More missing Jan. 6 texts, this time from the Department of Homeland Security

More missing Jan. 6 texts, this time from the Department of Homeland Security

July 29, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

Notably, sources also said that Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, did not make a genuine effort to find out why Wolf, Cuccinelli, or Alles’s texts went missing nor did he “seek ways to recover the lost data.” And perhaps most significantly, Cuffari did not notify Congress that the records may have been lost when he first learned of it. 

RELATED STORY: Jan. 6 committee conducting interviews with Trump Cabinet officials 

“It appears the DHS inspector general has known about these deleted texts for months but failed to notify Congress. 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,” Jan. 6 select committee chairman Bennie Thompson said Thursday.

Wolf slammed the Post’s reporting late Thursday night via tweet, saying it was “hard to know where to begin with the inaccuracies.”

Amid complaints that he was not given ample time to respond for comment, Wolf said:

“I complied with all data retention laws and returned all my equipment fully loaded to the Department. Full stop. DHS has all my texts, emails, phone logs, schedules, etc. Any issues with missing data needs to be addressed to DHS. To imply otherwise is lazy reporting.”

Leonnig responded publicly on Friday, denying the report was inaccurate. 


Cuffari did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos on Friday.

According to records obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, Cuffari failed to contact Congress about the missing DHS records for more than five months. All of this also happened despite the Department of Homeland Security and a slew of other agencies receiving explicit instructions from Congress to preserve records 10 days following the Capitol attack.

20210116 Hpsci Chs Hjc Cor Letter to FBI Dhs Nctc Odni on Capitol Insurrection by Daily Kos on Scribd

By law, Cuffari is required to notify the head of DHS, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, when he becomes aware of any abuses, perceived or otherwise, in systems operations.

When it first came to light that text messages from the Secret Service tied to Jan. 6 had gone missing, Cuffari briefed members of the select committee. He told them, according to chairman Thompson, that he took his concerns about the missing Secret Service texts to Mayorkas, but without much of a response. Mayorkas then told Cuffari to keep leaning on the Secret Service to produce the records. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday. 

During that briefing, Thompson also said Cuffari told them he didn’t feel the Secret Service was cooperating in full. 

Cuffari’s performance as inspector general has been pockmarked with problems: he has come under investigation internally for retaliation against an employee who criticized him and he failed for more than a year to report rampant sexual harassment and misconduct inside the agency. An internal survey of DHS staff obtained by the Project on Government Oversight revealed that over 10,000 DHS employees said they experienced harassment on the job. 

On Thursday, Daily Kos reported that talks were in the works between members of the Jan. 6 probe and Wolf for his testimony before the panel. Committee investigators are seeking details about internal discussions surrounding calls to remove Trump through the 25th Amendment after the insurrection. Both Wolf and Cuccinelli were asked to cooperate with the probe voluntarily last fall.

A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment.

Several members of former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet have been asked to sit for interviews in recent days or have appeared for a transcribed interview. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet with the committee before the week is out. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin met with investigators on Thursday and it was reported that Mick Mulvaney, the former U.S special. envoy to Ireland, also met with the committee Thursday. Other Cabinet officials like former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos may also be in the cooperation mix. Both Chao and DeVos resigned in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack. 

Wolf resigned on Jan. 11, 2021. In a letter to staff, he said his resignation was “warranted by recent events” and highlighted the “ongoing and meritless court rulings” challenging the validity of his authority as acting secretary.

It had diverted too much of his attention from the job, he said. 

Wolf slid into the acting role after heavy churn at the department. His predecessors, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Kevin McAleenan left the post amid fierce tensions with Trump. McAleenan left after just seven months and less than two weeks before he resigned, he aired his frustrations out in an interview with The Washington Post.

“What I don’t have control over is the tone, the message, the public face, and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time. That’s uncomfortable, as the accountable, senior figure,” McAleenan said. 

Once he left, Wolf took over and stayed in the role as acting secretary, meaning he didn’t need Senate confirmation. Trump went through four different DHS secretaries during his single-term presidency. He told Face the Nation he liked having “acting” officials in place because he had more control over them. 

In 2020, the Government Accountability Office determined that Wolf was not technically eligible to serve as acting secretary of the massive department. Rules of succession had not been followed. That also meant Ken Cuccinelli, Wolf’s deputy, was in his role improperly, too. 

Their cooperation with the committee and access to their texts are vital because both were regularly in Trump’s orbit in the run-up to Jan. 6.

Trump aired his frustrations to Wolf during a Cabinet meeting in December 2020, reportedly irate that members of his administration were not doing enough to advance his election fraud lies. Trump had fired the head of the nation’s cybersecurity agency, Chris Krebs, two weeks after the election once Krebs told him the fraud claims were unsubstantiated. Around this time, one of Trump’s campaign lawyers, Joe diGenova, went on a right-wing talk show and said Krebs should be “drawn and quartered” and “taken out at dawn and shot.” 

Trump also pressured Cuccinelli in a phone call in late December 2020. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called Cucinneli to ask him questions about the seizure of voting machines in swing states.

When it comes to Jan. 6,  Wolf has said openly that he was “disappointed” Trump didn’t “speak out sooner”  to quell the violence on Jan. 6 but he has not been strongly condemnatory of the former president.

“I think he had a role to do that. I think, unfortunately, the administration lost a little bit of the moral high ground on this issue by not coming out sooner on it,” Wolf said. 

The light touch is understandable; Wolf may still vie for a spot in a future Trump administration. 

Trump ally Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, told Axios this week he could see Wolf being welcomed back into a new Trump administration with open arms. Wolf, Jordan said, “secured the border” and knew how to lead the agency “right.” 

An investigation into the missing Secret Service texts from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 started and stopped last week. DHS inspector general deputy Gladys Ayala directed the Secret Service to halt its internal probe for the deleted messages so it would not “interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.”

“To ensure the integrity of our investigation, the USSS must not engage in any further investigative activities regarding the collection and preservation of the evidence referenced above. This includes immediately refraining from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation,” Ayala wrote to Secret Service director James Murray. 

The Secret Service text messages were sought after because committee members hoped to further corroborate the testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Hutchinson testified under oath that the former president lunged at Secret Service agent who refused to take him to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse. 

Hutchinson also testified under oath that House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy called her seething on Jan. 6 after hearing Trump call on his supporters to march on the Capitol during his speech at the Ellipse. 

Hutchinson, who worked as an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the panel that McCarthy said to her: “The president just said he’s marching to the Capitol. You told me this whole week you aren’t coming up here. Why would you lie to me?”

On Friday, during a press conference, McCarthy said he didn’t recall the conversation. 

“If I talked to her, I don’t remember it. If it was coming up here, I don’t think I wanted a lot of people coming to the Capitol. But I don’t remember the conversation,” he said. 

McCarthy added that he didn’t watch Trump’s speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6. 

“I was working. So I didn’t see what was said, I didn’t see what went on, until after the fact,” he said.