President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he’s appointing Kimberly Cheatle to be the next director of the United States Secret Service, a selection that comes at what administration officials acknowledge is a critical time for the federal law enforcement agency.
Cheatle worked for the Secret Service for more than 25 years in numerous roles, including as part of the Vice Presidential Protective Division during Biden’s time as vice president. She left the agency as the assistant director of the Office of Protective Operations and is currently a senior director at PepsiCo North America.
“Jill and I know firsthand Kim’s commitment to her job and to the Secret Service’s people and mission. When Kim served on my security detail when I was Vice President, we came to trust her judgment and counsel,” Biden wrote in the statement. “She is a distinguished law enforcement professional with exceptional leadership skills, and was easily the best choice to lead the agency at a critical moment for the Secret Service. She has my complete trust, and I look forward to working with her.”
Cheatle, who will succeed James Murray in the director role, is the second woman to ever be appointed to lead the agency.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas commended Cheatle’s appointment.
“I am confident that her skillset, combined with her fresh perspective, will ensure the Secret Service builds on its strong foundation to grow and evolve into an even more effective agency,” Mayorkas, whose agency oversees the Secret Service, said in a statement. “I thank Director Cheatle for heeding the call to return to public service and I look forward to working together to champion the work of the US Secret Service.”
Cheatle’s appointment comes after Murray announced in July that he would delay his planned retirement from the service as the agency faced inquiries from Congress and elsewhere over its deletion of text messages around January 6, 2021.
CNN previously reported that the US Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021 – the day before and the day of the insurrection in Washington. The text messages at issue may have been deleted when the agency conducted a data migration of phones that began January 27, 2021.
Personal cell phone numbers of US Secret Service agents have been provided to oversight bodies looking into the insurrection.
Multiple oversight bodies, including the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, the National Archives and the House January 6 committee, are either investigating or requesting more information about the USSS text messages. It’s not immediately clear whether these personal cell phone numbers from agents are related to those inquiries.
And earlier this month, the professional association that advocates for federal law enforcement agents warned Secret Service members that their personal phone numbers the agency recently released “will likely be used” in a criminal investigation.
CNN’s Whitney Wild, Jamie Gangel and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.