Officials at the Department of Homeland Security’s office of the inspector general tried to alert Congress about missing Secret Service text messages related to its Jan. 6 investigation in June — but leadership in the office blocked them from doing so, according to newly released documents.
Congress wouldn't learn about the missing texts until weeks later.
The revelation is the latest in a series of troubling developments related to the Secret Service's handling of Jan. 6 records as congressional investigators examine former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari’s office had final say over what made it into a mandatory report sent to Congress in June, according to documents obtained by nonprofit Project on Government Oversight. Draft language criticizing the Secret Service's "resistance" to oversight was approved by the inspector general office's attorneys, but ultimately did not make it into the report, the documents show.
Members of the committee last month asked Cuffari to step aside from the DHS watchdog’s probe into the missing texts.
Here’s how Politico described the draft language:
The language that didn’t make it into the final report to Congress included specific detail about resistance the watchdog office faced in obtaining Secret Service texts during “this reporting period,” meaning Oct. 1, 2021, through March 31. Over that time period, “Secret Service has resisted OIG’s oversight activities and continued to significantly delay OIG’s access to records, impeding the progress of OIG’s January 6, 2021 review,” the draft text opens.
The final report mentioned neither the Secret Service deleting texts nor a "system migration" that wiped data from Secret Service phones in April 2021. Instead, the final report dedicated fewer than 40 words to the Secret Service's response to the Jan. 6 attack:
"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 stated. "We continue to discuss this issue with Secret Service."
The news puts Cuffari under even more scrutiny, which he can ill afford. The Trump appointee faced criticism last year for declining to investigate the Secret Service's role in the violent clearing of antiracist protesters outside the White House in 2020.
Now, he’s central in yet another story of a potential cover-up within the Secret Service.