Calls for Secret Service Probe Over Missing Texts: 'Heads Need To Roll'

There are growing calls for an investigation into whether U.S. Secret Service agents deleted text messages sent on January 5 and 6, 2021 after the agency failed to hand over texts from that period to Congress.

The Secret Service reportedly only provided one text exchange to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Joseph Cuffari after he requested a month's worth of records from 24 agents.

That text exchange was also provided to the House of Representatives' Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021.

The Secret Service has not yet been able to recover any data that might have been lost during a phone migration that began in January 2021, but the agency says they are trying to recover lost messages.

A Secret Service Agent Guards Biden
A member of the Secret Service monitors activity as President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Queen Theater on December 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. There are growing calls for an investigation into whether Secret Service agents deleted text message related to January 5 and 6, 2021. Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Secret Service's failure to produce the text messages has led to calls for an investigation amid suggestions that the messages could have been deleted. Cuffari previously accused the Secret Service of deleting texts, which the agency initially denied.

Andrew Weissmann, who served as head of the FBI's Enron task force under former President George W. Bush, called for an investigation.

"There has to be a massive inspector general investigation and heads need to roll," Weissmann told MSNBC on Tuesday. "Even if you assume that this was not, sort of, intentionally trying to keep documents from this committee, the sheer incompetence of it."

Weissmann said it was "unbelievable" that preserving the messages would be left up to individual agents when several congressional committees had requested them.

Secret Service employees were supposed to back up their text messages during the phone migration but if they failed to do so, the messages would have been permanently deleted.

NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted on Tuesday: "Failure to preserve and produce these messages may be illegal. Prompt investigation is now essential."

"Vital for Americans to know immediately whether United States Secret Service has been dangerously compromised," Beschloss went on.

"With crucial evidence now reported to have been destroyed, the potential physical danger to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris from actions (or lapses) of U.S. Secret Service on January 6 (and the period around that date) must now be investigated immediately," he said.

Amanda Carpenter, columnist at The Bulwark, pointed to a CNN report that said the Secret Service was told to preserve documents related to January 6 on January 16 and 25, 2021, while the phone migration reportedly began on January 27.

"The Secret Service was asked to preserve all records on January 16, again on Jan 25, and then the Secret Service went ahead with their mass deletions on Jan 27?! This seems like major news," Carpenter tweeted.

"Irony with the missing U.S. Secret Service texts from 5 January and 6 January 2021 is that their cyber forensics team is considered by top current and former US Attorneys as the best in the business—and if anyone could reconstruct lost texts, they could," wrote Hugo Lowell, congressional reporter with The Guardian.

Attorney and author Seth Abramson wrote: "The USSS's destruction of smoking-gun evidence in the biggest federal investigation in American history is by itself—*by itself*—a scandal as big as Watergate. The Secret Service is supposed to be the best of the best, and Trump turned them into partisan political *goons*."

Abramson called for four House select committees, two to secure the 2022 and 2024 elections, another to root out "criminal extremists in government who tamper with witnesses or evidence," as well as the current January 6 committee.

The National Archives has directed the Secret Service to investigate the potential "unauthorized deletion" of text messages and report on the matter in 30 days. The agency has said it will co-operate fully.

Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, who sits on the House Select Committee, told MSNBC on Tuesday that more information was needed about the text messages, citing a letter the Secret Service had sent the committee.

"In their letter they gave no indication that they have secured the phones in question and done some forensic work with them. That's something we want to know," Lofgren said.

"This obviously, this doesn't look good. Coincidences can happen but we really need to get to the bottom of this and get a lot more information than we have currently."

Newsweek has asked the Secret Service for comment.