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Tag: secret service

Trump's DHS Inspector Concealed Deletion Of Secret Service January 6 Texts

The Department of Homeland Security scandal is growing larger, with its embattled inspector general increasingly appearing to be at the center of what one noted political scientist is calling a “coverup of treason.”

DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, appointed by then-President Donald Trump in 2019, was aware of Secret Service agents’ deleted text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, as well as deleted texts from top Homeland Security officials, months earlier than first disclosed, according to reports from CNN and The Washington Post.

“Earlier this month, Secret Service officials told congressional committees that DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, the department’s independent watchdog, was aware that texts had been erased in December 2021,” CNN reports. “But sources tell CNN, the Secret Service had notified Cuffari’s office of missing text messages in May 2021, seven months earlier.”

That means that four months after the January 6 insurrection the DHS watchdog office knew Secret Service agents’ text messages, from the day before and day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, were missing and did not inform Congress or the National Archives, which is required by law to retain those records.

The deleted Secret Service texts are not the only missing data at DHS.

“Text messages for President Donald Trump’s acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli are missing for a key period leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol,” The Washington Post was first to report, on Thursday night.

As with the missing Secret Service texts, Cuffari knew early on – as early as May – but did not inform Congress or the National Archives.

Earlier this month the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a nonpartisan independent watchdog, reported on Cuffari, Wolf, and Cuccinelli.

“Cuffari’s actions shielded high-level DHS political appointees, including then-acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his acting deputy secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, from fuller questioning by investigators, according to government records and interviews,” a POGO press release stated.

Back in February POGO reported that Cuffari “faces a previously undisclosed and escalating investigation — one that will apparently address persistent questions about whether he illegally ‘retaliated’ against former high-ranking employees. As such, the probe signals the latest phase of a nasty internecine battle that refuses to fade away, despite Cuffari’s successful bid to force out his former top deputy, as other internal critics left amid bitter recriminations.”

That investigation, according to the POGO report, began in May of 2021, more than one year ago.

In. April POGO sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to remove Cuffari from his role as DHS IG.

Late Thursday night noted political scientist Norman Ornstein, who sits on the POGO board, called the situation a “coverup of treason.”

POGO, Ornstein tweeted, “has been calling for a long time for the resignation of DHS IG Joseph Cuffari. He sat on the information of missing texts from the top DHS ‘acting’ officials, put there by Trump to do his bidding. Stinks to high heaven. Coverup of treason.”

Appointed by Trump, Cuffari assumed office on July 25, 2019. Less than one year later, in May of 2020, The Washington Post reported, “DHS inspector general’s office nearly dormant under Trump as reports and audits plummet.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Trump's Secret Service Detail 'Lawyering Up' As Probes Intensify (VIDEO)

Thursday night’s House Select Committee hearing presented the most damning evidence yet revealed about Donald Trump’s attempted violent coup, and his dereliction of duty when the nation’s Capitol and Congress were under attack. It also revealed how he infected those around him, namely the Secret Service.

Some of the most riveting moments of the hearing came from audio and video that showed just how close Vice President Mike Pence was to the protesters who had surrounded and entered the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” We saw video footage of the Secret Service rushing Pence and his family away from the chamber and the public part of the Capitol at 2:26 PM ET on Jan. 6 in the middle of a renewed surge from the protestors on the doors of the building, and we saw a tweet from Trump sent just two minutes earlier, targeting Pence. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” Trump tweeted.

The hearing focused on those long minutes for Pence’s Secret Service detail. They feared they were going to be trapped by the mob. “We need to move now,” an agent said, in an excerpt of a radio transmission. “If we lose any more time, we may lose the ability to do so.” Another described smoke filling a hallway ahead of them and protesters surging and outnumbering police, yelling to “Harden that door up.”

A White House security official who was monitoring the Secret Service radio traffic testified anonymously to the committee, telling interviewers that the agents were “starting to fear for their own lives” as well as Pence’s. “There were calls to say goodbye to family members, so on and so forth,” the official said in his taped testimony. “For whatever the reason was on the ground, the VP detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.”

“It sounds like that we came very close to either, service having to use lethal options, or worse,” the official said. “At that point, I don’t know. Is the VP compromised? Is the detail? I don’t know. … If they’re screaming and saying things like, ‘say goodbye to the family,’ like the floor needs to know this is going to a whole ’nother level soon.”

Meanwhile, we’re not sure what Trump’s Secret Service detail was doing, other than telling White House staff about how irate Trump was about not being able to go to the Capitol after his rally speech. But they must have been doing something, and from the looks of things, whatever they were doing was not good. That whole purge of texts from the Secret Service from Jan. 6 and 7 is a clue.

So is the criminal probe opened up by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General over all those missing text messages. The communications were demanded by the Jan. 6 committee, looking for information on agents who were involved in planning Trump’s logistics on the day and who were with him throughout that day and the next.

Even more suspicious is the fact that those Trump agents have not just declined to work with the committee, they’ve lawyered up.

“Some of the officers said that they would be coming and talking under oath,” select committee member Zoe Lofgren, (D-CA) said Thursday night after the hearing. “They have not come in, and they recently retained private counsel, which is unusual, but they have a right to do that,” Lofgren said.

Unusual because federal employees are generally represented by the Department of Justice. It will be interesting to find out exactly who they’ve turned to—the Trump/Giuliani crew of clowns, or non-MAGA attorneys.

With this promise from committee co-chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), it might not matter.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Homeland Security Launches Criminal Probe Of Secret Service Text Deletions

Last week the DHS inspector general Joseph Cuffari informed members of the House Select Committee on January 6 that the Secret Service had improperly deleted text messages for the dates surrounding the attempted coup. A spokesperson for the Secret Service promptly responded by calling the inspector general a liar, saying that while “data resident on some phones” was lost as part of a “pre-planned system migration,” it wasn’t as if anything had been deleted.

In fact, said the spokesperson, “none of the texts [the inspector general’s office] was seeking had been lost in the migration.” That statement came exactly two days before the Secret Service informed the select committee that, whoops, it had no texts to provide. Except, somehow, for exactly one from former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund.

All of which makes it seems like the Secret Service deliberately purged its text messages from the period, then lied about purging them. Spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi also appears to have lied when he claimed that the Secret Service deleted those text messages before it had any idea there was a reason to keep them, as Congress ordered the preservation of those records ten days after the assault on the Capitol.

With all that, it’s not a huge surprise that NBC News is reporting DHS has opened a criminal investigation into the Secret Service.

On Wednesday, Cuffari reportedly informed the Secret Service that the investigation into those text messages is now a criminal investigation.

In a letter from Inspector General Gladys Ayala to Secret Service Director James Murray, the inspector general’s office called a halt on any other action concerning the texts from the Secret Service side. That includes a freeze on all digital media, and insists that the Secret Service ”immediately refrain from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices, or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The immediate result is some confusion: The select committee has subpoenaed the Secret Service for those messages, while the inspector general has ordered them to stop looking. Past messages from the Secret Service and statements from Guglielmi had demonstrated a high level of disdain for Inspector General Cuffari. So it would not be surprising to find that the agency erred on the side of ignoring his instructions.

On the other hand, there is the phrase “criminal investigation.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Secret Service Can't Find Missing January 6 Texts

Those who have been closely following the series of hearings being presented by the U.S. House of Representatives’ bipartisan select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection have been wondering if the committee will be revealing any new texts it received from the U.S. Secret Service. But according to Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Maria Sacchetti, the Secret Service has “determined” that it “has no new texts to provide Congress relevant to its January 6 investigation” and that “any other texts its agents exchanged around the time of the 2021 attack on the Capitol were purged, according to a senior official briefed on the matter.”

Leonnig and Sacchetti, in an article published on July 19, also report that the U.S. National Archives has “sought more information on ‘the potential unauthorized deletion’ of agency text messages.”

“The U.S. government’s chief record-keeper asked the Secret Service to report back to the Archives within 30 days about the deletion of any records, including describing what was purged and the circumstances of how the documentation was lost,” Leonnig and Sacchetti report. “The law enforcement agency, whose agents have been embroiled in the January 6 investigation because of their role shadowing and planning President Donald Trump’s movements that day, is expected to share this conclusion with the January 6 committee in response to its Friday subpoena for texts and other records.”

The Post reporters continue, “The agency, which made this determination after reviewing its communication databases over the past four days, will provide thousands of records, but nearly all of them have been shared previously with an agency watchdog and congressional committees, the senior official said. None is expected to shed new light on the key matters the committee is probing, including whether Trump attacked a Secret Service agent, an account a senior White House aide described to the January 6 committee.”

Leonnig and Sacchetti note that “many of” the Secret Service agents’ “cellphone texts were permanently purged starting in mid-January 2021 and Secret Service officials said it was the result of an agencywide reset of staff telephones and replacement that it began planning months earlier.”

According to the Post reporters, “Secret Service agents, many of whom protect the president, vice president and other senior government leaders, were instructed to upload any old text messages involving government business to an internal agency drive before the reset, the senior official said, but many agents appear not to have done so. The result is that potentially valuable evidence — the real-time communications and reactions of agents who interacted directly with Trump or helped coordinate his plans before and during January 6 — is unlikely to ever be recovered, two people familiar with the Secret Service communications system said. They requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters without agency authorization.”

Leonnig was emphatic in a July 19 tweet, posting, “PURGED — Here’s the news. Those @SecretService texts are gone, gone, gone. Agency scoured records and said it found nothing new to give Congress. National Archives now investigating if USSS broke the law.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Secret Service Will Turn Over Deleted January 6 Texts To House Panel

After issuing a subpoena to the U.S. Secret Service for text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021 that were erased, members of the committee investigating the Capitol attack say they expect the agency will hand over the deleted messages by Tuesday.

The committee was only made aware that the texts were missing when the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari notified the House Select Committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, in a July 13 letter that they were deleted during a “pre-planned, three-month system migration” for the agency’s “device-replacement program.”

Members of the January 6 panel were briefed by the agency in person on Friday and by the evening, the committee issued a formal subpoena.

According to a Secret Service spokesman, the text messages that were deleted were not lost permanently. When making the rounds on the Sunday morning news shows, members like Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Adam Kinzinger said they expected the Secret Service to cooperate in full.

“We expect to get them by this Tuesday,” Lofgren, a California Democrat, told ABC News. “We need all the texts from the fifth and the sixth of January.”

Lofgren described “shock” as the mutually shared experience of committee members after Cuffari initially informed the probe that the text messages they requested months ago were erased. Kinzinger, one of the probe’s two Republicans, told anchors at CBS it was “quite crazy” the messages were deleted but like Lofgren, said he expected the Secret Service would hand over the messages by Tuesday.

“They’ve said they’ll meet this deadline and we’ll see what we get here,” Kinzinger said on Face the Nation.

Jan 6 Cmte Letter to USSS D... by Daily Kos

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said last week that any claims the service was not cooperating with the committee were false.

Notably, the director of the Secret Service, James Murray, will be retiring soon. The Trump appointee made the announcement on July 7. According to a letter obtained by The New York Times, Murray said he accepted a job with Snap, the company that runs the social media app Snapchat. His retirement was also flagged in April to Department of Homeland Security adviser Alexander Mayorkas.

The January 6 select committee will meet again on Thursday for what is expected to be its final public hearing. It will be aired during prime time at 8 PM. Investigators have said they will present evidence of Trump’s “dereliction of duty” during a three-hour period on Jan. 6 when he sat idly by and watched as the Capitol came under siege. The hearing will be led by Kinzinger and Elaine Luria, a Democrat of Virginia.

The witness list for Thursday’s hearing has not been released as of Monday afternoon, but it’s a safe bet to say there will be more video footage aired from the closed-door deposition of Pat Cipollone, the former White House attorney under Trump. Depending on what the committee receives from the Secret Service, that could also shake up the witness panel.

Additional or new evidence that comes to the surface may prompt additional hearings in the future, and the committee has not been outwardly opposed to doing so. A final report is expected in the fall.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Select Panel Plans Primetime Hearing After Talks With Secret Service Watchdog

The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack officially announced late Friday that it will hold a primetime hearing next week, the eighth and final hearing in what is seen as the first part of its efforts to share with the public critical information it has obtained about the insurrection.

The announcement comes just hours after all nine members of the committee met with Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general who revealed in a letter published Thursday that the U.S. Secret Service deleted text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, the day before and of the insurrection.

Cuffari “met with the committee behind closed doors two days after sending a letter to lawmakers informing them that the text messages were erased after the watchdog agency asked for records related to its electronic communications as part of its ongoing investigation around the Capitol attack,” CNN reports.

“The committee now plans to reach out to Secret Service officials to ask about the erasure of text messages from the day of the US Capitol attack and the day before, including the agency’s process for cleaning out files to see if that policy was followed, the committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told CNN.”

The Committee also announced that its next hearing will be held Thursday, July 21, at 8 PM ET.

Daily Beast political reporter Jose Pagliery notes that because the hearing is scheduled for 8 PM, which “would be TV primetime … there’s the insinuation that this is meant to be a big one.”

CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane says next week’s hearing will focus on Donald Trump and his efforts to interfere with the Committee’s investigation. That could also include allegations he may have attempted to engage in witness intimidation.

NBC News earlier this week reported Chairman Thompson said Thursday’s hearing will be “the last one — at this point.”

But the Committee is expected to hold additional hearings as soon as next month. It has indicated it is interested is obtaining testimony from both former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

That news comes as reports say Donald Trump is expected to announce his third presidential run some time before the November midterms, possibly in September. The Dept. of Justice has given no indication it is pursuing an investigation into what legal experts have repeatedly said are his potentially criminal acts.

One expert, former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade, says she will be “listening for elements of involuntary manslaughter in Trump’s failure to stop the attack” at next Thursday’s hearing.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday evening Committee member Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) “said he expects the committee will likely decide to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department regarding Mr. Trump’s actions on January 6 and the days leading up to it.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

How Trump's Favored Agent Tarnished The Secret Service

Retired United States Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow said on Saturday that Tony Ornato, the one-time head of former President Donald Trump's security detail whom Trump installed as deputy White House chief of staff for operations in 2019, tarnished the Secret Service's reputation as an apolitical organization.

Ex-White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed during her testimony before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol last week that Ornato informed her on the day of the insurrection that an irate Trump had tried to commandeer his presidential vehicle after Secret Service agents refused to drive him to the Capitol.

Wackrow explained to CNN anchor and chief domestic correspondent Jim Acosta that Secret Service personnel have expressed concerns that Ornato's unprecedented role chipped away at the agency's historical neutrality.

"This is a big question. I know that a lot of agents are talking about that. I mean, it's very hard to maintain your independence when you were a political appointee. And I think this is a very unique situation that Tony has put the Secret Service in, you know, they have to defend somebody while they were in a political role not under the operational control of the Secret Service. It's very difficult," Wackrow said.

"And I want to just take that as an outlier. That is not the norm. So for the viewers, this is a very individual issue. But I think that we're seeing the integrity of the Secret Service come into question now," Wackrow continued. "But I believe in the institutional integrity of the Secret Service and their motto, 'worthy of trust and confidence.' Tony is an outlier in this situation. It is not representative of the women and men every single day that are out there providing that protection to our governmental leaders."

Watch below:

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Florida Legislator Threatens Biden Over Gun Safety Speech

A Florida state representative appeared to threaten President Joe Biden on Twitter after the president’s remarks about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two adults were killed.

“I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our President – try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place,” Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican who likes to say he represents the “southern portion” of Brevard County. That’s east of Orlando on the Atlantic Coast.

Fine later tweeted that the reaction to his tweet “exposes the lie of the left that they just want ‘common sense gun control.’ They want one thing and one thing only — gun confiscation and an end to the 2A — and the notion that Americans will exercise their right to fight them makes them go crazy. Boo hoo.”

On Facebook Fine called Biden “Traitor Joe.”

Fine’s threatening and fact-free tweets came after Biden called for action so America has fewer school shootings like the one in Uvalde.

“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Biden asked in remarks laced with religious references. “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act which would have set up offices focused on domestic terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the FBI.

Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance called Fine’s comments “the language of fascism, not democracy.”

Fine defended his comments as reasonable, even necessary.

“If the president of the United States wants to politicize a tragedy, he should expect people to get upset,” Fine said.

In a scrum with reporters, Fine called Biden’s remarks “incendiary” because the president spoke in support of gun control.

An FBI spokesperson declined to comment on Fine’s tweets. The Secret Service didn’t return an email from DCReport.

Federal law makes it a crime to in any way threaten to harm, kidnap, or kill the president. Typically public officials who make threats like Fine’s are ignored or get a visit from the Secret Service.

Fine has described a fantasy history of the Second Amendment, one popularized by pseudo-historians, white supremacists, religious fanatics, and gun manufacturers whose most profitable products are military-style assault weapons like the AR-15. Fine is all in on so-called "Constitutional carry," which would let anyone carry a gun openly with no training, no license, no firearms registration.

Fine articulated the gun industry’s Big Lie when he spoke with Florida reporters about his threatening tweets. “People need to understand the history of the Second Amendment,” Fine said. “The Second Amendment was created to protect people from an overarching government. That’s what it was created for. And when the government says we’re going to come after you and we’re going to treat you the way the Chinese treat their citizens, we’re going to take away your ability to protect yourself from an overarching government, people are going to be upset.”

As the Second Amendment states on its face it was enacted to make sure that each state could have a “well-regulated militia.” All Constitutional rights have limits, as our Supreme Court has held in many cases.

There have been 214 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Education Week, which tracks school shootings, said there have been 27 American school shootings with injuries or deaths this year. The United States this year has suffered more than one school shooting per week. Most countries have had zero school shootings this year.

Fine is a former gambling industry executive. He has an MBA and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University so he’s not lacking in education, just common sense and decency.

Fine’s threats and lies about the Second Amendment come as NRA-funded Republicans blocked the confirmation of David Chipman, Biden’s nominee to run our nation’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. Biden’s second choice for the job, former federal prosecutor Steven Dettelbach, also may not be confirmed because of Republicans toeing the line of the NRA, a former organization of hunters and target shooters that now represents gunmakers.

The ATF hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed leader since 2015. Firearm lobbyists have even blocked the bureau from making a searchable database to trace weapons used in murders and other crimes.

Reprinted with permission from DC Report.