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Draft Shows Watchdog Took Months to Report Missing Secret Service Texts

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WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog took months to alert Congress to missing Secret Service text messages across the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol even after lawyers had approved a draft notification, leaving the data out of a key report and eventually releasing only a milder version, newly released documents show.

The draft alert, obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, is the most recent evidence to boost questions on the Office of Inspector General’s handling of the missing texts, and is certain to anger House Democrats, a few of whom have accused the inspector general of a cover-up as they investigate the attack.

The approved notification is scathing. Congress was to be alerted that the Secret Service had deleted texts related to the investigation into the attack, delayed answering investigators and unnecessarily redacted documents.

But regardless that lawyers on the inspector general’s office approved the draft notification on April 1, the agency, which is assigned to observe over the Secret Service, waited until July 13 to boost the alarm.

Joseph V. Cuffari, the agency’s inspector general, also didn’t include the alert in a June semiannual report regardless that that report must disclose when an agency “has resisted or objected to oversight activities” or “restricted or significantly delayed access to information,” in line with a report from the Project on Government Oversight on the draft alert.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

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Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Making a case against Trump. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is laying out a comprehensive narrative of President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Listed below are the major themes which have emerged to date from eight public hearings:

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Pressuring Pence. Mr. Trump continued pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to associate with a plan to overturn his loss even after he was told it was illegal, in line with testimony laid out by the panel throughout the third hearing. The committee showed how Mr. Trump’s actions led his supporters to storm the Capitol, sending Mr. Pence fleeing for his life.

The group said the language never made it into the agency’s semiannual review after it was sent to an office run by the inspector general’s chief of staff, Kristen Fredricks.

The inspector general’s office didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The notification also comprises latest details about how the Secret Service resisted scrutiny into its actions across the Jan. 6 attack.

The Secret Service had blamed a phone system update for losing key data from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021. However the “Service Service has not explained why it didn’t preserve the texts prior to migration,” the draft notification stated.

The Secret Service has since said that the project was underway before it received notice from the inspector general to preserve its data, and that it didn’t “maliciously” delete text messages.

On Wednesday, Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee asked the top of the Secret Service and the secretary of homeland security for details concerning the systems migration.

It’s unclear what the missing text messages say or what number of are missing. Basically, the agency doesn’t want its agents using the text function on their phones. However the agency’s resistance in cooperating with the inspector general’s investigation has raised questions on what it could be withholding.

Top Democrats have been pushing for weeks for answers from the inspector general’s office, including demands that Ms. Fredricks and one other staff member testify before Congress concerning the matter.

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of Latest York and the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, and Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, have asked Mr. Cuffari to step other than the investigation into the missing texts.

Mr. Cuffari eventually informed Congress that messages from Jan. 5 and 6 had been erased, suggesting that the deletion occurred as a part of a tool substitute program. He has said those whose messages were missing included agents who were a part of former President Donald J. Trump’s security detail.

The inspector general also directed the Secret Service to halt its internal seek for purged texts sent by agents across the time of Jan. 6 in order that it could not “interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The agency has turned over the private cellphone numbers of agents as a part of that investigation, in line with an individual conversant in the matter. This drew outrage from the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which said the private numbers shouldn’t have been released without the consent of the agents.

But Ms. Maloney and Mr. Thompson, who also leads the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, said they’ve lost faith in Mr. Cuffari, whose office they said “could 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.”

The lawmakers cited reporting from CNN that the inspector general learned in May 2021 that the Secret Service was missing critical text messages.

The lawmakers also stated that the committees had learned that Mr. Cuffari’s office was notified in February that text messages from Chad Wolf and Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the highest two political officials on the Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 6, 2021, couldn’t be retrieved. They added that the inspector general was also aware that Mr. Cuccinelli was using his personal phone and likewise didn’t collect messages from that device.

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