The Secret Service has provided a single text exchange to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who is investigating the agency’s records, according to a Jan. 6 letter from the agency to the House committee obtained by ABC News.
The watchdog had requested the messages sent and received by 24 Secret Service agents between December 2020 and January 2021, around the time of the US Capitol attack.
The revelation comes as the committee will examine at a prime-time hearing on Thursday what then-President Donald Trump did in the 187 minutes between his speech to supporters at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and his bid to go home .
“The Secret Service submitted the responsive recordings it identified, namely a text message conversation by former US Capitol Police Commissioner Steven Sund and former Secret Service Uniformed Division Chief Thomas Sullivan, on 6 other records in response to the request of the DHS OIG 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 agency was cooperating with the House investigation.
“Yesterday morning we delivered an initial set of documents and records in response to the subpoena issued on Friday, July 15, 2022,” he said. Our delivery included thousands of pages of documents, use of Secret Service cell phones and other policies, as well as operational and planning documents. We continue to review our records, databases and archives to ensure full compliance with the Committee’s subpoena. We are taking all steps possible to identify records responding to the subpoena, including forensic examinations of agency phones and other investigative techniques.”
A Secret Service spokesman confirmed last week that text messages dated Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were deleted after being requested by the DHS Inspector General.
A letter the inspector general sent to the heads of the House and Senate homeland security committees last Wednesday said the messages were deleted “as part of a device replacement program,” despite requests for such releases by the inspector general .
Guglielmi, the agency’s spokesman, then dismissed any “insinuation” that the agents “maliciously” deleted the texts.
According to a source familiar with the Secret Service’s migration process, the agency sent out notices to employees on how to upload digital files to their local devices if the documents are government documents.
If the files were specific to the definition, employees were instructed to upload them before the migration, and the source said employees who didn’t do so were likely to have lost the content when the phones were factory reset to to implement the new wireless system. Individuals did not manually go to devices and delete content. This was done remotely by the agency, the source said.
There was also a second notification in early January advising employees ahead of the start of the migration, which took place later in the month, the source said.
The revelation about the deleted text mess has outraged some committee members.
“No one along the way stopped and thought, ‘Well, maybe we shouldn’t be migrating data and devices until we’re able to meet those four demands from Congress.’ They have accelerated their device and data migration efforts,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy told MSNBC on Tuesday.
ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.