January 6 Panel Subpoenas the Secret Service for Text Messages

Messages allegedly went missing in the months after the Capitol riot. Will they reappear?

Secret service agents stand beside the 'Beast' as President Donald Trump arrives at Palm Beach International Airport on September 8, 2020. Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post via ZUMA

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The select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol subpoenaed the Secret Service on Friday seeking text messages that agents sent from January 5 to January 7, 2021. The request came the same day that the Homeland Security Department inspector general briefed the committee on the disappearance of some Secret Service texts sent during that time period. It’s the third time in just a few months that the agency has drawn suspicion in the course of the committee’s January 6 investigation.

The kerfuffle over Secret Service text messages began when the DHS inspector general, Joseph Cuffari, informed the committee this week that the agency had erased a number of messages. The Secret Service’s communications director responded in a statement that it it had inadvertently lost some of the missives: “In January 2021, before any inspection was opened by [office of inspector general] on this subject, the Secret Service 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.” Yet the statement also contained assurances that the requested text messages from the day of and the day before the attack had not been lost, and it promised that the agency was fully cooperating.

But a subpoena from the committee indicates it does not trust the Secret Service’s assurances and is now requesting the communications be turned over by Tuesday. Cuffari, whose office is conducting its own review of the agency’s actions surrounding the attack, told the committee that the Secret Service has not been fully cooperative. Further, he said the agency erased the messages after his office had requested them. 

Scrutiny over the missing text messages is not the first time that the Secret Service has faced questions about possible pro-Trump sympathies in the course of the January 6 probe. After former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified under oath that President Donald Trump had tried to grab the wheel of his car from a Secret Service agent on January 6 in an attempt to join the rioters at the Capitol, the two officials who recounted the incident to her reportedly were ready to deny it under oath.

Some on the committee have also raised the possibility that the Secret Service wanted to help stop the electoral count by removing Vice President Mike Pence from the Capitol. When an agent asked Pence to get into an armored vehicle during the January 6 attack, Pence replied, “I’m not getting in the car.” In April, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the January 6 panel, intimated that the Secret Service wanted to remove Pence from the Capitol so that the electoral count couldn’t proceed, which would have allowed the mob to prevail and halted the transfer of power. He called Pence’s retort “the six most chilling words of this entire thing I’ve seen so far.” This reporting shows that it’s not just the DHS inspector general and the select committee that distrust the Secret Service—Pence did too.

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