‘Serious and Flagrant Failures’: Jamie Raskin Grills Trump-Appointed DHS Official on Erased Secret Service Text Messages Regarding Jan. 6


Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari testified before the House Oversight Committee in a hearing on Tuesday that was supposed to be about staffing the border patrol, but took a turn as many of the Democrats on the panel grilled Cuffari about information regarding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who is the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, joined the hearing and grilled Cuffari regarding past allegations he had altered reports from his office and did not alert Congress in a timely fashion that the Secret Service was not complying with DHS information requests.

“Your duty under the Inspector General Act is to immediately report flagrant and serious abuses that are taking place. You were aware, at least as early as May of 2021, that the Secret Service had erased thousands of text messages that were sent before and during the January 6th violent attack on the Capitol, the Congress, and the vice president,” Raskin began, adding:

But you failed to notify Congress for 14 months, for a year and two months that the Secret Service was refusing to comply with your requests for information. So why didn’t you immediately report as you’re statutorily bound to do these serious and flagrant failures to answer your questions about the disappearance of thousands of texts that were sent during January 6th?

“Just so the record’s clear, Congressman. We were not informed by the Secret Service on the date that you described in ‘21. In fact, at no time in ‘21 were we informed that Secret Service had deleted and was no longer able to retrieve text messages on cell phones owned by the Secret Service,” Cuffari replied.

“So when did you become aware of that?” Raskin pressed.

“In February, I believe, of 2022,” Cuffari replied.

“Well, we have documents showing that just six weeks after the initial request for documents from the Secret Service, you canceled requests to the Secret Service for phone records and text messages. Why did you do that?” Raskin followed up.

“If I recall correctly, and I mentioned during my prepared remarks here, DHS was delaying or denying us access to relevant information,” Cuffari replied.

“But did you report that to Congress at that point or ask for a report to Congress?” Raskin asked.

“I was working with the senior leadership of the department to free up or to pry loose information that the department was withholding from us,” Cuffari responded, adding he pushed the Secret Service to comply. “We subsequently received a tranche of documents from the department. They were basically emails that we had been waiting for eight months to receive. I think they were about 700,000 emails.”

Revelations that the Secret Service deleted text messages after they were requested by oversight officials became a major scandal in the summer of 2022.

“Yeah. Well, what I don’t understand is your office revived the request that you nullified six weeks after originally making it. Five months later, in December of 2021 is what the paper trail reveals. But what I don’t understand is your statutory duty to immediately inform Congress about this flagrant abuse,” Raskin shot back.

“I mean, we’re talking about the worst violent insurrection against Congress in the history of the United States. And the Secret Service is not cooperating with your request for information. Why did you not think that you needed to immediately alert Congress to that fact?” Raskin pressed.

“I was working with senior leadership in the Department of Homeland Security to get the records we were lawfully entitled to receive. They were also, the department was also under four preservation notices by congressional oversight committees last Congress. And to my knowledge, the department never informed Congress that itself had deleted the messages, nor were they ever asked,” Cuffari answered.

“But that’s the role of the inspector general. That’s why we have an inspector general. Look, in June of 2022. You published your semiannual report where there was going to be a reference to the Secret Service’s obstruction of this investigative path. And you removed that. Why was the reference to the Secret Services obstruction deliberately deleted from the June 22nd semiannual report of the inspector general?” Raskin asked.

“I believe our first notification to Congress was in the fall of ’21. In our semiannual report, where we describe the delays the department was doing to us and prohibiting us from receiving requested information,” Cuffari answered.

“Did you sign off on the decision to remove this reference from the report?” Raskin insisted.

“I don’t know when that reference was,” Cuffari shot back.

“In June 2022, there was going to be a reference to secret services, obstruction of questioning about the disappearance of the texts, and that was deliberately removed. Did you sign off on that deliberate removal?” Raskin pressed again.

“I signed off on the removal and I signed a letter specifically to the January 6th Oversight Committee and to this oversight committee,” Cuffari answered.

“But why did you remove it?” Raskin demanded.

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) then jumped in and told Raskin his “time is expiring” and then tried to redirect the hearing the border patrol.

“I realize, Mr. Cuffari was originally appointed by Donald Trump, and some people are never going to get over that,” Grothman declared, urging his colleagues to focus on the Border Patrol.

Cuffari has come under fire before and in September of 2022 a number of employees in his office published a letter calling for his ouster. CNN reported at the time, “The two-page letter lists several ways the unnamed DHS OIG employees believe Cuffari has derailed the office’s work and integrity, including significantly editing reports to remove key findings and interfering with staff efforts to gather information.”

Watch the full clip above via C-SPAN.

Have a tip we should know? tips@mediaite.com

Filed Under:

Alex Griffing is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Send tips via email: alexanderg@mediaite.com. Follow him on Twitter: @alexgriffing