Special counsel Jack Smith’s statement that several work phones used by Secret Service agents “did not contain any recoverable information” has raised new questions about the agency’s claim that text messages sent around the time of the January 6, 2021, Capitol uprising were irretrievably deleted.
In an August federal indictment, Trump was charged with four counts related to his alleged attempt to change the outcome of the 2020 election. The federal election interference case is one of four in which the former president is now involved; it is one of two launched by Smith, and one of two including charges of election tampering. Trump has pled not guilty in all of the allegations against him and has denied any wrongdoing.
In response to former President Donald Trump’s lawyers’ request for an expansion of the evidence available to them in the case involving allegations of election interference, the special counsel wrote that prosecutors had obtained the devices and later returned them to Trump’s team without objection. Smith argued that granting the former president’s request would create an unwarranted delay in the commencement of the trial, which is set to begin in March 2024.
“Though the defendant points to the fact that the Government obtained during the investigation ‘several official phones from USSS [U.S. Secret Service] employees,’…he fails to inform the Court that the phones did not contain any recoverable information and that, though informed that the Government intended to return the phones to USSS by a certain date, he failed to interpose an objection,” read the response filed on Saturday.
The Secret Service previously blamed lost text messages on a replacement program in which devices were “reset” after they were requested by a Congressional committee investigating the uprising, and has faced accusations of deleting the messages on purpose to protect Trump—claims it has vehemently denied.
However, the DOJ’s possession of the original devices has raised questions about whether the texts might have been retrieved by investigators after the phones were erased.
“J6 committee subpoenaed the texts only to be told they were not recoverable,” Julie Kelly, a political commentator, wrote on Sunday. “Now it looks like DOJ had [the] actual phones but still could not find the deleted messages?”
“This is insane—no one can possibly believe this given the invasive tools the govt has and has used in this investigation.”
Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of X, formerly Twitter, responded: “Really?”
In an extended thread on the missing Secret Service texts, Julie Kelly explained the blame game behind what allegedly happened.
New: Last night, Jack Smith filed a motion objecting to Trump’s demands for vast amounts of evidence from various agencies including DHS and J6 committee.
I will post some highlights…
It appears DOJ is part of the scandal of the missing Secret Service texts. As I reported a… pic.twitter.com/3V4o8Wggf1
— Julie Kelly 🇺🇸 (@julie_kelly2) December 10, 2023
“It appears DOJ is part of the scandal of the missing Secret Service texts. As I reported a few days ago, thousands of texts between 2 dozen Secret Service officials/agents including the director and Robert Engel–the agent Trump allegedly attacked on J6 according to Cassidy Hutchinson–were deleted at the end of Jan 2021,” Kelly noted.
“USSS claimed the purge was caused by a pre-planned reset of devices–and it happened after House Dems notified exec branch to preserve records related to Jan 6,” she continued.
“J6 committee subpoenaed the texts only to be told they were not recoverable. Now it looks like DOJ had actual phones but still could not find the deleted messages?” she asked.
“This is insane–no one can possibly believe this given the invasive tools the govt has and has used in this investigation,” she said, adding, “This is in addition to Biden’s DHS refusing to give House GOP numerous transcribed interviews with Secret Service officials–also apparently the one with Engel.”
Smith previously stated that the Secret Service had provided 3.1 million pages of evidence to both legal teams in the case, and in his current opposition to Trump’s request, he stated that the information was “only marginally relevant and yet constitutes a sizable portion of the discovery.”
The new plea by Trump’s attorneys comes after they sought for the trial to be halted pending an appeal of a previous judgment by Judge Tanya Chutkan to reject arguments that his conduct around January 6 were shielded by presidential immunity.
Jack Smith subsequently filed directly with the Supreme Court, bypassing the appellate circuit, to rule on the claim, while arguing that urgency was in the public interest. Smith, obviously, wants to see the issue resolved in the nation’s highest court prior to the 2024 election.
The Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.