Members of the Oath Keepers militia group among supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, January 6, 2021.
Jim Bourg | Reuters
Staff members of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot investigative committee have been briefed on multiple phone calls in 2020 between an agent in the Secret Service’s protective intelligence division and members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, NBC News reported Friday.
The House select committee on Friday requested from the Secret Service all records related to communications between the agency and the Oath Keepers, including any contacts leading up to and after the violent Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, NBC reported.
The briefing to committee staff and subsequent records request was spurred by recent testimony at the ongoing federal criminal trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who is accused with other defendants of seditious conspiracy.
Rhodes and his co-defendants are accused of plotting to stop the lawful transfer of power from former President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.
Former North Carolina Oath Keepers leader John Zimmerman earlier this month testified about seeing Rhodes speaking on the telephone with a person Zimmerman believed to be a Secret Service agent about what weapons the group’s members could carry at an upcoming rally by Trump in September 2020.
Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi told NBC earlier Friday that members of the Oath Keepers “reached out concerning logistics about demonstration areas and rules for attending Presidential events.”
“This is common activity between organized groups and advance agents,” Guglielmi said.
He later issued a statement that said, “Following the (Oath Keepers) trial, the committee reached out to the Secret Service and a verbal briefing was provided to staff, which was specific to the comments made at trial.”
“Today, the committee has followed up with a formal inquiry for records regarding that and January 6, which we will provide,” Guglielmi said.
Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant FBI director who currently is NBC’s national security analyst, told the news outlet that while it is common for law enforcement to speak with a protest group or a group acting as security for an event, regular contact with a militia group such as the Oath Keepers raises concerns.
The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the president, vice president and others, has been embarrassed this year by a series of controversies.
They include several agents being duped by men posing as Department of Homeland Security agents who provided them with pricey gifts; the revelation that the agency deleted agents’ cell-phone text messages that were sent around the time of the riot; and the failure to fully detail an auto accident involving a vehicle carrying Vice President Kamala Harris.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that the records involving calls between the Secret Service and the Oath Keepers had been provided to the Jan. 6 committee, and included a statement from the Secret Service responding to that account. A Secret Service spokesman later issued a statement saying that a description of the calls was made to committee staff in a briefing, and that panel only requested the records Friday.