Will Secret Service Go To Email Jail Over Missing Jan. 6 Texts? GOP Strangely Silent On This One!
The Secret Service phone scandal gets worse by the day, with a drip-drip-drip of stories, each more damning than the last. It appears to be the position of the United States Secret Service (USSS) that all texts from January 2021, the period where the sitting president dispatched a violent mob on the vice president and Congress, disappeared into the ether.
Whose fault is it? Dunno, must be gremlins! Or maybe it was those lowly agents on the ground. Darn you, bad apples!
Hey, remember when Hillary Clinton had to go to email jail for deleting discount coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond? Good times!
The latest revelations from reporters Maria Sacchetti and Carol D. Leonnig at the Washington Post make it clear that the rot wasn't confined to the USSS, and may have been endemic at the entire Department of Homeland Security, of which the USSS is a part. Apparently texts from acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf, acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, and Randolph “Tex” Alles, the former Secret Service director, are also MIA after the devices were replaced in January of 2021. Moreover, the DHS's inspector general has known about this since December — a fact that IG Joseph Cuffari kept to himself until about five minutes ago when a whistleblower tipped off Congress. At that point Cuffari raced into the Senate and House with a July 13 letter to the Homeland Security committees accusing the USSS of stonewalling his investigation.
Turns out, there's plenty of blame to go around. Cuffari, a Trump appointee and stalwart Republican who used to work for Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, has known about the missing texts since December 2021 and failed to mention it to the Homeland security committees or the January 6 Select Committee. Worse still, in February Cuffari put the kibosh on a plan to try to collect the devices and see if the texts could be forensically reconstructed, only coming forward 18 months later, when commercial providers were highly unlikely to have retained digital records of the missing texts.
The Post reports:
A senior forensics analyst in the inspector general’s office took steps to collect the Federal Protective Service phones, the people said. But late on the night of Friday, Feb. 18, one of several deputies who report to Cuffari’s management team wrote an email to investigators instructing them not to take the phones and not to seek any data from them, according to a copy of an internal record that was shared with The Post.
Staff investigators also drafted a letter in late January and early February to all DHS agencies offering to help recover any text messages or other data that might have been lost. But Cuffari’s management teamlater changed that draft to say that if agencies could not retrieve phone messages for the Jan. 6 period, they “should provide a detailed list of unavailable data and the reason the information is unavailable,” the three people said.
But worry not, because Cuffari has now opened a criminal investigation. Better late than never, right?
Well, not according to congressional Democrats, who are not psyched to have the guy who shut down the investigation in the first place trying to get to the bottom of things now.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, joined with January 6 Select Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, who also chairs the Homeland Security Committee, to write to Cuffari and Allison Lerner, Chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), to request that someone — anyone! — else conduct this investigation.
"Inspector General Cuffari’s actions in this matter, which follow other troubling reports about his conduct as Inspector General, cast serious doubt on his independence and his ability to effectively conduct such an important investigation," they wrote.
Over in the Senate, Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin is asking the Justice Department to take over the investigation, since Cuffari already demonstrated that he ain't gonna do shit.
"Inspector General Cuffari’s failure to take immediate action upon learning that these text messages had been deleted makes clear that he should no longer be entrusted with this investigation," he said in a statement. "That’s why I’m sending a letter today to Attorney General [Merrick] Garland asking him to step in and get to the bottom of what happened to these text messages and hold accountable those who are responsible."
Meanwhile, Chad Wolf rails against the Post reporters for not reaching out to him — while conceding that they did exactly that — and denies he participated in a scheme to delete his comms.
\u201cI complied with all data retention laws and returned all my equipment fully loaded to the Department. Full stop. DHS has all my texts, emails, phone logs, schedules, etc. Any issues with missing data needs to be addressed to DHS. To imply otherwise is lazy reporting.\u201d— Chad Wolf (@Chad Wolf) 1659064848
Apparently it was so "hard to begin with the inaccuracies" in the Post story that Wolf just didn't bother. Sadly, we'll all have to draw our own conclusions about the credibility of a guy who tried to kill stories about Russian efforts to help Trump in 2020, while simultaneously playing up mostly bogus claims about Chinese support for Biden. Also there was that unfortunate misunderstanding when he dispatched stormtroopers to snatch people off the streets of Portland in a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment. But anyway, take Chad's word for it, those reporters are lying liars!
Cooch is also very mad that the Post didn't give him a participation cookie for handing his phone in when he was supposed to.
\u201c(1/2) Congratulations. The Washington Post is going after you for handing in your government phone just like you were supposed to do and having a erased by security personnel you no longer supervised as part of standard procedure you did not develop.\u201d— Ken Cuccinelli (@Ken Cuccinelli) 1659100809
Yeah, the guy who tried to ban dildos and anal sex, and described children of undocumented immigrants as an invading army, is real mad he's not getting the worshipful reach-around he's accustomed to from the distinguished scribes at various Rupert Murdoch outlets. The nerve!
Meanwhile the National Archives is investigating if any records were illegally destroyed, and the Homeland Security and January 6 Committees have subpoenaed the Secret Service, and if we were a betting man, we'd say we're closer to the beginning of this scandal than the end.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.