Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Secret Service amid text message controversy

Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Secret Service amid text message controversy

The Jan. 6 select committee has subpoenaed the Secret Service following a string of conflicts with the agency and revelations that a large swath of text messages sent by agents on the day of the Capitol attack have been erased.

The move marks the first time the select committee has publicly announced the subpoena of an Executive Branch agency and comes the same day the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general privately briefed committee members on the discovery of the missing text messages.

The subpoena, directed at agency director James Murray — who is retiring later this month — demands the production of records by July 19.

“The Select Committee seeks the relevant text messages, as well as any after action reports that have been issued in any and all divisions of the USSS pertaining or relating in any way to the events of January 6, 2021,” Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a letter accompanying the subpoena.

Committee members emerging from the DHS briefing said they were awaiting details about whether the inspector general will be able to obtain any of the missing messages.

“We’re interested in getting the texts from the Secret Service that happened on the fifth and sixth and we want to get the IG’s perspective on what he thought was going on,” Thompson told reporters Friday.

The Secret Service has rejected any suggestion of inappropriate actions. A spokesman said Thursday the missing messages were attributable to an agency-wide phone upgrade that was in progress before the agency’s inspector general requested access to them.

The spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, noted that the Secret Service provided more than 700,000 Jan. 6-related emails and thousands of internal communications to investigators.

The select committee’s frustration with the Secret Service has grown in recent weeks. Some of its conflict with the agency stems from the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Trump White House aide, who described interactions with top Secret Service officials on Jan. 6.

Hutchinson recounted learning from one of those officials, Tony Ornato, about a physical altercation between Trump and the head of his Secret Service detail Robert Engel that day. Ornato had been detailed to the White House and was serving as a Trump-appointed deputy chief of staff at the time.

Hutchinson said Ornato described Trump flying into a rage when the president was told he would not be permitted to join supporters at the Capitol because of security concerns. Trump lunged for the wheel of the car and then Engel’s throat, Hutchinson recalled Ornato telling her. Engel looked on as Ornato described the altercation and didn’t contradict any of the details, Hutchinson said.

But shortly after Hutchinson concluded her testimony, anonymous sources told several news outlets that Engel and Ornato would be willing to contradict Hutchinson’s account of the incident under oath. So far, that sworn testimony has not occurred.

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Author: By Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney