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Secret Service director delaying retirement amid investigations into agency

<i>Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>US Secret Service Director James Murray listens during a news conference about the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center's Mass Attacks in Public Spaces 2018 report
AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
US Secret Service Director James Murray listens during a news conference about the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center's Mass Attacks in Public Spaces 2018 report

By Whitney Wild and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

US Secret Service Director James Murray is delaying his retirement from the service as the agency faces inquiries from Congress and elsewhere over its deletion of text messages around January 6, 2021, Murray said in a message to his workforce.

“I feel strongly about using this time to oversee and ensure our agency’s continued cooperation, responsiveness, and full support with respect to ongoing Congressional and other inquiries,” Murray wrote in his message. “Doing so is critically important and I am especially grateful for the extra time to help lead our Service ever forward.”

CNN previously reported that the US Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021. The text messages at issue may have been deleted when the agency conducted a data migration of phones that began January 27, 2021.

The Department of Homeland Security inspector general asked last year for the text records of 24 individuals at the Secret Service who were involved in January 6, but only one text had been produced. After the issue spilled into public view this month, the inspector general launched a criminal investigation into the matter, and lawmakers demanded answers from the Secret Service to go back and find out what happened to the texts that may have been deleted.

According to a letter sent from the Secret Service to the House select committee investigating the insurrection, which has also sought messages around the day of the attack from the agency, the inspector general asked for records from the 24 personnel in June 2021 — more than two months after the migration had been completed.

Members of the House select committee have stressed their belief the agency should have done more to preserve records prior to the migration, citing a January 16, 2021, letter from congressional committees to multiple agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, instructing them to preserve records related to January 6.

The agency has also been in the spotlight over an alleged incident between a Secret Service agent and then-President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021, and the role of Tony Ornato, who had temporarily assumed a detail at the White House at the time as Trump’s deputy chief of staff for operations.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified before the House select committee last month that Ornato, now assistant director of training at the agency, told her that Trump became irate when he learned his detail leader, Bobby Engel, would not take him to the US Capitol.

Instead, they returned to the White House following Trump’s speech at the Ellipse that preceded the Capitol riot.

“As I have communicated to you recently, this is a unique and challenging time for our agency,” Murray wrote in concluding his message. “Now, as always, our prime priorities are the success of our mission; the welfare of our people; and our collective and individual responsibility to serve our country and fellow citizens in a manner that is always Worthy of Trust and Confidence.”

He continued, “I assure you that, during this brief transition period, I remain committed to pursuing each of these objectives to the fullest measure.”

Murray has spent 27 years with the Secret Service and ascended to the director position in April 2019.

This story has been updated with additional information Thursday.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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