July 21 (UPI) -- A federal watchdog has launched a criminal investigation into missing Secret Service texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, and told the Secret Service to stop any internal investigation it may be conducting.
"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," Department of Homeland Security deputy inspector general Gladys Ayala wrote in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray on Wednesday.
"This includes immediately refraining from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation."
According to NBC News, the criminal investigation could result in referral to federal prosecutors.
The Secret Service is facing a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee and a demand for information on the texts from the National Archives.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol tweeted Wednesday its investigators are assessing information provided by the Secret Service and are concerned "about a system migration that we have been told resulted in the erasure of Secret Service cell phone data."
Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson and vice chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney said in a joint statement that failing to retain the texts "may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act."
The Secret Service said it was working to determine whether any text messages had been lost and if they were recoverable after the inspector general told lawmakers that a number of text messages were erased as part of a device-replacement program.
The Secret Service has handed over a text message conversation between former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and former Secret Service Uniformed Division Chief Thomas Sullivan to the Jan. 6 committee, CBS News reported. In the texts Sund asked for help and resources from the U.S. Secret Service.
House committee holds 7th hearing on Jan. 6 Capitol attack