January 6 committee subpoenas Secret Service for records

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(CNN) – The House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, has issued a subpoena to the US Secret Service, marking the first time the panel has publicly done so for an executive branch agency.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the committee, wrote in a letter Friday to Secret Service Director James Murray that the panel is seeking Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, and reiterated three previous requests for information by congressional committees.

“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.’ 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,’” Thompson wrote.

“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,” he continued.

The committee had planned to reach out to Secret Service officials to ask about the erasure of text messages from the day of the US Capitol attack and the day before, including the agency’s process for cleaning out files to see if that policy was followed, Thompson previously told CNN.

Earlier Friday, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari told the committee in a briefing that the Secret Service did not conduct its own after-action review regarding January 6 and chose to rely on the inspector general investigation, according to a source familiar with the briefing. The Secret Service, Cuffari told the panel, has not been fully cooperative with his probe.

Thompson confirmed the inspector general’s remarks on a lack of cooperation, telling CNN, “Well, they have not been fully cooperating,” and that the panel has “had limited engagement with Secret Service.”

“We’ll follow up with some additional engagement now that we’ve met with the IG,” he said, adding that the panel would work “to try to ascertain if those texts can be resurrected.”

The US Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, shortly after they were requested by oversight officials investigating the agency’s response to the US Capitol riot, according to a letter given to the House select committee investigating the insurrection.

The letter, which was originally sent to the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, said the messages were erased from the system as part of a device-replacement program after the watchdog asked the agency for records related to its electronic communications.

“First, the Department notified us that many US Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device-replacement program. The USSS erased those text messages after OIG requested records of electronic communications from the USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6,” Cuffari stated in the letter.

“Second, DHS personnel have repeatedly told OIG inspectors that they were not permitted to provide records directly to OIG and that such records had to first undergo review by DHS attorneys,” Cuffari added. “This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced.”
A DHS official provided CNN a timeline of when the IG was informed by Secret Service of the missing information caused by the data transfer. In a statement Thursday night, Secret Service had said the IG first requested information on February 26, 2021, but it did not specify when the agency acknowledged the problem.

According to the DHS official, the Secret Service notified the IG of the migration issue on multiple occasions, starting on May 4, 2021, then again on December 14, 2021 and in February 2022.

In a statement Thursday night, the Secret Service said the inspector general’s allegation regarding a lack of cooperation is “neither correct nor new.”

“To the contrary, DHS OIG has previously alleged that its employees were not granted appropriate and timely access to materials due to attorney review. DHS has repeatedly and publicly debunked this allegation, including in response to OIG’s last two semi-annual reports to Congress. It is unclear why OIG is raising this issue again,” the statement said.

January 6 committee members expressed concern after their meeting with Cuffari about the different version of events between the inspector general and Secret Service and stressed they wanted to hear from the agency itself.

“Now that we have the IG’s view of what has happened. We now need to talk to the Secret Service. And our expectation is to reach out to them directly,” Thompson said at the time. “One of the things we have to make sure is that what Secret Service is saying and what the IG is saying, that those two issues are in fact one and the same. And so now that we have it, we’ll ask for the physical information. And we’ll make a decision ourselves.”

This story has been updated with additional details Friday.

CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Whitney Wild and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.

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