WASHINGTON — The National Archives on Tuesday asked the Secret Service to investigate the “potential unauthorized deletion” of text messages on the day of the Jan. 6 attack and the day before.
The National Archives and Records Administration “requests that the Secret Service look into this matter,” an agency official, Laurence Brewer, wrote in a letter to Damian Kokinda, an official overseeing records at the Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general sent a letter to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol last week informing the panel that the Secret Service had deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and 6. Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said he was told that the texts were erased after he requested records of electronic communications tied to the insurrection, “as part of a device-replacement program.”
Shortly after Cuffari briefed all nine Jan. 6 committee members on Friday, the special panel issued a subpoena for those Secret Service text messages and other records from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021.
Committee members believe that the texts could corroborate aspects of testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who told the panel that then-President Donald Trump became furious when he was not allowed to join his supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and got into a physical altercation with his lead Secret Service agent in the presidential SUV.
A Secret Service spokesperson had vehemently disputed allegations by DHS’ inspector general that the text messages had been erased. Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said data from some phones had been lost as part of a “pre-planned, three-month system migration” but that the Secret Service was continuing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 panel.
In a separate statement, Guglielmi said that the Secret Service delivered on Tuesday morning an “initial set” of thousands of documents and records to the Jan. 6 panel in response to the subpoena. The documents include “Secret Service cell phone use and other policies, as well as operational and planning records,” he said.
“The United States Secret Service has been and continues to be fully cooperative with the January 6th Select Committee,” Gugliemi said in a statement to NBC News.
“We continue to scrutinize our records, databases, and archives to ensure full compliance with the Committee’s subpoena,” he continued. “We are taking all feasible steps to identify records responsive to the subpoena, to include forensic examinations of agency phones and other investigative techniques.”
In the lengthy statement, Gugliemi also said the Secret Service “fully respects and supports the important role” of the National Archives.
“The agency will have our full cooperation in this review and we will complete the internal review of our information as directed and promptly respond to their inquiry,” Guglielmi continued. “The Secret Service has long standing established policies regarding the retention of Government Records.”
If the Secret Service determines that any text messages have been improperly deleted, the National Archives official wrote Tuesday, then the agency must send the National Archives a report within 30 days with a report documenting the deletion.
That report, the National Archives official said, must include a description of the records affected, a statement of the circumstances surrounding the deletion of the messages, and a statement of “safeguards” put in place to prevent further loss of records.