Before ordering the end of its investigation last week, the United States Secret Service found records of text messages deleted on or around January 6, 2021, stored on the phones of at least 10 agents.
Secret Service investigators discovered metadata that showed text messages sent and received on the phones of at least 10 agents in the days surrounding the Capitol riots — but later deleted, according to CNN.
Investigators were then working to determine whether the contents of these texts contained information about the coup attempt, and they should have been preserved amid an ongoing House investigation into the riots, two unnamed sources told the network.
Among the text records requested by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general were the heads of detail for both former President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence: Bobby Engel and Tim Giebels, respectively.
It is unclear if they are among the 10 employees whose phones were shown to have records of texts with metadata deleted.
But of the 24 Secret Service members who were originally under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general, sources told CNN, another 10 members had no text messages at the time and three others had only personal messages.
The deletion of the messages raised the prospect of missing evidence that could shed more light on then-President Donald Trump’s actions during the uprising, particularly after testimony about a confrontation with security as he tried to join supporters at the Capitol.
An internal Secret Service investigation reportedly found that 10 agents had records of text messages sent or received from the days surrounding the Jan. 6 uprising, but they were later deleted. Agents are seen entering the Capitol to evacuate senators during riots here
Investigators were working to determine whether the contents of these texts contained information about the Capitol uprising, and whether the House must have been preserved amid ongoing investigations into the riots (pictured)
It is now unclear what will happen to the 10 Secret Service members from the time the text messages were found to be deleted, after the inspector general ordered the agency to halt an internal investigation amid a criminal investigation.
Secret Service agents, however, said the texts may have been accidentally deleted when the agency conducted a month-long data migration of its phones starting Jan. 27, 2021.
The agency left it up to individual agents to decide what electronic records to keep and what to delete during this process.
Among the text records requested by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general were the heads of detail for both former President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence: Bobby Engel and Tim Giebels, respectively. It is not clear if they are among the 10 employees whose phones showed records of texts with metadata deleted.
Joe Maher, the Department of Homeland Security’s principal deputy general counsel, was tasked with sending a January 2021 letter to component agencies — possibly including the Secret Service — to ensure they preserve records related to the insurgency. The agency now says the message was never received
According to a letter sent to the Secret Service from the House Select Committee investigating the coup, the inspector general first requested records from 24 employees in June 2021.
“The Select Committee seeks relevant text messages, as well as action reports issued by any and all divisions of the USSS relating to or in any way related to the events of January 6, 2021,” the panel chairperson said. Benny Thompson wrote a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray.
The committee specifically requested “all documents and communications relating to actual or attempted conversations between DHA officials and President Trump and/or any other White House officials about the Jan. 5 rally and the Jan. 6 riots.”
According to CNN, the request came two months after the data migration was completed.
At the time, Secret Service agents had to manually back up their texts before migration, the sources alleged. If an employee fails to do so, their messages will be permanently deleted during the process.
“Any message not uploaded by the employee as a government record would have been lost in transit,” a Secret Service official told CNN on Tuesday.
Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (pictured Tuesday), a Democratic member of the Jan. 6 panel, claims the agency produced a ‘preliminary set of documents’ to the House Select Committee, but the requested texts are not included.
But Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democratic member of the January 6 panel, claims the agency has presented a ‘preliminary set of documents’ to the House Select Committee, but did not include the texts requested.
‘We received a letter today that provided us with several documents and some data. However, we did not receive the additional text messages we were looking for,’ she told MSNBC on Tuesday.
“They proceeded to try to migrate devices and data, and their process, as explained to us, was to leave the agent to determine if there was anything on their phones that needed to be saved. For the federal records.’
Two sources who work under Trump-appointed DHS Inspector General Joseph Caffrey (pictured) claim the watchdog did not report findings to Congress in February about removing nearly all Secret Service text messages since Jan. 6.
‘And as a result, today they received no texts from their agents when they changed flagged for protection.’
Members of the House Jan. 6 committee now say the agency should have done more to preserve its records before the move.
They cited a January 16, 2021 letter to multiple agencies — including the FBI and the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis — instructing them to preserve all records related to the coup.
An addendum to the letter, CNN reported, directed Joe Maher, the head of the Office of Intelligence Analysis, to circulate the request among component agencies — possibly including the Secret Service.
But Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CNN that the agency spent eight hours Thursday searching its various internal messaging systems — and found no record of the letter ever reaching the Secret Service.
Meanwhile, a Washington Post report on Tuesday revealed that the DHS watchdog agency did not alert Congress in February when it learned of a Secret Service purge that deleted nearly all text messages from Jan. 6, 2021.
Two whistleblowers within the DHS inspector general’s office told the Post of a months-long delay in flagging deleted Secret Service cellphone messages to Congress that were previously unreported by the watchdog office.
At the time, they were working under Inspector General Joseph Caffrey, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump. Caffrey previously served as an adviser to GOP Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and former Gov. John Brewer.
The Select Committee investigating the Capitol riots subpoenaed the Secret Service for texts the agency claims were deleted as part of a device-replacement program from January 6, 2021.
The investigation into the missing text messages has now become a criminal investigation.
On Wednesday, the DHS inspector general directed the Secret Service to halt its internal investigation, saying it was now a criminal matter.
Depending on the findings, the criminal investigation may result in referral to federal prosecutors.
“To ensure the integrity of our investigation, the USSS should not engage in additional investigative activities related to the collection and preservation of the above-mentioned evidence,” DHS Deputy Inspector General Gladys Ayala wrote in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray Wednesday evening. .
“This includes immediately refraining from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting equipment or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation,” it adds.
The United States Secret Service has previously confirmed that many texts between agents during the riots were ‘deleted as part of a device-replacement program.’
It said in a statement on Thursday night: ‘Allegations that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request are false.
“In fact, the Secret Service is fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect — whether it’s interviews, documents, emails, or texts,” the agency said.
A spokesman said the Secret Service “started resetting mobile phones to factory settings as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration” before the watchdog office opened its investigation in January 2021.
“In the process, data resident on some phones was lost,” they said.
But the Secret Service said the IG didn’t request the communications until late February – where the ‘migration’ had already begun.
The agency also disputed the notion that it was stonewalling investigators and dragging out investigations for weeks.
The spokesperson added: ‘DHS has repeatedly and publicly dismissed this allegation, including in response to the OIG’s last two semi-annual reports to Congress. It is not clear why the OIG is raising this issue.’