Secret Service text messages from around the time of the attack on the US Capitol were deleted despite requests from Congress and federal investigators that they be preserved, the agency has confirmed.
Stephanie Murphy, a Democratic member of the House panel investigating the January 6, 2021, attack, said the Secret Service acknowledged the erasure in a letter on Tuesday, detailing how agency phones were migrated to a new system in the weeks after the 2021 attack.
Murphy said the agency left it up to individual agents to decide what electronic records to keep and what to delete during the process.
"Nobody along the way stopped and thought, 'Well, maybe we shouldn't do the migration of data and of the devices until we are able to fulfil these four requests from Congress'," Murphy said on MSNBC.
The deletion of the messages has raised the prospect of lost evidence that could shed further light on then-president Donald Trump's actions during the insurrection, particularly after testimony about his confrontation with security as he tried to join supporters at the Capitol.
Murphy said that while the agency had turned over a large number of records and documents, what the committee was still seeking is the electronic communication between agents on the day before the attack and as a mob of rioters breached the Capitol building on January 6.
"What they have also said is that they are going to continue to see if there are other ways in which they can secure the required and subpoenaed text messages that we have asked for," Murphy said.
The Secret Service's response to the committee came the same day the National Archives requested the agency investigate "the potential unauthorised deletion" of the texts.
The agency has been the target of heavy scrutiny following a letter sent last week by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector-General that told lawmakers that Secret Service messages between January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased "as part of a device-replacement program".
The Secret Service has said all procedures were followed and pledged "full co-operation" with the Archives' review.
The House panel will hold its eighth public hearing on Thursday.
Two White House officials in Trump's administration - former National Security Council official Matthew Pottinger and former Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews - are expected to testify, according to media reports.
AP with Reuters