(The Hill) – The only text message the Secret Service turned over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was a plea from then-Capitol Police officer Steven Sund asking for help.
Lawmakers on the panel are increasingly confused and irritated by the lack of messages from the Secret Service after it subpoenaed the records following a letter from a government watchdog indicating that messages had been “erased” during a device replacement program.
“That’s all that we have,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) told The Hill.
A source close to the Secret Service previously told The Hill that Sund had contacted the Secret Service on Jan. 6 requesting assistance.
“That message was captured and it was turned over,” the source said.
The Secret Service has denied that it maliciously deleted any text messages but has said some data was lost during a system migration.
Agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Secret Service policy prohibits using text messages due to security concerns, but that the initial 20 agents whose records were requested did not have phones impacted by the migration.
He said there were no “hidden messages” the agency was concealing or anything else officials were “holding out” from the panel.
Lawmakers on the panel have said they are hopeful the Secret Service will be able to recover the information from the phones even though they were wiped.
“My hope is that the Secret Service will use their forensic data capabilities to recapture the texts that we have requested and comply with the subpoena. I think the information they’ve provided us to date leaves a lot of questions regarding their process for data retention,” Murphy said.
But they’ve grown increasingly frustrated with Secret Service’s explanation around why its records weren’t fully preserved in the days after Jan. 6.
“We were just updated and it remains a big mystery to me,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters Wednesday
He added that the Secret Service’s explanation stretches the outer limits of plausibility.
“I smell a rat,” he said. “That seems like an awfully strange coincidence for those text messages to be banished into oblivion on two days where there was also the most violent insurrection against the union in our history, after the Civil War.”
Murphy previously said Secret Service’s actions are questionable, given the time frame.
“They received four requests from congressional committees on Jan. 16 to preserve records, and they had this planned migration for the 25th, I believe, of January, and nobody along the way stopped and thought, ‘Well, maybe we shouldn’t do the migration of data and of the devices until we are able to fulfill these four requests from Congress,’” she said during an interview on MSNBC.
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said the panel is expected to have a more public response on the texts in the coming days.
“I got a lot of questions,” he said. “Committee members have a lot of questions related to this.”
Mike Lillis contributed.