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In mess over Secret Service texts, Dems fear possible cover-up

In the controversy surrounding missing Jan. 6 text messages, top Democrats fear an inspector general's office may have been part of a cover-up.


It was just last week when two powerful House Democrats — Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the Jan. 6 committee and the Homeland Security Committee — sent a provocative letter. The lawmakers wrote to Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, urging him to step aside from his office’s investigation into the Secret Service’s missing Jan. 6 texts.

Yesterday, the same committee chairs wrote a follow-up letter, and as The New York Times reported, it was even more pointed.

Two influential House Democrats called on Monday for two officials at the Department of Homeland Security’s independent watchdog to testify to Congress about the agency’s handling of missing Secret Service text messages from the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, accusing their office of engaging in a cover-up.

In their letter to Cuffari, dated yesterday, the Democrats said they’d developed “grave new concerns over your lack of transparency and independence, which appear to be jeopardizing the integrity of a crucial investigation run by your office.”

Among the new revelations: The month after the attack on the Capitol, the DHS inspector generals office requested all Secret Service text messages sent around Jan. 6, only to withdraw the request months later.

Maloney and Thompson added in their correspondence that Cuffari’s office “may have taken steps to cover up the extent of missing records, raising further concerns about your ability to independently and effectively perform your duties as inspector general.”

To be sure, there’s no great mystery as to what started the latest controversy. As regular readers know, it was three weeks ago when Congress and the public learned that Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were erased under controversial circumstances. Last week, the matter grew even more serious with revelations that there are also missing texts from Donald Trump’s top appointees at the Department of Homeland Security in the runup to the Jan. 6 attack.

But it’s the questions about Cuffari’s role that continue to grow louder. It’s the Trump-appointed DHS inspector general who’s been accused of quietly abandoning efforts to collect text messages from the Secret Service. Before that, the DHS inspector general was accused of scrapping his team’s effort to collect Secret Service phones to try to recover deleted texts.

Before that, the DHS inspector general was accused of knowing about the purged texts, but waiting months to notify Congress. Before that, the DHS inspector general was accused of blocking investigations — proposed by his own staff — into Trump’s Lafayette Square fiasco and the spread of Covid in the Secret Service. Before that, the DHS inspector general was accused of stonewalling an examination of a political retaliation complaint filed by a former intelligence chief.

It’s against this backdrop that the Democratic committee chairs not only want Cuffari to steer clear of the investigation, they also called for two top officials in his office — Thomas Kait, a deputy inspector general, and Kristen Fredricks, the office’s chief of staff — to sit for transcribed interviews by Aug. 15.

For his part, Cuffari sent an email to Homeland Security officials yesterday, dismissing “untruths and false information,” as well as the “onslaught of meritless criticism.”

That doesn’t appear to have satisfied critics — some of whom work in his office. An official in the DHS inspector general’s office told Politico that Cuffari and his immediate staff are “uniquely unqualified to lead an inspector general’s office.”