Updated Aug 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Top Dems allege evidence of cover-up in DHS IG Secret Service texts probe

Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson during a House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on Monday, June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Homeland Security chair Bennie Thompson during a House hearing on Capitol Hill in June. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Two top House Democrats alleged Monday that there's evidence of a cover-up in the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general investigation into deleted U.S. Secret Service messages related to the Capitol riot.

Driving the news: House Oversight chair Carolyn Maloney and House Homeland Security chair Bennie Thompson urged Inspector General Joseph Cuffari in a letter to "step aside" and demanded his office provide documents and interviews, citing emails indicating his staff may have tried to stop efforts to obtain the USSS messages.

  • These include deputy inspector general Thomas Kait writing to a DHS official on July 27, 2021, "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 relating to the events on January 6th," according to the letter.
  • Thompson and Maloney allege they learned that Kait "removed key language" from a February memorandum to the DHS that "highlighted the importance of text messages" to the inspector general's investigation and criticized the department for not complying with the December 2021 request on text messages.

Of note: Thompson and Maloney cited a CNN report over the weekend on allegations that Cuffari learned of the missing Secret Service messages concerning the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection four months after it occurred.

Why it matters: The letter highlights the tensions between the Trump-appointed Cuffari and House Democrats after news of the missing Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, emerged last month.

  • The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, which Thompson also chairs, has since subpoenaed the Secret Service, and Cuffari has launched a criminal investigation into the matter.
  • Cuffari told Politico on Monday that while protocols can prevent him from publicly responding "to untruths and false information about our work ... I am so proud of the resilience I have witnessed in the face of this onslaught of meritless criticism."

What else they're saying: "We are writing with 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," Thompson and Maloney state in their letter.

  • "The Committees have obtained new evidence that your office may have secretly abandoned efforts to collect text messages from the Secret Service more than a year ago," they continued.
  • "These documents also 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."

What to watch: Thompson and Maloney have requested that Cuffari make Kait and Kristen Fredricks, the IG office's chief of staff, available for transcribed interviews, no later than Aug. 15.

  • Representatives for Cuffari did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Read the letter in full, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: National Archives asks Secret Service to "look into" deleted texts

Editor's note: This article has been updated with further details from the letter and more context.

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