Secret Service Texts: Five Key Questions About Alleged Cover-Up

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is facing questions about its actions after January 6, 2021, after the chairs of two congressional committees suggested there had been a cover up of Secret Service text messages.

Democratic Representatives Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Oversight Committee, and Bennie Thompson, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, wrote to Inspector General Joseph Cuffari on Monday and highlighted their "grave new concerns" about his office's actions.

They said that documents they had obtained "indicate that your 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."

Thompson is also chair of the House Select Committee investigating January 6, 2021.

Here are five key questions the Democrats raised in their letter.

1. When Did OIG Know About Deleted Text Messages?

Maloney and Thompson cited reporting from CNN that claimed OIG was aware of the deletion of Secret Service text messages from January 6, 2021, in May of that year, which they noted was "seven months earlier than previously revealed."

However, that information wasn't passed on to Congress immediately and the Democrats also wrote they "had obtained new evidence that your office may have secretly abandoned efforts to collect text messages from the Secret Service more than a year ago."

2. Did OIG Say It No Longer Needed the Messages?

In their letter, Maloney and Thompson also said they had obtained an email from July 27, 2021, from Deputy Inspector General for Inspections and Evaluations Thomas Kait to Jim Crumpacker, a senior liaison official at DHS.

In that email, Kait had written: "Please use this email as a reference to our conversation where I said we no longer request phone records and text messages from the USSS [United States Secret Service] relating to the events on January 6th."

The Democrats said it was unclear why OIG "chose not to pursue critical information" at that stage of the investigation. OIG submitted a request for certain text messages on December 3, 2021.

3. Why Wasn't Congress Informed Sooner?

The Democrats wrote on Monday that they had "grave new concerns" about Cuffari's "lack of transparency and independence, which appear to be jeopardizing the integrity of a crucial investigation run by your office."

They noted that OIG had informed Congress about the missing text messages in a letter on July 13, 2022, "roughly 14 months after you reportedly learned that the Secret Service texts were unavailable even though Inspectors General are required by law to 'immediately' report problems or abuses that are 'particularly serious or flagrant.'"

Later in their letter, Maloney and Thompson told Cuffari that his office "not only failed to notify Congress for more than a year that critical evidence in this investigation was missing, but your senior staff deliberately chose not to pursue that evidence and then appear to have taken steps to cover up these failures."

4. Removing 'Key Language' from DHS Memo

Deputy Inspector General Kait also "removed key language" from a February, 2022, memo to DHS, according to the Democrats' letter. That language "had highlighted
the importance of text messages to the OIG's investigation and criticized the department for not complying with the December 3, 2021, request."

The original February 4, 2021, memo reportedly said: "To date, most DHS components have not provided the requested information. Text message content is a critical source of information for the DHS OIG review."

However, the Democrats said Kait had "apparently worked with other senior staff members" to change the language in the memo. The final memo said that "we received a timely and consolidated response from each component to our December 3, 2021, request; however, additional and clarifying information is needed before we can complete the reviews."

5. Missing Texts from Political Appointees

Thompson and Maloney also wrote that their committees had received information indicating that OIG was informed in February, 2022, that text messages from the two top political appointees at DHS on January 6, 2021, "could not be accessed."

Those officials were Ken Cuccinelli and Chad Wolf, but OIG didn't inform Congress about the matter. The Democrats also said that the committees had learned Cuccinelli had been using his personal phone, but OIG "did not seek to collect messages from this device."

The committee chairs have given OIG until August 8 to provide documents about the matters raised in their letter.

Newsweek has asked the DHS OIG for comment.

A Secret Service Agent Stands Guard
A Secret Service agent stands guard as mourners attend the funeral of Ivana Trump at St. Vincent Ferrer Roman Catholic Church July 20, 2022, in New York City. Democrats have raised questions about DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari's handling of text messages from January 6, 2021. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images