It comes as both congressional and criminal investigators at the Justice Department are attempting an attempt by the president and his allies to reverse the results of the election, which culminated in a pro-Trump demonstration that culminated in a violent riot in the halls of Congress.
The Department of Homeland Security notified the agency’s inspector general in late February that Wolf and Cuccinelli’s texts were lost in a “reset” of their government phones when they left their jobs in January 2021 in preparation for the new one. Biden administration, according to an internal record obtained by the Project on Government Oversight and shared with The Washington Post.
The Office of the Undersecretary of the Department of Administration also told the government watchdog that the text messages for his boss, Undersecretary Randolph “Tex” Alles, the former Secret Service director, were also no longer available due to a previously scheduled phone reset.
At the time, the office of Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari did not urge department heads to explain why they were not retaining this data, nor for ways to recover the lost data, according to the four people who knew about it. the actions of the watchdog. Cuffari also failed to warn Congress about the possible destruction of government documents.
The disclosure follows the discovery that text messages from Secret Service agents — critical first-hand witnesses to the events leading up to Jan. 6 — were deleted more than a year ago and may never be recovered.
News of their missing data sparked a storm of fire as the lyrics could have corroborated the account of a former White House aide who described the president’s state of mind on Jan. 6. In one case, the aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, said a top official told her that Trump had attempted to attack a senior Secret Service agent who refused to take the president to the Capitol as his supporters marched there.
In a nearly identical scenario to that of the DHS leaders’ texts, the Secret Service warned Cuffari’s office seven months ago, in December 2021, that the agency had deleted thousands of text messages from agents and employees in an institution-wide reset of the government telephones. Cuffari’s office did not notify Congress until mid-July, despite ongoing requests from multiple congressional committees for these documents.
Wolf and Cuccinelli’s phone and text messages in the days leading up to Jan. 6 could have shed a lot of light on Trump’s actions and plans. In the weeks before the Capitol attack, Trump had pressured both men to help him claim the 2020 election results had been rigged and even to confiscate voting machines in key swing states to try to “reduce” the election.
“It is extremely disturbing that the issue of deleted text messages related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol is not limited to the Secret Service, but also involving Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, who ran DHS at the time,” House Homeland said. Security. Committee chair Bennie G. Thompson said in a statement.
“It appears that the DHS inspector general has known about these deleted texts for months, but has not informed Congress,” Thompson said. “Had the Inspector General informed Congress, we might have been able to get better data from senior government officials on one of the most tragic days in the history of our democracy.”
Neither Cuccinelli nor Wolf responded to requests for comment. The DHS Inspector General’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The discovery of missing data for the top officials leading the Department of Homeland Security during the final days of the Trump administration raises new questions about what could have been learned, as well as what other text messages and evidence the Department and other authorities may have erased, in clear violation of the Federal Records Act.
Wolf and Cuccinelli had stayed with DHS when Trump openly contested the 2020 election results, even as the agency led efforts to help state and local governments ensure the integrity of the election results.
Beginning in late December, numerous DHS intelligence units across the country warned of extremely worrying chatter on white nationalist and pro-Trump social media platforms promoting coming to Trump’s January 6 rally armed and using violence to prevent Biden from becoming president. .
At a cabinet meeting in late December, Trump scolded his secretaries for failing to properly assist him in investigating fraud that corruptly “gave” the election to Joe Biden, but cited unsubstantiated claims. Trump fired Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in a tweet after Krebs countered Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, complaining that Wolf should have stepped in more quickly to force Krebs out.
On New Year’s Eve of 2020, Trump also called Cuccinelli to pressure him to confiscate voting machines in swing states and help him block the peaceful transfer of power. Trump falsely told him that the acting attorney general had just said it was Cuccinelli’s job to confiscate voting machines “and you’re not doing your job.”
Cuccinelli was in Washington the day of the attack and toured the Capitol that evening to inspect the damage. Wolf was on an official trip to the Middle East.
After the attack on the Capitol, several lawmakers called for hearings on why DHS had not anticipated the threat Trump supporters posed to Congress the day lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence planned to certify the election results.
Wolf had resigned five days after the attack on the Capitol, citing “recent events” and legal rulings that question his legitimacy to continue to lead the department as acting secretary for 14 months.
“As of 11:59 p.m. today, I’ll be stepping down as your acting secretary,” Wolf wrote in a message to the department. “I am saddened to take this step because my intention was to serve the ministry until the end of this administration.”
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer days later, the outgoing acting secretary said Trump bore some responsibility for the events of January 6.
“I was disappointed that the president didn’t speak out about this sooner. I think he had a part for that. I think unfortunately the administration has lost a bit of the morale on this issue by not coming out sooner,” he said of Trump not being quick to condemn the violence.
A report from the Government Accountability Office in 2020 found that Wolf and Cuccinelli were ineligible for their position because their appointments had not followed the correct order of succession, an issue the GAO referred to the DHS Office of Inspector General.
Unlike Trump, Wolf did not contest the election results and said DHS was preparing for the “orderly and smooth transition to President-elect Biden’s DHS team.”
“Welcome them, teach them, and learn from them,” Wolf said then. “They are your leaders for the next four years — a time that will no doubt be full of challenges and opportunities to show the American public the value of DHS and why it’s worth the investment.”
Wolf had emerged as Trump’s favorite DHS secretary, the president’s fourth pick for the job in just four years in office. Trump had promoted his First Secretary John Kelly to his White House chief of staff and then pushed Kelly out of that job for not following his orders. He had fired Kelly’s successor Kirstjen Nielsen for resisting some of Trump’s demands on how to deal with migrants crossing the border that Nielsen knew were illegal.
The third secretary, Nielsen’s successor Kevin McAleenan, became frustrated with the way Trump tried to politicize the department during his reelection bid, which left after just seven months. Then Trump named Wolf as his acting secretary and found that the fourth time was a charm. Wolf repeatedly praised Trump’s immigration record as fantastic and also deployed department personnel to deal with Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, to help promote Trump’s law-and-order message to voters.
Trump had appointed Cuccinelli to key DHS roles after seeing him defend his immigration agenda on television.
Trump allies still believe Wolf served him well. Wolf is one of those who this month in a axios article as someone who could ask Trump to return to government if Trump successfully becomes president in 2024.