What the subpoena for the erased Secret Service texts means for the Jan. 6 investigation


Speaker Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., listens as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol on Tuesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP


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J. Scott Applewhite/AP


Speaker Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., listens as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol on Tuesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Secret Service has been subpoenaed in connection with the ongoing investigation into the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, a move a former federal prosecutor calls aggressive and significant.

The House select committee investigating the investigation is asking the federal agency to turn over allegedly deleted text messages from the days surrounding the attack along with any relevant action reports. The Secret Service has until Tuesday to produce the agents’ phone records, which some say could shed light on President Donald Trump’s actions during the riot.

The Secret Service recently attracted attention after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the Jan. 6 committee. According to Hutchinson, Trump had a heated exchange with his Secret Service detail after he asked to be driven to the Capitol on the day of the uprising.

Anthony Guglielmi, a Secret Service spokesman, told NPR that his agency plans to respond “quickly” to the panel’s subpoena, though it’s unclear which recordings will be recoverable.

Secret Service insists Jan 6 investigation benefited from his ‘full and unwavering cooperation’

The erased phone data was revealed earlier this week by Joseph Cuffari, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service. In a letter to Congress, Cuffari accused the Secret Service of deleting relevant text messages after his office requested such recordings and of generally causing confusion and delaying his office’s investigation.

Guglielmi has repeatedly denied that the agency “maliciously” deleted text messages and disputed claims that his agency was uncooperative.

“The January 6 select committee has enjoyed our full and unwavering cooperation since its inception in March 2021 and that does not change,” Guglielmi said in a statement to NPR.

According to Guglielmi, some of the department’s phone data was lost due to a “three-month pre-planned system migration” that required officers to reset their cellphones. early 2021.

He said that although some text messages were lost at the time of the congressional investigation, the Secret Service was able to hand over the phone data of 20 agents, including former uniform division chief Tom Sullivan, who received a text message. of the leader of the United States Capitol. Police on January 6, 2021, asking for emergency help.

Guglielmi added that over the past 18 months, the Secret Service has provided dozens of hours of official testimony from special agents as well as over 790,000 unredacted emails, radio transmissions, and operational and planning records.

What Could Happen If The Secret Service Doesn’t Comply

If the Secret Service is unable to deliver deleted messages, the next big question will be whether it was intentional, according to Ankush Khardori, a former federal prosecutor.

“There is a big factual difference between the accidental loss of communications and a deliberate effort to suppress those communications,” Khardori told NPR. “Really what you would want to know is what are the Secret Service’s rules, regulations and record keeping protocols, has anyone broken them and in the worst case scenario, has anyone made a deliberate effort to destroy these communications.”

Getting to the bottom of what happened, he said Congress could launch an investigation into the Secret Service’s record-keeping system or call Secret Service members to testify.

Khardori said it was too early to tell, but the committee’s Jan. 6 investigation into an executive branch agency is significant.

“It’s not all that unusual for Congress to seek information from the executive branch, including through subpoenas, but it’s different because it’s more public, more assertive, more aggressive and it suggests concern among at least some members of the committee that the Secret Service has not been forthright in their responses,” he said.

The committee’s next hearing on January 6 is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, with a particular focus on Trump’s failure to act to stop the insurgency.

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