WASHINGTON — The National Archives on Tuesday requested that the Secret Service investigate “the potential unauthorized deletion” of agency text messages sent and received around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The Secret Service has come under heavy scrutiny following the revelation last week that text messages sent around the time of the Capitol attack may have been erased. In response, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 investigation issued a subpoena for the messages and other related records.
The Secret Service has said all procedures were followed and pledged “full cooperation” with the Archives’ review.
“The United States Secret Service respects and supports the important role of the National Archives and Records Administration in ensuring the preservation of government records,” said agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
The deletion of the messages has raised the prospect of lost evidence that could shed further light on then-President Donald Trump’s actions during the insurrection, particularly after testimony about his confrontation with security as he tried to join supporters at the Capitol.
The National Archives, which is in charge of government record-keeping, asked the Secret Service to investigate the possible erasure of the messages and report back within 30 days.
“Through several news sources, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has become aware of the potential unauthorized deletion of United States Secret Service (Secret Service) text messages,” Laurence Brewer, the chief record keeper for the U.S., said in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security.
If it is determined any text messages were deleted, the agency must detail what records were affected, a statement on the reasoning for deletion, plan for establishing safeguards to prevent future loss as well as “details of all agency actions taken to salvage, retrieve, or reconstruct the records,” the letter read.
The potential loss of the records first came to light last week when the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, told lawmakers that Secret Service messages between Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were erased “as part of a device-replacement program.”
The watchdog said the messages were deleted after they had been requested as part of an investigation into the Jan. 6 attack.
The Secret Service responded by telling AP that “the insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false.”
“In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect — whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts,” Secret Service spokesman Guglielmi said.
He said the Secret Service had started to reset its mobile devices to factory settings in January 2021 “as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration.” In that process, some data was lost.
The nine-member House Jan. 6 panel has taken a recent, renewed interest in the Secret Service following the dramatic testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about Trump’s actions on the day of the insurrection.
Also Tuesday, Guglielmi said the agency had sent an initial set of documents and records to congressional investigators but it remains unclear if it falls within the requirements of the committee’s subpoena.
A request for comment from the Jan. 6 committee was not immediately returned.
Associated Press writer Mike Balsamo contributed to this report.
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