The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general omitted information about the Secret Service’s missing Jan. 6 text messages from its report to Congress earlier this summer, new documents shared by the Project on Government Oversight revealed Thursday.
Staff and lawyers for the watchdog agency had approved five paragraphs detailing how the Secret Service redacted documents and delayed turning over requested records. Those records included missing text messages from agents assigned to then-President Donald Trump, which Inspector General Joseph Cuffari alleged hindered the department’s investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
Those five draft paragraphs were omitted from Cuffari’s report to Congress in June. They were dropped after the draft report made its way to the Office of the Inspector General’s chief of staff Kristen Fredricks on April 1.
“On Feb. 23, 2022 — more than 2 months after OIG renewed its requests for select Secret Service employees’ text messages — Secret Service claimed inability to extract text message content due to an April 2021 mobile phone system migration, which wiped all data,” the draft read.
It continued: “Secret Service caused significant delay by not clearly communicating this highly relevant information at the outset of its exchanges with OIG during this reporting period. Moreover, Secret Service has not explained why it did not preserve the texts prior to the migration.”
The draft also alleged that even in instances were records were provided, they were often redacted.
“Secret Service did not indicate who approved or applied the redactions or why such redactions were originally made, thereby requiring OIG to waste valuable time making inquiries,” the draft said.
Cuffari finally alerted lawmakers to the missing Secret Service texts in mid-July, several months after he learned they were gone. The June congressional report included just a few sentences mentioning the Secret Service’s delay in providing records.
“During the previous reporting period, we included information about Secret Service’s significant delay of OIG’s access to Secret Service records, impeding the progress of our January 6, 2021 review,” the report read. “We continue to discuss this issue with Secret Service.”
Congressional lawmakers called on Cuffari to resign following a CNN report that his department knew of the missing texts in May 2021. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs and Jan. 6 committee and the committee on homeland security, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the committee on oversight and reform, said their panels had evidence Cuffari’s office stopped efforts to retrieve the texts.
“These documents raise troubling new concerns that your office not only failed to notify Congress for more than a year that critical evidence in this investigation was missing, but your senior staff deliberately chose not to pursue that evidence and then appear to have taken steps to cover up these failures,” Thompson and Maloney wrote.
Cuffari has remained defiant amid the criticism, telling his colleagues he was “proud” of their “resilience.”
“Because of the U.S. Attorney General guidelines and quality standards, we cannot always publicly respond to untruths and false information about our work,” Cuffari wrote in an email to staff on Aug. 1, reviewed by Politico. “I am so proud of the resilience I have witnessed in the face of this onslaught of meritless criticism.”