is seeking relevant text messages and action statements published by all units of the USSS, related to or in any way related to the events of January 6, 2021,” he said.

The Secret Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The subpoenas came hours after the nine-member panel received a closed briefing from the comptroller for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service. The watchdog briefed lawmakers on its findings that the Secret Service had deleted the texts since Jan. 6, according to two people familiar with the matter.

For the Jan. 6 panel, the watchdog’s discovery raised the startling prospect of missing evidence that could shed more light on Trump’s actions during the uprising, particularly after earlier testimony that he tried to join supporters at the Capitol with presidential security.

It was a rare move by the committee to issue a subpoena to an executive branch department. The group’s letter was addressed to USSS Director James Murray, who is set to retire later this month.

While lawmakers remained tight-lipped about what they heard, the closed-door briefing with Inspector General Joseph Gaffari came two days after his office sent a letter to the heads of the House and Senate homeland security committees. January 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, says Secret Service agents destroyed the messages “as part of a device replacement program.” The letter said the removal came after the watchdog requested records from agents as part of its investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack.

January 5 and Jan. The panel first requested electronic records in mid-January for all communications received or sent from DHS employees between 7, 2021.

Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the House Jan. 6 committee, told The Associated Press on Friday that the committee is looking deeper into whether the records were lost. “There are some conflicting positions on this,” the Mississippi lawmaker said.

This private explanation was confirmed by two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it with The Associated Press.

The Secret Service insists that proper procedures were followed. Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the agency, said: “It is false to suggest that the Secret Service maliciously deleted the text messages following the request. In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every way — be it interviews, documents, emails or texts.

He said the Secret Service began restoring its mobile devices to factory settings in January 2021 “as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration.” In that process, some data was lost.

The inspector general first requested the electronic communications on Feb. 26, “after the migration went well,” Guglielmi said.

The Secret Service said it has provided the inspector general with a significant number of emails and chat messages containing conversations and details related to January 6. It also said text messages from the Capital Police seeking help on January 6 were secured and handed over to the Inspector General’s office.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service, is seeking an explanation from the inspector general about the letter, a person familiar with the unauthorized committee’s deliberations said. They should be discussed publicly.

Ohio Republican Senate. Rob Portman said in a statement that he was “deeply troubled” by the OIG’s latest letter. Portman, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, added, “It is imperative that the department be transparent with its inspector general, Congress and the American people.”

The Jan. 6 panel has taken renewed interest in the Secret Service following the dramatic testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who recalled hearing about Trump’s actions on the day of the uprising.

Hutchinson recalled being told of a confrontation between Trump and his Secret Service detail, who angrily demanded that he be escorted to the Capitol, where his supporters would later storm the building. He also recalled Trump asking security officials to remove magnetometers for his rally at the Oval, even though some of his supporters were armed.

Some details of that account were quickly denied by the agents. Agent Robert Engel, who was driving the presidential SUV, and Trump security officer Tony Arnado are prepared to testify under oath that no agent was hit and that Trump did not get behind the steering wheel, a person familiar with the matter told the AP. The person would not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

With evidence still emerging, House officials on Friday, Jan. 6, planned to hold its next hearing in primetime on Thursday. The 8 p.m. hearing, the eighth in a series that began in early June, will delve into a more than three-hour stretch when Trump failed to act as mobs of supporters stormed the Capitol.

It was the first prime-time hearing since June 9, the first hearing of the panel’s findings. That previous hearing was watched by 20 million people.

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Associated Press writer Gary Fields contributed.

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Jan. 6 For full coverage of the hearings, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege.