Tag: secret service
Secret Service

Probe Of Alleged January 6 Text Deletion By Secret Service Expands

Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffarti has filed a lawsuit against the leaders of an ongoing probe into the agency's top watchdog's alleged role in "missing Secret Service text messages from the January 6" insurrection, The Washington Post reports.

The two-year investigation, according to the Post, "has paralyzed" Cuffarti's office," leaving him "alienated from the watchdog community," and has even sparked "calls for President Joe Biden to fire him."

The news outlet reports: "The president has signaled that he intends to stay out of the process until the panel from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) completes its work. When a federal watchdog is accused of misconduct and the organization decides that it warrants attention, another inspector general is assigned to investigate, under a system set up by Congress."

Regarding Cuffarti's lawsuit, the Post reports:

The lawsuit, an unusual broadside against the federal watchdog community by one of its own, accuses the panel of exceeding its authority and of 'illegal interference' in the operations of one of the government's largest oversight offices.

It has set off hand-wringing and anger in the inspector general community. CIGIE leaders met by Zoom on Wednesday to discuss how to proceed and notified the Justice Department, which will represent them.

The Interceptreported last year that Secret Service messages "went missing after oversight investigators requested them."

Matt Miller, former chief spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said during a 2022 MSNBC, the incident is "very serious." He emphasized, "It's obviously completely indefensible by the Secret Service," noting, "Secret Service, in addition to protecting the president and other dignitaries, is also a law enforcement agency that conducts investigations and demands that subjects under investigation turn over emails and other documents. So, if there's anyone you ought to expect to honor a document preservation request, it is a law enforcement agency."

In July 2022, the House Select Committee on January 6 requested "a new inspector general be appointed to lead an investigation," according to NPR.

"Inspector General Cuffari is required by law to 'immediately' report problems or abuses that are 'particularly serious or flagrant,'" Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NC) wrote in the letter of request. "Yet, Inspector General Cuffari failed to provide adequate or timely notice that the Secret Service had refused for months to comply with DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) requests for information related to the January 6 attack and failed to notify Congress after DHS OIG learned that the Secret Service had erased text messages related to this matter."

The Post also reports:

Cuffari's 173-page complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia discloses that investigators from CIGIE's Integrity Committee recently told Cuffari and Fredericks that 'alleged deletions of the U.S. Secret Service text messages which referenced the events of January 6, 2021' are a new subject of their probe. The lawsuit denies that any official in the inspector general's office 'has any control over the Secret Service or over where texts by members of that organization go.'

Per the Post, Rep. Thompson said in a statement regarding the lawsuit, "CIGIE's congressional mandate is not only to develop policies for offices of inspectors general, but to promptly investigate allegations of wrongdoing made against inspectors general or their staff. It must be allowed to do its job."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

January 6 Probers Renew Probe Of Trump's Secret Service Connection

January 6 Probers Renew Probe Of Trump's Secret Service Connection

The House Select Committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection is reportedly seeking to conduct a second round of interviews for two former U.S. Secret Service officials closely connected to former President Donald Trump, according to the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig.

Speaking to MSNBC's Ali Velshi, the Post reporter noted that Tony Ornato, former U.S. Secret Service official and White House Deputy Chief of Staff, has been named as a person of interest for the committee.

The Jan. 6 panel's decision follows the development of new details in the investigation. Ornato's name has been dropped as the latest developments confirm that intelligence services raised warnings about potential violence that might arise after the former president's "Stop the Steal" rally.

According to Leonnig, the committee is said to have expressed interest in learning what Ornato and the head of Trump's security may remember.

"Let me tell you what I know from sources, which is that they have said that both Tony Ornato, who was a senior Secret Service executive that was then serving, oddly enough, as the White House Deputy Chief of Staff, a political role helping Donald Trump, and Bobby Engel, who was the head of President Trump's security detail, are likely to be re-interviewed," Leonnig said.

She added, "The question that has arisen for the committee is to, first, that both men have said that they didn't recall certain things, and they didn't see any intel of concern, they don't remember certain things happening that other witnesses said happened and the record seemed to raise serious concerns about the possibility that they could not have known these things."

Leonnig also noted one key detail that sticks out.

"The most important and obvious so far is Tony Ornato's claim that he was not aware of any intelligence that posed a threat to the protectees that they protect, the president and vice president," she explained. "That is just impossible."

Watch the video below or at this link.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Within Secret Service And FBI, Trump's Influence Is Strong -- And Ruinous

Within Secret Service And FBI, Trump's Influence Is Strong -- And Ruinous

Americans’ confidence in once sacrosanct institutions is ebbing at a rate not seen in this country since the Vietnam War drove people to protest in the streets in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Latest to disappear down the rabbit hole Trump has burrowed beneath the foundations of the nation’s government are the Secret Service and the FBI, two institutions long revered as bastions of service and the high ideals of the rule of law.

The Secret Service is tasked with providing protection to the president and vice president and their families, former holders of the two highest offices in the land, and candidates for those offices while they campaign. In addition, the Secret Service as a law enforcement agency safeguards the banking system and other financial institutions, investigating cases of bank and mail fraud and the counterfeiting of currency.

The Secret Service is also part of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force which is supposed to combat terrorism on both international and national levels. And there, my friends, is the rub, because both the FBI and the Secret Service came under fire at yesterday’s hearing of the House Select Committee that is looking into what happened before, during, and after the assault on the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. It has been a mystery since that day why the FBI did not have intelligence before the attack that it was going to happen and that the assault would be violent.

The mystery surrounding the Secret Service includes its behavior while protecting Vice President Mike Pence from the mob and the steps it took both before the insurrection while Trump was preparing to speak on the Ellipse, and afterward, when the agents had made plans to bring Trump to the Capitol that were canceled only after it became clear that the attack was violent and the Metropolitan Police refused to cooperate in clearing the way for the presidential motorcade.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Secret Service revealed by the House Select Committee hearing was during the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who was present backstage before Trump’s speech on the Ellipse. She heard Trump’s deputy chief of staff, a former Secret Service agent who had been on Trump’s personal protection detail, talking about how Secret Service agents policing the Ellipse had seen Trump supporters armed with handguns and rifles in the crowd outside the fenced-in area where they observed the speech.

She also told the committee that she had heard Trump tell the Secret Service to turn off the magnetometers which had been set up on the Ellipse to prevent people carrying weapons to enter. “Let my people in,” Trump commanded the Secret Service. “I don’t fucking care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags (metal detectors) away.”

The Secret Service and Trump aides pushed back against Hutchinson’s testimony, trying to discount it as coming from a disgruntled former employee no longer loyal to the former president. But the texts of communications between Secret Service agents on January 6 before Trump’s speech proved that they knew that at least some in the crowd of Trump supporters at the Ellipse rally were armed. It turned out that the Park Service even arrested one man near the Washington Monument who had a sniper rifle, and the Secret Service was aware of that arrest, too. Other texts and emails from the Secret Service showed that agents were aware that threats had been made against members of Congress and the Vice President by groups planning to assault the Capitol.

The texts came to light in a million-page “document dump” by the Department of Homeland Security received by the select committee in August, after they had sought Secret Service text messages that the agency had deleted soon after the January 6 assault on the Capitol -- despite the fact that the DOJ and the House of Representatives had sent letters to the agency demanding that they maintain security over all messages sent by Secret Service agents both before and during the assault. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the “Secret Service had warnings earlier than previously known that supporters of President Donald Trump were plotting an armed attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to records revealed in a congressional hearing Thursday.”

Pence famously refused to get into an armored Secret Service SUV after he had been removed from his position overseeing the certification of electoral ballots. He was afraid they would spirit him away to a so-called secure location that might have turned out to be the blast-proof tunnels near Camp David where Vice President Cheney was taken on September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Pence knew that if he was taken to such a place, he would be unable to preside over the Senate and the House as they went about the business of certifying the electoral ballots and officially declaring Joe Biden the president-elect.

Most of the controversy revealed about the FBI by the select committee had to do with reports that there had been an intelligence failure in the FBI prior to January 6. Testimony and documents gathered by the committee revealed that the FBI, the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security had received warnings that there would be an attack on the Capitol on January 6, that it would be violent, and that some groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys had armed themselves and were prepared with so-called quick reaction forces with weapons and body armor that could be called on if the police used firearms in protecting the Capitol from the mob.

CNBC reported yesterday that after the events of January 6, a senior official in the FBI was warned that a “sizable percentage of the employee population” of the agency “felt sympathetic to the group that stormed the Capitol,” according to an email shown at the select xommittee hearing on Friday. CNBC added that the writer of the email listed multiple examples of FBI agents’ sympathies with the rioters, including “a Facebook page full of #StoptheSteal content from a senior analyst who had recently retired.”

So what’s going on here appears to be the same thing that recent polling has revealed: that a large percentage of the American public and an even larger percentage of the Republican Party are not bothered in the least by what happened on January 6. Something like 61 percent of Republicans believe that Joe Biden became president only because of election fraud, and Trump’s average approval rating of about 40 percent among Americans in general has remained the same throughout the committee hearings.

The FBI and the Secret Service are filled with conservatives who self-select as volunteers to serve in both agencies, and many of the agents in both organizations doubtlessly voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, still support him, and subscribe to his “stop the steal” lies about the election. There isn’t anything that can be done about that. People cannot be fired from civil service jobs in the government because of their political beliefs.

And the beat goes on with Trump and his own personal assault on our government, which appears to have hollowed out institutions like the FBI and the Secret Service and is probably having a corrosive effect on the military services as well. Beating Trump at the ballot box in 2020 didn’t stop the erosion of integrity in these organizations. Everything that happened surrounding January 6, for example, happened after Joe Biden had been elected, and revelations about rot within these agencies just keeps on coming.

Beating Trump in 2024 if he decides to run probably won’t stop the erosion of integrity in the government either, because Trumpism is now bigger than the man himself. He will be with us, it seems, for much, much longer, in spirit if not in body. So buckle up. We’re in for a rough ride.

Cynical Trump Knew He Lost in 2020 But Used The 'Big Lie' To Seize Power

Cynical Trump Knew He Lost in 2020 But Used The 'Big Lie' To Seize Power

Donald Trump knew within days of voting that he lost the 2020 presidential election. But he deliberately chose to incessantly lie about a stolen election as he pushed top federal and state Republican officials to subvert the vote – which they would not do. And then Trump turned to an armed mob that he cultivated to violently storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempted coup on January 6, 2021.

The fact that Trump was repeatedly told by his campaign managers, White House counsel, the U.S. Attorney General, family members, and others that he had lost the election – but chose to lie about the results and mislead millions of voters, including insurrectionists now being prosecuted – were among the many details in the latest session by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The committee dramatically ended its October 13 meeting by unanimously voting to subpoena Trump to appear, an unexpected development as hundreds of 2020 election-denying GOP candidates are seeking state and federal office in 2022’s general election on November 8.

The committee session, which also highlighted previously unreleased Secret Service records and texts showing that White House security, and other police and intelligence agencies were aware that an insurrection was planned and likely, underscores the extent to which Trump was not merely power-hungry, but knew from the immediate aftermath of voting that he had lost and was still willing to lie about it – and later prevented police agencies from stopping the rioters.

“First, as you will see, President Trump had a premeditated plan to declare that the election was fraudulent and stolen before Election Day – before he knew the Election results,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the committee’s co-chair. “Second, please recognize that Donald Trump was in a unique position – better informed about the absence of widespread election fraud than almost any other American.”

[The hearing also examined Trump adviser Roger Stone's role in preparing the Trump "Big Lie" strategy and advocating violence with his allies in the proto-fascist Proud Boys and Oath Keepers organizations. The committee's scrutiny of his conduct led to Stone's meltdown in real time.]

“President Trump’s own campaign experts told him that there was no evidence to support his claims,” Cheney continued. “His own Justice Department appointees investigated the election fraud claims and told him, point blank, they were false. In mid-December 2020, President Trump’s senior advisors told him the time had come to concede the election. Donald Trump knew the courts had ruled against him. He had all of this information but still he made the conscious choice to claim, fraudulently, that the election was stolen; to pressure state officials to change election results; to manufacture fake Electoral [College] slates; to attempt to corrupt our Department of Justice; to summon tens of thousands of supporters to Washington, knowing that they were angry, knowing that some of them were armed, he sent them to the Capitol.”

Thursday’s committee meeting, coming after a two-month break, was described by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee chair, as a summation of their investigation’s findings to date, and also as an exploration of “President Trump’s state of mind,”

“What did President Trump know? What was he told? What was his personal and substantial role in a multi-part plan to overturn the election?” Thompson asked.

As numerous polls have shown in the 21 months since the insurrection, tens of millions of pro-Trump Republican voters believed Trump’s lie that the election was stolen – taking the former president at his word. But all along, top White House staffers and a handful of others said that Trump occasionally said in private that he knew he had lost, those individuals testified under oath.

On December 11, 2020, after Trump’s allies lost a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court “that he regarded as his last chance of success in the courts,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said, the president was fuming.

Texts by Secret Service officers confirmed Trump’s anger and were projected on large screen behind the dais.

The panel then played a videotape excerpt of its interview with Cassidy Hutchinson, the top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was with Trump and Meadows shortly afterward.

“The president was fired up about the Supreme Court decision,” she testified. “The president is raging about the decision and how it’s wrong… The president said something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost.”

There were other signs that Trump knew he lost – even if he would not say so publicly, Kinzinger said, saying these were the actions of a commander in chief who knew that that he would be departing. Trump gave the military signed orders to withdraw all troops from Somalia and Afghanistan, which Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee would be “catastrophic” and a “debacle.” (The order was not followed.)

However, in speeches, including at a rally on the Washington mall before Congress convened to ratify Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, Trump cited debunked conspiracy theories to claim that he had been cheated in his bid for a second term.

“It happened over and over again, and our committee’s report will document it,” said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA). “Purposeful lies, made in public, directly at odds with what Donald Trump knew from unassailable sources: the Justice Department’s own investigations and his own campaign. Donald Trump maliciously repeated this nonsense to a wide audience over and over again. His intent was to deceive.”

Millions of Republican voters were deceived and still believe that President Biden’s victory was illegitimate. More than 900 far-right militia members and radical Republicans who also believed Trump’s lies and followed his orders to storm the Capitol have faced federal prosecution.

While it is an open question whether Trump will ever sit before the House Select Committee, nearly 300 copycat 2020 election-denying GOP candidates are seeking top state and federal offices on this fall’s ballots.

They, privately, may not believe Trump’s lies. But they have parroted his election denying claims in the campaign – lies that the committee has shown that Trump knew all along were false. They want voters to believe that they are fit for office and will uphold the same constitutional oath that Trump knowingly and intentionally violated.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.