The U.S. Secret Service on Tuesday failed to provide missing text messages to the House committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, amid deepening scrutiny of deleted messages agents exchanged both that day and the day prior.
The development, first reported by the Washington Post, came in tandem with a call from the National Archives for an investigation into the deleted texts.
In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security Tuesday, the U.S. Government’s chief records officer Laurence Brewer instructed the Secret Service to investigate the matter and determine if any text messages have been improperly deleted.
The Secret Service must now provide a report to the National Archives and Records Administration within 30 days, including a description of the records, an accounting of the exact circumstances surrounding their deletion, details of actions taken to salvage the records and what safeguards have been established to prevent further loss.
Brewer emphasized that any unauthorized deletion represents a serious matter, regardless of whether or not the texts themselves are relevant to the Congressional committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.
The Secret Service says the messages were erased as part of a routine and pre-planned device-replacement program, but the timeline of the deletions has raised eyebrows.
DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari told the House committee investigating Jan. 6 that the texts were deleted after his office requested the records as part of a probe into the events, though the Secret Service denies this.
The committee subpoenaed the Secret Service last Friday demanding the agency’s texts and records from that day. Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told ABC that the panel hoped to get at least some of the pertinent texts by Tuesday, ahead of their next public Jan. 6 hearing, scheduled for 8 p.m. ET Thursday.
The records have taken on additional importance following the bombshell testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson. Among other revelations, the aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told House investigators that Trump “lunged” for the steering wheel of the presidential limo on Jan. 6 in an effort to be taken to the Capitol.
While the Secret Service said it planned to dispute her testimony, the agency has yet to formally do so nearly three weeks later.
Committee members also surely want to see Secret Service communications regarding the effort to keep various politicians safe that day, not the least of whom is former vice president Mike Pence, who was forced into hiding as a mob screaming “hang Mike Pence” forced their way into the building.