Texts sent and received by Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, ex-President Donald Trump’s acting Homeland Security secretary and acting deputy secretary, respectively, in the days leading up to Jan. 6 are missing, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Not only that; the DHS reportedly told the department’s inspector general, Joseph Cuffari, way back in late February that the texts were gone –- and Cuffari did not report it to Congress.
According to the Post, the DHS claimed in its report to Cuffari that the records had been erased due to a reset of Wolf and Cuccinelli’s phones after they left their posts in January last year.
The department also reportedly told Cuffari about another senior DHS official’s texts getting erased: Those of Deputy Under Secretary for Management Randolph “Tex” Alles, who served as the director of the Secret Service from 2017 to 2019.
The DHS said Alles’ messages were deleted in a pre-planned phone reset, the Post reported.
In addition to not flagging the incident to Congress, Cuffari also reportedly didn’t try to recover the lost texts or get to the bottom of why DHS leadership didn’t save them.
Virtually every aspect of how the DHS and Cuffari reportedly handled Wolf, Cuccinelli and Alles’ Jan. 6 texts mirrors the eyebrow-raising circumstances surrounding the Secret Service’s missing Jan. 6 texts.
Cuffari similarly failed to immediately report the erasure of Secret Services’ records to Congress: Despite knowing about the purge since at least February, he didn’t tell the leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees about it until mid-July even though the committee had previously requested the records.
And like with Wolf, Cuccinelli and Alles’ texts, the DHS claimed that that the Secret Services’ texts had been lost in a preplanned “reset.” It is unclear if there were efforts made to preserve the texts beforehand, but it has been reported that Secret Service officials reminded staff to save records before the phones were wiped.
The Trump DHS officials’ texts could help investigators get to the bottom of Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election: Part of the then-president and his cronies’ proposed plot to seize voting machines involved weaponizing the DHS to carry out the operation, and Trump had also reportedly asked Cuccinelli about appointing a special counsel to investigate (read: legitimize Trump’s false claims of) voter fraud.
In the wake of news that Cuffari had put off informing lawmakers about the Secret Service’s texts, House Oversight chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Homeland Security chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) — who also chairs the Jan. 6 Select Committee — demanded earlier this week that the inspector general recuse himself from the Secret Service text investigation.
“These omissions left Congress in the dark about key developments in this investigation and may have cost investigators precious time to capture relevant evidence,” Maloney and Thompson wrote. “There must be no doubt that the Inspector General leading this investigation can conduct it thoroughly and with integrity, objectivity and independence. We do not have confidence that Inspector General Cuffari can achieve those standards.”