Homeland Security & Defense Dept. also deleted all text messages from Jan. 6
More deleted Jan. 6 messages
Just two weeks after learning that the Secret Service deleted communications from the time period around the insurrection, reports have emerged that both the Department of Homeland Security and Defense Department likewise erased messages from January 6th.
DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari learned in February that text messages for Trump’s acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli, and undersecretary Randolph “Tex” Alles (the former Secret Service director) were lost during a phone “reset.” Cuffari had knowledge of the loss of Secret Service messages even longer; the agency first alerted him in December 2021.
Yet, Cuffari “did not press the department leadership at that time to explain why they did not preserve these records,” did not try to recover the lost data, and did not inform Congress of his discovery for months.
“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,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) 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.”
Both Thompson and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, called on Cuffari to recuse himself from the investigation, saying that his failure to tell Congress the Secret Service wasn’t providing records “cast serious doubt on his independence and his ability to effectively conduct such an important investigation.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense admitted in court filings that it did not preserve any text messages of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and other key Pentagon officials despite receiving a Freedom of Information Act request days after the insurrection. The watchdog that filed the FOIA notice, American Oversight, sued the Department and the Army after not receiving a response for months.
On Tuesday, American Oversight asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to open an investigation into the Defense Department’s failure to preserve the communications.
DOD has admitted, in response to American Oversight’s FOIA lawsuit, that it similarly failed to preserve text messages and other communications stored on phones from top DOD and Army officials. The apparent deletion of records from January 6th by multiple agencies bolsters the need for a cross-agency investigation into the possible destruction of federal records.
The federal grand jury investigating January 6th again proved it is expanding its probe into the inner reaches of Trump’s circle with a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. The move comes after the panel subpoenaed and obtained testimony from Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.
The Justice Department had previously focused its efforts on the ‘fake electors’ scheme to overturn Biden’s win in seven swing states. In June, the jury sent subpoenas to many of the false electors seeking a wide range of documents including any communications with any member of the executive or legislative branch of the federal government; any representative or agent of Trump or his campaign; or Trump boosters Jenna Ellis, Bernard Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, Boris Epshteyn, James Troupis, Joe DiGenova, John Eastman, Joshua Findlay, Justin Clark, Kenneth Chesebro, Mike Roman or Victoria Toensing.
Two of those involved in the false elector plot in Arizona, chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party Kelli Ward and state Senator Kelly Townsend, both expressed concerns to Trump campaign lawyers that the plan was “treasonous.”
Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer working for Mr. Trump’s campaign, wrote in a Dec. 11, 2020, email to other members of the legal team that Ms. Ward and Ms. Townsend had raised concerns about casting votes as part of an alternate slate of electors because there was no pending legal challenge that could flip the results of Arizona’s election.
“Ward and Townsend are concerned it could appear treasonous for the AZ electors to vote on Monday if there is no pending court proceeding that might, eventually, lead to the electors being ratified as the legitimate ones,” Mr. Chesebro wrote to the group, which included Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.