'Potential unauthorized deletion' of Secret Service Jan. 6 texts prompts probe request

'Potential unauthorized deletion' of Secret Service Jan. 6 texts prompts probe request
President Donald J. Trump participates in a Christmas Day video teleconference from the Oval Office Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018, with military service members stationed at remote sites worldwide to thank them for their service to our nation. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
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The U.S. National Archives on Tuesday asked the Secret Service to investigate the "potential unauthorized deletion" of agents' text messages sent the day of and before the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

"If it is determined that any text messages have been improperly deleted... then the Secret Service must send NARA a report within 30 calendar days of the date of this letter with a report documenting the deletion," U.S. Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer informed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records officer, referring to the National Archives and Records Administration.

"This report must include a complete description of the records affected, a statement of the exact circumstances surrounding the deletion of messages, a statement of the safeguards established to prevent further loss of documentation, and details of all agency actions taken to salvage, retrieve, or reconstruct the records," he added.

Brewer's request followed news that the Secret Service will inform the congressional committee investigating the Capitol attack that it has found no new text messages related to the deadly insurrection. The House committee subpoenaed the Secret Service on Friday as part of the bipartisan panel's effort to recover text messages that were deleted shortly after oversight officials requested them.

The National Archives request also comes after the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG)—which sought records related to the events of January 6—determined that the Secret Service "erased text messages as part of a device replacement program."

According to The Washington Post:

The Secret Service's text messages have become a new focal point of Congress' investigation of January 6, as they could provide insight into the agency's actions on the day of the insurrection and possibly those of Trump. A former White House aide last month told the House select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol that Trump was alerted by the Secret Service on the morning of January 6 that his supporters were armed but insisted they be allowed to enter his rally on the Ellipse with their weapons.

Trump told multiple White House aides that he wanted to lead the crowd to the Capitol and indicated his supporters were right to chant about hanging Vice President Mike Pence, all pieces of evidence that help describe his state of mind and what he wanted to happen at the Capitol that day.

Alleging that the Secret Service "appears to have violated federal criminal law by destroying text messages" around the time of the Capitol attack, the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) on Monday filed a complaint asking the U.S. Justice Department to launch "an immediate and full investigation into whether Secret Service employees willfully destroyed federal records."

"It is extremely troubling to think that the Secret Service would destroy key evidence in any investigation, let alone one that is central to getting answers and accountability for the unprecedented attack on our democracy that occurred on January 6, 2021," CREW chief counsel Donald Sherman said in a statement.

"The Federal Records Act requires that agencies like the Secret Service preserve records so that there is a complete and accurate history of the government's actions and decisions," he continued. "It is especially distressing to see such behavior from a federal agency that had such critical duties during the attack on the Capitol and had a front row seat to former President Trump's behavior that day."

"The Justice Department must take this apparent violation of federal law seriously," Sherman added.

Secret Service Chief of Communications Anthony Guglielmi—whose controversial career includes stints as spokesperson for police departments in Baltimore and Chicago, where he is accused of helping cover up the officer murder of Black teenager Laquan McDonald—insisted in a statement last week that the deletion of the texts was not malicious, and that "none of the texts" sought by the OIG were erased.

Appearing on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, January 6 committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said that "we need all of the texts from the fifth and sixth of January."

"I was shocked to hear that they didn't back up their data before they reset their iPhones. That's crazy, and I don't know why that would be," she added. "But we need to get this information to get the full picture."

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