Secret Service agents reminded twice by email to preserve phone records before agency-wide reset: report
'A Secret Service agent listening to his earpiece' [Shutterstock]

U.S. Secret Service employees were reminded by email to preserve records on their cell phone before they were replaced, according to a new report.

A senior official with the agency told NBC News that employees received two email reminders about preserving the records on their phones, including text messages before they were "restored to factory settings" as part of a planned reset and replacement program in January 2021.

The texts were lost during the agency-wide reset on Jan. 27, 2021, which came 11 days after Congress requested the communications from Jan. 6 and the day before, and the Secret Service said it was able to retrieve one in response to the House select committee's subpoena.

The agency vowed to conduct a forensic search for any other records, but indicated those messages were not likely to be recovered.

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Secret Service agents were with Trump during the day of the uprising, and were also with vice president Mike Pence, who went into hiding at the Capitol after pro-Trump rioters called for him to be hanged.

On June 29 a former White House staffer told the House January 6 investigation that Trump had attempted to force the Secret Service to take him to the Capitol to join his supporters on that day.

"The Department notified us that many US Secret Service (USSS) text messages, from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device replacement program," Cuffari wrote in the letter first reported by The Intercept and later published by Politico.

"The USSS erased those text messages after OIG requested records of electronic communications" for a review of January 6, he said, referring to the Office of the Inspector General.

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In addition, he said, the department has stalled on providing other records to the OIG.

In a statement, Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi rejected the inspector general's allegation.

He said the agents' phones were being wiped as part of a planned replacement program that began before the OIG requested the information six weeks after the insurrection.

"The Secret Service notified DHS OIG of the loss of certain phones’ data, but confirmed to OIG that none of the texts it was seeking had been lost in the migration," he said.

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Cuffari's letter was addressed to the leaders of the Senate and House Homeland Security Committees.

The chairman of the House Homeland Security committee is Representative Bennie Thompson, who is also the chairman of the House committee investigating January 6.

Their investigation has sought to show that Trump knowingly incited the insurrection as an attempted "coup."

The Secret Service has been criticized for not adequately anticipating the threat of the violent action by armed Trump supporters on January 6.

Trump had made a senior Secret Service official at the time, Tony Ornato, his personal deputy chief of staff.

Ornato has denied the account given to the January 6 committee by former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson that Trump tried to force the Secret Service to drive him to the Capitol as his supporters massed at the building, the seat of the US legislature.

But other then-White House officials have backed Hutchinson's story.


With additional reporting by AFP