The Secret Service has provided a single text exchange to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigating the agency’s record-keeping, according to an agency letter to the House Jan. 6 committee obtained by ABC News.
The watchdog had requested the messages sent and received by 24 Secret Service personnel between December 2020 and January 2021, the period around the attack on the US Capitol.
The disclosure comes as the committee, at a prime-time hearing Thursday, will examine what then-President Donald Trump did in the 187 minutes between his speech to supporters at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and when he eventually called on them to go home.
“The Secret Service submitted the responsive records it identified, namely, a text message conversation from former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to former Secret Service Uniformed Division Chief Thomas Sullivan requesting assistance on January 6, 2021, and advised the agency did not have any further records responsive to the DHS OIG’s request for text messages,” Assistant Director Ronald Rowe said in the letter to the committee.
In a statement to ABC News, spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the Secret Service has been cooperating with the House investigation.
“Yesterday morning we delivered an initial set of documents and records responsive to the subpoena issued on Friday, July 15, 2022,” he said. Our delivery included thousands of pages of documents, Secret Service cell phone use and other policies, as well as operational and planning records. We continue to scrutinize our records, databases, and archives to ensure full compliance with the Committee’s subpoena. We are taking all feasible steps to identify records responsive to the subpoena, to include forensic examinations of agency phones and other investigative techniques.”
A Secret Service spokesman last week acknowledged text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were deleted after being sought by the DHS inspector general.
A letter sent last Wednesday by the inspector general to the heads of the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees said the messages were deleted “as part of a device-replacement program” despite the inspector general requesting such communications.
Guglielmi, the agency spokesman, subsequently dismissed any “insinuation” the agents had “maliciously” deleted the texts.
The agency sent out communications to employees on how to upload digital files on their local devices if they are government records, according to a source familiar with the Secret Service migration process.
If the files were specific to the definition, employees were instructed to upload them prior to the migration, and the source said employees who did not do that, the content was likely lost when the phones were reset to factory specifications to implement the new wireless system . Individuals did not manually go on to the devices and delete content. That was done remotely by the agency, the source said.
There was also a second notification in early January advising employees prior to the start of the migration which occurred later in the month, the source said.
The revelation about the deleted text mess has some committee members ranked.
“Nobody along the way stopped and thought, ‘well, maybe we shouldn’t do the migration of data and of the devices until we’re able to fulfill these four requests from Congress.’ They moved ahead with their efforts to migrate the devices and data,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy said on MSNBC on Tuesday.
ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.