It’s not common for congressional investigators to subpoena the Secret Service, which made the developments from Friday night that much more notable. NBC News reported:
The House panel investigating the attack on the Capitol issued a subpoena Friday to the Secret Service after a Homeland Security official briefed committee members about the Secret Service erasing text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021. In a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray, Committee chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the panel wanted any pertinent text messages and other records tied to Jan. 6.
There’s no great mystery as to how we arrived at this point. Last Wednesday, Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security told lawmakers that his office sought Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, but he was told that they’d been eerased.
But just as notably, Cuffari also concluded, “The [U.S. Secret Service] erased those text messages after [the office of the inspector general] requested records of electronic communications.”
The allegations come just a few weeks after The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig, who covers the Secret Service closely and wrote a bestseller on the agency, told Rachel Maddow during an MSNBC appearance, “There was a very large contingent of Donald Trump’s detail who were personally cheering for [Joe] Biden to fail. And some of them even took to their personal media accounts to cheer on the insurrection and the individuals riding up to the Capitol as patriots. That is problematic.”
Those comments also came on the heels of testimony from a top aide to former Vice President Mike Pence who suggested the Republican Hoosier was reluctant to leave the Capitol during the attack because he wasn’t sure if the Secret Service would keep him away during the certification process.
As we discussed last week, it’s important to emphasize that the Secret Service has pushed back hard against the inspector general’s claims about the texts. As NBC News’ report added, Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesperson for the agency, insisted that the text messages were lost before they were requested.
According to Guglielmi, the Secret Service began a “pre-planned, three-month system migration” in January 2021 that included resetting its mobile phones to factory settings, resulting in the loss of data for some phones. The system migration, he claimed, was “well underway” by the time the inspector general first requested electronic communications on Feb. 26, 2021.
In other words, as far as the Secret Service is concerned, nothing untoward happened. The messages were erased, but the explanation is benign.
Congressional investigators do not appear entirely persuaded by the official explanation. All nine members of the Jan. 6 committee received a briefing from the DHS watchdog on Friday, and it was soon after when the bipartisan select panel subpoenaed the Secret Service.
During Sunday show appearances yesterday, some members of the committee stressed how significant the texts are as part of the larger investigation. Describing her message to the Secret Service, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren told ABC News, for example, “If you have them, we need them. And we expect to get them by this Tuesday.”
The California congresswoman added, “I was shocked to hear that they didn’t back up their data before they reset their iPhones. That’s crazy.”
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger used similar language on CBS, saying, “In the very least, it is quite crazy that the Secret Service would actually end up deleting anything related to one of the more infamous days in American history, particularly when it comes to the role of the Secret Service.”
Rep. Elaine Luria added on CNN that the committee wants to “get to the bottom of” the erased messages. “There’s a requirement for federal agencies to maintain records,” the Virginia Democrat said. “An agency that was such a key part of a critical event in our history, one would assume they have done everything possible to preserve those records, to analyze them, to determine what kind of things went right or went wrong that day.”
As for the Secret Service’s intentions, Kinzinger added yesterday that the agency assured him that this week’s deadline will be met. Watch this space