The U.S. Secret Service gave the House committee on January 6 a list of all personal cell phone numbers of agents based in Washington, D.C., for the period the committee is investigating, according to sources familiar with the matter — an unusual move amid this period. Tighter scrutiny of the agency’s cooperation with the congressional committee investigating last year’s insurgency and the role then-President Donald Trump played in it.
The commission can now decide which call records of agents they may wish to review, and if they decide to do so, they can either request records from agents directly or it is possible to issue subpoenas to mobile phone service providers, an official familiar with the situation explained.
The Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency, have faced criticism in recent weeks for deleting text messages belonging to clients on and around January 6, 2021. Congressional Democrats accused the Inspector General of Homeland Security of abandoning efforts to collect text messages and phone records from that day.
Searching and obtaining information from personal devices of federal employees is a “very unusual” move by the commission, according to Don Mihalk, a retired Secret Service agent, and could reflect a renewed effort by the agency to demonstrate its further cooperation with congressional investigators. .
The Secret Service has faced serious criticism in recent weeks as the commission’s testimony has focused on Trump’s behavior on January 6, 2021 and what agents assigned to the White House did and witnessed that day.
At the same time, Mahalek said, the agency’s decision to hand over personal device information to the commission could present thorny legal challenges.
“If the agency were to turn over these private phone numbers, the only appropriate course of action for that would be a subpoena or court order,” said Mihalk, an ABC News contributor. In the absence of that, handing them over may be a problem.”
A Secret Service spokesperson recently acknowledged the loss of some phone data as of January 2021 as a result of a previously planned data transfer, noting that the transfer was in progress when the Office of the Inspector General submitted the request in February 2021.
ABC News reported Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security is reviewing its electronic retention policies and will stop scanning political appointees’ phones until the review is complete.
Secret Service and January 6 commission representatives declined to comment.
ABC News’s Aaron Katersky and Luke Barr contributed reporting.