The Project on Government Oversight has called on President Biden to fire Joseph Cuffari, the DHS inspector general who withheld information about the deleted messages from Congress for months.
It was revealed Thursday that additional text messages sent and received by Department of Homeland Security officials before and during the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol are missing—something the DHS inspector general has known for more than five months but unlawfully failed to disclose to Congress.
On top of the Secret Service texts from January 5 and 6 that were deleted after the DHS inspector general’s office requested the agency’s electronic communications records, messages sent to and from three high-ranking Trump administration officials at DHS in early January 2021 are missing, according to an internal agency record obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and congressional sources.
As POGO explained:
In late February 2022, the department’s management division informed DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari’s office in writing that text messages sent or received by then-Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, then-Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, and Acting Under Secretary for Management Randolph D. “Tex” Alles cannot be found. The records show Cuffari’s office was told that government phones used by those top DHS leaders might also be inaccessible.
Cuffari’s office has kept Congress in the dark about the lost DHS leadership texts for more than five months. Four congressional committees had long before asked for all January 6-related federal records from relevant agencies, including DHS, in a letter dated January 16, 2021, ten days after the attack on the Capitol.
It’s unclear if Cuffari has told DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, even though there is a legal mandate requiring his office to do so “whenever the inspector general becomes aware of particularly serious or flagrant problems, abuses, or deficiencies relating to the administration of programs and operations.” The inspector general’s office and DHS did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
“It is extremely troubling that the issue of deleted text messages related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol is not limited to the Secret Service, but also includes Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, who were running DHS at the time,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs both the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, said in a statement.
“It appears the DHS inspector general has known about these deleted texts for months but failed to notify Congress,” Thompson said. “If the inspector general had informed Congress, we may have been able to get better records from senior administration officials regarding one of the most tragic days in our democracy’s history.”
That messages sent and received by Wolf, Cuccinelli, and Alles in early January 2021 were lost when their government phones were “reset” during that month’s White House transition underscores “a systemic failure” by the DHS beyond the Secret Service to adhere to the Federal Records Act, POGO wrote.
Wolf told POGO that he was “unaware” that any of his texts are missing. “I have no clue” about this, he said. “All my phone and text messages should be available.” Cuccinelli did not respond to the group’s request for comment.
News that more electronic communications records from the run-up to and during the deadly January 6 attack are missing—this time involving the Trump administration’s senior-most DHS officials—increases the amount of potentially incriminating evidence that has been vanquished.
It comes as both the House January 6 panel and criminal investigators at the Department of Justice are trying to piece together the multifaceted effort by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss—a right-wing coup attempt that culminated in a violent riot inside the halls of Congress.
“The telephone and text communications of Wolf and Cuccinelli in the days leading up to January 6 could have shed considerable light on Trump’s actions and plans,” the Washington Post noted.
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