The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena to the U.S. Secret Service on Friday requesting records after a government watchdog accused the agency of erasing texts from Jan. 5 and 6 after his office requested them.
Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), in a letter transmitting notice of the subpoena, wrote that the panel sought relevant text messages and reports issued in any way related to the attack on the Capitol.
“The Select Committee has been informed that the USSS erased text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 as part of a ‘device-replacement program.’ 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 [the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General] was seeking had been lost in the migration,” Thompson wrote.
The subpoena is the first the committee has issued to an executive branch agency.
The text messages could provide insight into the actions of the agency and potentially those of President Donald Trump on the day of the insurrection. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified during a hearing last month that Trump wanted to lead the mob from the Ellipse to the Capitol, despite knowing they were armed, and said that she was told by an agent that Trump physically assailed the Secret Service agent who informed him he could not go to the Capitol.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Thursday that the agency did not maliciously delete text messages following the request from DHS’s Office of Inspector General. The Washington Post previously reported that the Secret Service began a preplanned, agency wide replacement of staff telephones a month before the Office of Inspector General’s request, according to two people briefed on the document request.
Joseph Cuffari, the DHS’s inspector general, briefed members of the committee on Friday after sending a letter to lawmakers this week notifying them that the text messages were erased following the inspector general’s request. The Intercept and CNN led media reports of the matter.
In his letter, Cuffari also alleged that the failure to provide copies of the text messages were part of a pattern of DHS resistance to his inquiries.
DHS spokeswoman Marsha Espinosa said in a statement responding to Cuffari’s letter that “DHS has ensured and will continue to ensure that both the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol have the information they have requested.”
Espinosa said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas previously directed the Secret Service and the DHS Office of the General Counsel “to ensure that OIG had appropriate access to the full set of information it requested regarding” Jan. 6, 2021.
“The Secretary also directed the Department’s General Counsel to instruct all DHS Component Agency leaders to respond to any requests from the Select Committee expeditiously and thoroughly. The General Counsel sent a memorandum accordingly.