The federal agency is probing phones that contain metadata showing that the messages were sent and received on or around 6 January 2021, the network reported on 23 July.
An investigation followed a letter from an inspector general at the US Department of Homeland Security – first reported by The Intercept and shared by the House select committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol – finding that messages from agency personnel were missing or erased.
The Secret Service – the agency responsible for protecting the president and senior officials – told the office of the inspector general that a trove of messages was deleted as part of a “device-replacement“ programme.
DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffar requested texts from 24 Secret Service personnel involved in the response on 6 January, 2021, though only one text was produced.
In a statement on 14 July, a spokesperson for the Secret Service denied that personnel “maliciously deleted text messages”.
“In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the [DHS inspector general] in every respect – whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts,” Anthony Guglielmi said.
He said that in January 2021, “before any inspection” was opening, the agency began resetting its mobile phones to factory settings “a part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration”.
“In that process, data resident on some phones was lost,” he said.
The inspector general request for answers regarding potentially missing text messages was followed by a congressional subpoena and a criminal investigation into the issue, among a series of extraordinary manoeuvres this week as the House select committee revealed damning testimony and evidence linking Donald Trump’s administration to violence in the halls of Congress.
Members of the House select committee have said that the agency should have preserved records before migrating data from the devices, pointing to a letter sent on 16 January, 2021 from congressional committees to several federal agencies urging them to hang on to records related to 6 January.
Secret Service personnel were invoked in several testimonies to the House select committee, raising serious inquiry into the behaviour of then-President Trump and his attempts to provoke a mob and subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
A former White House aide testified to the committee that the former president tried to grab the wheel of the presidential limousine and lunged at a Secret Service agent, as an allegedly furious Trump was told he could not divert the caravan to the Capitol as part of his pressure campaign against then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College votes.
Meanwhile, Secret Service agents were helping usher Mr Pence to a secure location as a pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol.