The House committee investigating the Capitol riot recently obtained key communication records from the Secret Service that are relevant to its probe, according to new reporting.
The Secret Service provided the panel with “a listing of agency-issued cell phone numbers belonging to agents based in Washington, D.C., for the period the panel is investigating,” according to a summary of the matter from ABC. Thus, the panel should presumably now be able to match numbers and particular federal agents. The hand-off of this phone data came amid increasing tension between Congressional investigators and certain personnel at the Department of Homeland Security over concerns about missing texts from around the time of the Capitol riot. An ostensibly pre-planned update to Secret Service phones was unfolding after the riot, resulting in the loss of some data, and the office of the department’s inspector general repeatedly faltered in attempts to take appropriate action.
Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general, also failed to tell Congress in a reasonably timely fashion about the missing texts. Evidently, it was over a year between Cuffari learning of missing Secret Service texts and him informing Congressional investigators of the issue, and at that point, he still didn’t notify members of Congress of missing phone data associated with the top two political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security on the day the riot took place. The details the Secret Service recently provided the riot panel can provide clues for panel investigators about further lines of inquiry, including specific individuals’ phone records they may want to examine.
Presumably, the tranche of data from the Secret Service includes numbers for agents who worked on then-President Trump’s personal detail. These Secret Service personnel could’ve ended up with phone records providing important indications of what Trump himself was doing that day. An ABC report about these developments specifies call records for the agents as a potential point of investigative interest, and the outlet adds that the committee could seek those records directly from the Secret Service or subpoena them from cellphone providers behind the phone service for those numbers during the relevant time. A follow-up round of phone records potentially available to the panel might not reveal what was said on scrutinized calls, but who was on the line and how long any calls lasted could be there.
Per ABC, Cuffari also obtained a listing of what the outlet called personal phone numbers in connection to investigative efforts by his office. Recently, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who lead the House homeland security and oversight committees, asked for the testimony of two high-ranking figures in Cuffari’s office amid worries about the response to the loss of texts. Those individuals include Thomas Kait, who serves as a deputy inspector general, and Kristen Fredricks, who’s another deputy inspector general and chief of staff for the office. The deadline outlined in the request for testimony is August 15.
Thompson and Maloney want Cuffari replaced at the helm of “the ongoing investigation into the Secret Service’s erasure of text messages and whether Secret Service personnel complied with federal recordkeeping requirements,” as a letter from the two members of Congress explained it. The House committee investigating the Capitol riot is, meanwhile, also pursuing records from a personal cellphone for far-right leader Alex Jones, whose legal team in a Texas court case accidentally sent a copy of his entire phone to the opposing side and then failed to take legal action to shield the contents of the device within a relevant initial timespan. Mark Bankston, an attorney for the plaintiffs who brought legal action against Jones, indicated he was prepared to comply with requests from the riot panel for the data in question.