Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, says his panel will attempt to “reconstruct” Secret Service text messages that were reportedly deleted after a government watchdog group requested access to them.
Speaking at Capitol Hill on Thursday, Thompson said the missing texts were “concerning” to the Jan. 6 committee, adding that the panel had requested access to them “some time ago.” Thompson also said committee members would do what they could to “reconstruct” the texts.
“If there’s a way we can reconstruct the texts or what have you, we will,” Thompson said. “I think it’s important for us to get as much information about how this discrepancy occurred.”
The texts in question reportedly concern messages that US Secret Service agents sent on Jan. 5 and 6, two days investigators believe are crucial for constructing an accurate picture of the events at the Capitol. Lawmakers were first informed the texts had been deleted in a letter from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.
In the letter sent Wednesday, DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari told lawmakers that the texts had supposedly been deleted during a Secret Service “device-replacement program.”
“First, the Department notified that us many US Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device-replacement program,” Cufarri wrote. “The USSS erased those text messages after OIG requested records of electronic communications from the USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6.”
For their part, Secret Service representatives strongly denied having deleted the text messages in response to the OIG request for records, claiming the data had been accidentally lost after a “pre-planned,” agency-wide phone replacement process.
“The insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false,” USSS Chief of Communications Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement. “In January 2021, before any inspection was opened by OIG on this subject, the Secret Service began to reset its mobile phones to factory settings as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration.”
It’s not yet clear what information Jan. 6 committee members believe the texts contained, or how members plan to “reconstruct” the contents of the messages, but Thompson said the panel has been in contact with Secret Service agents.