Bennie Thompson Goes After Missing Secret Service Text Testimony

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Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) — who lead the House oversight and January 6 committees, respectively — issued a demand this week for testimony from two high-ranking figures in the inspector general’s office that oversees the Department of Homeland Security.

Maloney and Thompson are pursuing the testimony in the context of concerns about responses at that inspector general’s office to missing texts from Secret Service agents from around the time of the Capitol riot. Personnel on Trump’s security detail are evidently among those with missing text messages. Inside the office of Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general overseeing Homeland Security, efforts at recovering missing texts were repeatedly basically stymied. In one example, Cuffari’s apparent personal team altered a key message to agencies inside the department. They changed an offer from inspector general’s office investigators to assist agencies in seeking to salvage certain potentially lost phone data to a more simple statement directing agencies to provide info about certain possibly unavailable phone messages relevant to investigators in the January 6 context.

Cuffari also evidently became aware of missing Secret Service texts in May 2021. Yet, Cuffari informed Congress of the apparent loss of Secret Service texts relevant to January 6 probes last month. The individuals on Cuffari’s team who Maloney and Thompson are aiming to see testify include Thomas Kait, who serves as a deputy inspector general, and Kristen Fredricks, who’s the chief of staff for the office. The deadline outlined in the request for testimony is August 15.

Addressing the Trump-appointed Cuffari, the new Thompson and Maloney letter begins as follows: “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. According to recent reports, your office learned that the Secret Service was missing critical text messages as part of your investigation of the January 6 attack against the U.S. Capitol in May 2021—seven months earlier than previously revealed. 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. 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 (IG).”

In July of last year, Kait wrote to Homeland Security official Jim Crumpacker that the inspector general’s office’s investigators “no longer request phone records and text messages” from the Secret Service related to January 6, per evidence cited in Thompson and Maloney’s missive. In December — months later — Cuffari’s team sent out a new request to the Department of Homeland Security for certain texts relevant to investigative efforts. Later on, Kait struck a piece of criticism from a February 2022 memo that targeted department agencies for mostly failing to sufficiently respond to the December 2021 request. What Kait orchestrated getting placed into the memo instead was praise for the department response and a tepid remark that “additional and clarifying information” was still needed. Meanwhile, the new letter also criticizes Cuffari for failing to notify Congress about missing texts from top officials at the Department of Homeland Security on January 6. Thompson (who also leads the House panel on homeland security) and Maloney want Cuffari replaced on the Secret Service texts probe.