- The Department of Homeland Security requested texts from 24 individuals in the US Secret Service.
- The list includes Robert Engel, Trump’s lead agent, and James Murray, the head of the agency.
- The Secret Service has been accused of deleting relevant text messages relating to the January 6 Capitol riot.
Two of the Secret Service agents whose text messages were requested by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general include the head of former President Donald Trump’s protective detail and the head of the US Secret Service, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Robert Engel, Trump’s lead agent, and James Murray, the outgoing director of the Secret Service, who is leaving on July 30 for a new role at Snapchat, are two of the 24 agents whose messages from December 7, 2020, through January 8, 2021, were requested as part of an inspector general probe into the agency’s response on January 6, 2021, and whose messages cannot be found.
Last week the inspector general alerted the House January 6 committee about the missing messages. The agency has submitted a single text message to the select committee and maintains that they are cooperating with the investigation.
It is unclear what prompted the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, Joseph Cuffari, to seek the phone records of those 24 agents around the time of January 6, The Times reported.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, previously told the House committee investigating the insurrection that, as he demanded his protection detail take him in the direction of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Trump lunged at Engel in an attempt to grab the steering wheel of the car when he was told they could not go to the Capitol.
On Wednesday night, the DHS’s deputy inspector general requested that the Secret Service cease its search for purged text messages sent by agents around the time of insurrection, as not to “interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation,” per the letter first obtained by CNN on Thursday.
“To ensure the integrity of our investigation, the USSS. must not engage in any further investigative activities regarding the collection and preservation of the evidence referenced above,” the Homeland Security Department’s deputy inspector general, Gladys Ayala, said in a letter to the Secret Service, The Times reported. “This includes immediately refraining from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices, or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.”
The January 6 House Select committee subpoenaed the agency on July 15 after the Department of Homeland Security inspector general, Joseph Cuffari, accused the service of deleting relevant text messages.
In a July 13 letter to the committee, Cuffari claimed that the messages had only been erased after the OIG requested that the Secret Service agent’s communication be turned in during an investigation into the Capitol attack.
The agency said that a “pre-planned, three-month system migration” caused the data to be lost, according to Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the committee, in a letter announcing the subpoena.
The deletion of evidence could be a violation of the Federal Records Act, Insider’s Lloyd Lee reported Wednesday.
The agency has also added that it won’t be able to retrieve messages to hand over to the committee.
In an emailed statement to Insider, Chief of Communications Anthony Guglielm said: “The Secret Service is in receipt of the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s letter. We have informed the January 6th Select Committee of the Inspector General’s request and will conduct a thorough legal review to ensure we are fully cooperative with all oversight efforts and that they do not conflict with each other.”
The Department of Homeland Security and the January 6 House Select Committee did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.