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Jan. 6 panel will ‘get to the bottom’ of Secret Service texts, Cheney says

July 24, 2022 Updated Sun., July 24, 2022 at 8:51 p.m.

A video clip of a Fox News broadcast of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is seen on screen during a hearing of the House Select Committee on Thursday in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The committee continues to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol.  (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
A video clip of a Fox News broadcast of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is seen on screen during a hearing of the House Select Committee on Thursday in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The committee continues to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
By Victoria Cavaliere and Ryan Teague Beckwith Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON – The bipartisan committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol intends to “get to the bottom” of missing or destroyed U.S. Secret Service texts from the days surrounding the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney said on Sunday.

The committee is seeking text messages from 24 Secret Service employees related to Jan. 5 and the day of the Capitol attack. Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the panel, said she was “deeply troubled” by the missing or deleted messages.

In addition to interviewing other members of former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet and campaign, she said the panel is “very focused as well on the Secret Service and on interviewing additional members of the Secret Service and collecting additional information from them.”

She added: “We will get to the bottom of it.”

The committee is seeking the texts as it looks into reports that Trump had to be blocked by Secret Service agents from traveling with supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to try to stop Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Agents protecting former Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to stop the certification, feared for their lives that day, according to testimony presented during Thursday’s hearing.

Former deputy White House chief of staff Tony Ornato, Trump’s former Secret Service lead agent Robert Engel and another agent have hired private lawyers, choosing not to rely on agency-provided counsel, Jan. 6 panel members have said.

“I think if they’re hiring criminal defense counsel, then I think they probably have concerns about their potential criminal liability,” Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The Homeland Security Department’s watchdog has opened an investigation into the loss of the Secret Service text messages and has instructed the agency to stop its own internal investigation.

Cheney said the panel could potentially subpoena Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist whose husband is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, about pushing false narratives around the 2020 election and the riot at the Capitol.

“We certainly hope that she will agree to come in voluntarily, but the committee is fully prepared to contemplate a subpoena,” Cheney said.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who refused to comply with the panel’s subpoenas, was convicted of criminal contempt of Congress on Friday. Each of the two counts on which he was found guilty carry a maximum of one year in prison.

Another committee member, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, told ABC’s “This Week” that ignoring subpoenas comes with consequences.

“Come in. You can plead the Fifth if you want in front of our committee, but you can’t ignore a congressional subpoena or you’ll pay the price,” he said. “That’s to any future witnesses too.”

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