WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats at top Congress have requested interviews and internal documents from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general as part of an in-depth investigation into the agency’s handling of now-deleted Secret Service text messages around the January 6 attack on the capital.
The leaders of the powerful House Oversight and Homeland Security committees wrote a letter to Inspector General Joseph Cuffari Monday, expressing the urgent need for interviews with his staff regarding new evidence of alleged attempts to erase Secret Service communications. blur.
“We write with serious new concerns about your lack of transparency and independence, which appear to jeopardize the integrity of a pivotal investigation of your office,” House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney and Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson wrote in the letter. They also reiterated their appeal to Cuffari to refrain from investigating the deleted texts.
The commissions said it has obtained evidence showing that the Inspector General’s office first learned of the Secret Service’s missing text messages as part of the investigation into the May attack on the US Capitol. 2021. And that emails between top DHS IG officials show that the In July 2021, nearly a year before they first notified Congress that they had been erased, the agency halted attempts to get those text messages back. in July 2021.
“These documents raise disturbing new concerns that not only did your office fail to notify Congress for more than a year that critical evidence was missing in this investigation, but that your senior staff deliberately chose not to pursue that evidence.” and subsequently appears to have taken steps to address these failures,” the letter continued.
Cuffari sent a letter to the two committees last month revealing that Secret Service text messages sent and received around January 6, 2021 were being deleted despite requests from Congress and federal investigators to keep them.
The deleting of the posts has raised the prospect of lost evidence that could shed more light on then-President Donald Trump’s actions during the uprising, especially after testimony about his confrontation with security when he tried to attack supporters at the Capitol. to add. Since that July 19 letter, a series of revelations have come to light about the Secret Service and DHS’s misuse of those communications, prompting a Congressional investigation into the matter.
Monday’s letter noted an email, dated July 27, 2021, in which Thomas Kait, the deputy IG, wrote to Jim Crumpacker, a senior liaison officer at DHS: “Jim, please use this email as a reference to our conversation in which I said we no longer ask for phone records and text messages from the USSS (United States Secret Service) regarding the January 6 events.”
Lawmakers said they wanted to know why the watchdog officials chose not to request “critical intelligence from the Secret Service at this point in this investigation,” and only decided to grant their request to DHS for certain text messages more than four months later. to be extended in December. 2021.
Lawmakers also revealed Monday that Ken Cuccinelli, who was deputy secretary of DHS on Jan. 6, was using a personal phone at the time, but the inspector general did not report that fact to Congress. Cuccinelli’s texts, along with those of then-acting secretary Chad Wolf, have also reportedly been erased.
Lawmakers demanded that the IG’s office hand over all documents and communications related to the decision not to collect or recover text messages and to delete, delete, unavailability or restore text messages by August 8. the Secret Service, Wolf and Cuccinelli.
The committees also asked the agency to make Kait and fellow Deputy Inspector General Kristen Fredricks available for transcribed interviews by Aug. 15.