Washington – The US House committee investigating the January 6 assault on the Capitol said late Friday night it had subpoenaed the Secret Service over questions surrounding missing text messages from the days surrounding the riot last year.
The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Joseph Cuffari, told Congress earlier this week that his office has had difficulties obtaining records of text messages from the Secret Service, the law enforcement agency that protects the president, from January 5 and 6, 2021.
Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6 committee, informed the agency’s director James Murray in a letter Friday of the subpoena compelling the Secret Service to hand over the missing texts by Tuesday.
“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,” the letter, posted to the committee’s website, said.
The messages could be important in the House of Representatives and Justice Department investigations into whether Donald Trump and his close advisors encouraged the deadly insurrection by the former president’s supporters, which aimed to prevent the certification of his Democratic rival Joe Biden as the winner of the November 2020 election.
Secret Service agents were with Trump during the day of the uprising, and were also with vice president Mike Pence, who went into hiding at the Capitol after pro-Trump rioters called for him to be hanged.
On June 29 a former White House staffer told the House January 6 investigation that Trump had attempted to force the Secret Service to take him to the Capitol to join his supporters on that day.
According to Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, agents’ phones were wiped as part of a planned replacement program that began before the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) first asked for the data, six weeks after the insurrection.
“The Secret Service notified DHS OIG of the loss of certain phones’ data, but confirmed to OIG that none of the texts it was seeking had been lost in the migration,” he said in a statement.
The Secret Service has been criticized for not adequately anticipating the threat of the violent action by armed Trump supporters on January 6.
Trump had made a senior Secret Service official at the time, Tony Ornato, his personal deputy chief of staff.
Ornato has denied the account given to the January 6 committee by former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson that Trump tried to force the Secret Service to drive him to the Capitol as his supporters massed at the building, the seat of the US legislature.
But other then White House officials have backed Hutchinson’s story.