A member of the US Secret Service looks out from the roof of the White House in Washington, DC on August 21, 2021.
Andrew Caballero Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images
The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog has opened a criminal investigation into the destruction of Secret Service phone text messages related to the days around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The Secret Service was informed of the investigation Wednesday night by the office of the Inspector General of DHS, which said the probe is now criminal and that the agency had been ordered to stop internal investigations into the deleted text messages, NBC reported.
The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot last week issued a subpoena to the Secret Service seeking text messages after learning from the Inspector General that messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, had been erased, purportedly as the result of a “device replacement program.”
On Wednesday, the committee said the Secret Service may have violated federal records-keeping law in deleting the messages. That statement came a day after the Secret Service said it gave just one text message thread in response to the subpoena.
DHS deputy inspector general Gladys Ayala in her letter to Secret Service Director James Murray later Wednesday wrote, “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.”
“This includes immediately refraining from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation,” Ayala wrote.
The Secret Service in a statement Thursday said it was “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 Secret Service said.
News of the criminal probe came hours before the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot was set to hold a prime-time hearing that is expected to show President Donald Trump’s failure to act to stop the attacks that day.