Secret Service says no new Jan. 6 texts found after records were deleted; investigation requested

The National Archives sent a letter Tuesday requesting the agency investigate.

July 19, 2022, 7:26 PM

The Secret Service on Tuesday notified the House Jan. 6 committee that it had found no new text messages related to the Capitol riot -- the same day the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) sent a letter requesting the agency investigate the deletion of some its records from Jan. 6, 2021, which drew the scrutiny of an internal watchdog.

The Secret Service's disclosure was confirmed to ABC News by a source familiar with the matter; it was first reported by The Washington Post.

"We received a letter today that did provide us with a lot of documents and some data. However, we did not receive the additional text messages that we were looking for," Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a member of the committee, said on MSNBC later Tuesday.

"They're going to continue to see if there are other ways in which they can secure the required and subpoenaed text messages that we have asked for," Murphy, D-Fla., said.

A top Secret Service spokesman last week acknowledged that text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were deleted after being sought by the Department of Homeland Security Office of 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.

The director of communications for the Secret Service, Anthony Guglielmi, subsequently dismissed any "insinuation" the agents had "maliciously" deleted the texts.

While some of the information was lost, Guglielmi said that all of the relevant text messages that the committee and inspector general wanted were available and were being turned over.

A Secret Service spokesperson said Tuesday that agency officials were conducting a forensic examination of the devices that had the deleted texts and they were using "every investigative resource" possible.

"We are conducting forensic examinations on cell phones and while it's unlikely that the data could be recovered, we are using every investigative resource to meet the committees request," the spokesperson said.

The Jan. 6 committee had subpoenaed the Secret Service on Friday -- its first such order to an executive agency.

PHOTO: A U.S. Secret Service agent stands outside the White House, Aug. 10, 2020.
A U.S. Secret Service agent stands outside the White House, Aug. 10, 2020.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, another member of the Jan. 6 committee, said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that the panel expected more information about the Secret Service texts by Tuesday.

"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," Lofgren, D-Calif., said then. "But we need to get this information to get the full picture."

In its letter on Tuesday, the NARA wrote that "if it is determined that any text messages have been improperly deleted" -- "regardless of their relevance" to Jan. 6 investigations -- "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."

"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," NARA wrote.

Guglielmi, the Secret Service's spokesman, said on social media on Tuesday that the agency "respects and supports the important role of the National Archives and Records Administration in ensuring preservation of government records. They will have our full cooperation in this review."

A source familiar with the Secret Service migration process told ABC News that in December, the agency sent out communications to employees on how to upload digital files on their local devices if they are government records -- that is, something that informs the operation of government.

If the files were specific to this definition, employees were instructed to upload them prior to the migration, the source said, and if employees did not do that then the content was likely lost when the phones were factory-reset to implement a new wireless system. This source maintained that individuals did not manually go on to the devices and delete content; rather, that was done remotely by the agency.

There was also a second notification about maintaining government files in early January, advising employees prior to the start of the migration, which occurred later in the month, the source said.

PHOTO: A Secret Service agent stands by after Marine One at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., July 10, 2022.
A Secret Service agent stands by after Marine One at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., July 10, 2022.
Joshua Roberts/Reuters, FILE

The Secret Service -- which has faced fresh controversy over its conduct amid the insurrection and then-President Donald Trump's behavior that day -- has repeatedly said it is readily cooperating with both the inspector general and the Jan. 6 committee.

"Over the last 18 months, we have voluntarily provided dozens of hours of formal testimony from special agents and over 790,000 unredacted emails, radio transmissions, operational and planning records," Guglielmi said Friday. "We plan to continue that cooperation by responding swiftly to the Committee's subpoena."

ABC News' Mariam Khan contributed to this report.

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