Two House committees said in a letter on Monday that top DHS inspector general’s office officials interfered with efforts to recover deleted Secret Service messages from the time of the US Capitol attack and tried to cover up their conduct.
Together, the new discoveries seem to demonstrate that the Secret Service and DHS’s top watchdog took purposeful actions to prevent the retrieval of messages that it was aware were missing, and then tried to conceal its decision not to pursue that evidence.
As part of its internal investigation into January 6, the inspector general’s office first attempted to locate the misplaced messages from throughout the DHS, including the Secret Service, the previous DHS secretary Chad Wolf, and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli.
However, the House committees said that Thomas Kait, the deputy inspector general for inspections and evaluations, put a stop to that attempt six weeks after the inspector general’s office initially sought Secret Service communications from the time of the Capitol attack.
In an email sent in July 2021 to Jim Crumpacker, a senior DHS liaison officer, Kait stated, “Use this email as a reference to our chat when I mentioned we no longer require phone records and text messages from the USSS relevant to the events on January 6th.”
The House committees also said that they had uncovered that a document that was initially written on February 4, 2022, criticizing the DHS for refusing to assist with its probe and emphasizing the need to scrutinize specific messages had been altered by Kait and other senior officials.
The House committee said that by the time Kait and other senior employees had completed writing the letter, all references to the deleted messages from the Secret Service or the DHS secretary had been dropped in favor of praise for the organization’s handling of the internal inquiry.
According to the House committees, the letter changed from being a sharp reprimand that stated that “most DHS components have not given the necessary information” to noting that “we got a timely and unified response from each component.”
Around that time, Kait posed the following question to her coworkers, appearing to accept the removal of the damning facts from the memo: “Am I setting us up for anything by adding what I did? Last week, when I spoke with Kristen, she said she was okay with my praising the DAL’s efforts.
The revelations sufficiently concerned the heads of the House oversight committee, Carolyn Maloney, and the House January 6 committee, Bennie Thompson, that they demanded that senior DHS officials attend for recorded interviews.
The two House committees requested contacts inside the inspector general’s office regarding not gathering or retrieving messages from the agency related to the Capitol attack, and they once more urged the recusal of the DHS inspector general, Joseph Cuffari, in the four-page letter.
As the inquiry progresses, it has also come to light that Cuffari’s office was informed in February 2022 that messages from Wolf and Cuccinelli could not be read and that Cuccinelli had been using a personal phone, but Cuffari’s office never informed Congress.
Kait is known for eliminating negative results from reports. According to the New York Times, Kait ordered employees to delete a part from a DHS study on domestic abuse and sexual misconduct that indicated officers suspected of sexual assaults were charged with generic charges.
After Cuffari originally notified Congress in mid-July that his agency was unable to provide over Secret Service communications from the time of the Capitol attack because they had been deleted as part of a device replacement program, the debate about the missing texts started to flare up a few weeks ago.
To find out how the Secret Service planned to transfer Donald Trump and Mike Pence on January 6, Thompson used the House January 6 select committee to submit a subpoena to the agency for messages from the day before and the day of the Capitol incident.
However, according to an earlier story in the Guardian, the Secret Service only submitted one text conversation to the select committee, claiming investigators that all other messages had been erased because staff forgot to save data from the devices when they were changed out.