WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Capitol riot has subpoenaed the Secret Service for text message agents allegedly removed around Jan. 6, 2021, as the panel investigates Donald Trump’s actions at the time. of the murderous siege.
The committee chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the committee understands the posts had been “scrubbed.” Thompson outlined an aggressive schedule for producing the documents by Tuesday.
“The USSS erased the text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, as part of a ‘device replacement program,'” Thompson said in a statement late Friday.
He said the panel is “looking for relevant text messages, as well as all after-action reports that have been released across all divisions of the USSS regarding or in any way related to the events of January 6, 2021.”
The Secret Service said the committee “has had our full and unwavering cooperation” since it began its work and “that does not change,” according to a statement from agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. He added, “We plan to continue this cooperation by promptly responding to the Committee’s subpoena.”
The subpoenas come hours after the nine-member panel received a closed briefing from the Department of Homeland Security watchdog, which oversees the Secret Service. Lawmakers were briefed on his discovery that the Secret Service had deleted texts around January 6, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The discovery raised the startling prospect of lost evidence that could shed more light on then-President Donald Trump’s actions during the insurgency, particularly after earlier testimony about his confrontation with security as he attempted to join supporters at the Capitol.
It was a rare step for the committee to issue a subpoena to an executive branch department.
The private briefing with Inspector General Joseph Cuffari came two days after his office sent a letter to House and Senate Homeland Security committee leaders saying Secret Service agents erased the messages between January 5 and 6, 2021″ as part of a device replacement program. The removal came after the Oversight Office requested records from officers as part of its investigation into the events surrounding the January 6 attack, the letter says.
The committee originally requested the electronic records in mid-January and made a formal request in March for all communications received or sent by DHS employees between January 5 and January 7, 2021.
Thompson told The Associated Press on Friday that the committee is taking a closer look at whether any tapes may have been lost. “There have been conflicting positions on the issue,” he said.
The briefing was confirmed by two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it.
The Secret Service insists that proper procedures were followed. Guglielmi said “the insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false.”
He said the Secret Service began factory resetting mobile devices in January 2021 “as part of a three-month pre-planned system migration”. In this process, some data was lost.
The inspector general first requested the electronic communications on Feb. 26, “after the migration was well underway,” Guglielmi said.
The Secret Service said it provided the Inspector General with a significant number of emails and chat messages containing conversations and details related to Jan. 6. He also said text messages from Capitol Police asking for help on Jan. 6 were on file and provided to the inspector general’s office.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which reports to the Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service, is also awaiting a briefing from the inspector general on the letter, according to a person familiar with the committee’s discussions who don’t know. was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the committee’s top Republican, said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned” about the inspector general’s recent letter and that it was “critical that the Department be transparent. with its Inspector General, Congress and the American public.
The Jan. 6 committee has shown renewed interest in the Secret Service following dramatic testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who recalled what she heard about Trump’s actions on the day. of the insurgency.
Hutchinson recalled being informed of a confrontation between Trump and his secret service when he angrily demanded to be taken to the Capitol, where his supporters would later breach the building. She also recalled hearing Trump tell security officials to remove the magnetometers for his rally on the Ellipse even though some of his supporters were armed.
Some details of this account were quickly disputed by these agents. Robert Engel, the agent who drove the presidential SUV, and Trump security official Tony Ornato are prepared to testify under oath that no agent was assaulted and that Trump never ran into the steering wheel, a person familiar with the matter told the AP. The person did not discuss the issue publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
With evidence still emerging, the Jan. 6 committee scheduled its next hearing to be Thursday during prime time. The eighth in a series of hearings that began in early June will examine in more detail the period of more than three hours when Trump failed to act as a crowd of supporters stormed the Capitol.
It will be the first prime-time hearing since June 9, the first on the commission’s findings. This previous audience was seen by 20 million people.
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