The House Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection has asked the Secret Service for records of all communications between the far-right Oath Keepers group and Secret Service agents prior to and on the day of the attack, after a preliminary accounting by the agency indicated multiple contacts in 2020, according to a Secret Service spokesman.
The spokesman said the Congressional request follows a short telephonic briefing from the Secret Service to committee staff, in which the agency said an agent from its protective intelligence division had “numerous” contacts with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other group members prior to Trump rallies in fall 2020, but that they were all part of common practice to inform the group of security protocols to follow.
That initial briefing was prompted by federal trial testimony in which the ex-leader of the North Carolina Oath Keepers said Rhodes was in contact with a member of the Secret Service around the time of a September 2020 rally.
“Following the (Oath Keepers) trial, the committee reached out to the Secret Service and a verbal briefing as provided to staff, which was specific to the comments made at trial,” said Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. “Today, the committee has followed up with a formal inquiry for records regarding that and January 6, which we will provide.”
The Jan. 6 committee made the request for all records of communications between the Secret Service and the Oath Keepers, including the days surrounding Jan. 6 2021, after an NBC News inquiry about the level of information provided by the Secret Service.
The Washington Post first reported an agent from the protective intelligence division was in communication with the Oath Keepers prior to Jan. 6, 2021.
The Secret Service found that multiple members of the organization, not just Rhodes, spoke to an agent in the protective intelligence division ahead of Trump rallies, the most recent conversation coming before a Dec. 12, 2020, rally, Guglielmi said.
Guglielmi also said the initial search showed the communications were part of common practices that allow agents to tell protesters where they can and cannot be during an event and what items they are prohibited from bringing.
“They reached out concerning logistics about demonstration areas and rules for attending presidential events. This is common activity between organized groups and advance agents,” said Guglielmi.
Two Secret Service officials told NBC News once the Oath Keepers had the phone number of the member of the agency’s protective intelligence detail, they made numerous calls directly to that agent.
Former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi, now an NBC News analyst, said, “It’s common, prior to events, for law enforcement to talk to potential protest groups, or with groups acting in some security role. But regular contact with a militia type group like Oath Keepers, especially if treating them as a legitimate security partner, raises lots of concerns.”