New reporting indicates texts from key Homeland Security officials were lost in a “reset” of government phones.
Even under the best of circumstances (that is: not in the midst of a seditious national crisis of its own making), the Trump administration wasn’t exactly the gold standard when it came to record-keeping. So there’s a perverse sense of underwhelming obviousness with the ongoing spate of revelations that a number of potentially crucial White House documents from the attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021, are, evidently, missing.
First came reports that a number of Secret Service phones had been wiped clear of all text messages from Jan. 6, including ones that could have potentially corroborated — or, as the agency first attempted to claim, disprove — former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s allegations about Trump’s behavior on that day. Not great, considering the growing evidence that the Secret Service may have been broadly “contaminated” by Trump over the course of his presidency. And as of this week, it seems even more potentially significant text messages from Jan. 6 may be missing as well. And once again, they seem to be missing from some of the Trump White House’s key national security and intelligence figures.
As The Washington Post reported Thursday evening, the government cell phones belonging to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli — both Trump loyalists — were “reset” in January 2021 when they left office, purging potential text and call information that could have contributed to the growing volume of digital evidence into what the former president and his allies were doing and saying in the time leading up to the attempted coup. What’s more, the DHS Inspector General reportedly has known about the deleted content since this February, but neglected to tell anyone about until last month, when Congress was finally informed.
“It is extremely troubling that the issue of deleted text messages related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is not limited to the Secret Service, but also includes Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, who were running DHS at the time,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, who is chairing the House’s Jan. 6 investigatory committee. told the Post in a statement.
“It appears the DHS Inspector General has known about these deleted texts for months but failed to notify Congress,” Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee as well, continued. “If the Inspector General had informed Congress, we may have been able to get better records from senior administration officials regarding one of the most tragic days in our democracy’s history.”
Complicating things even further is the fact that the DHS Inspector General’s office is, itself, apparently investigating the Secret Service for “the facts and circumstances surrounding the collection and preservation of evidence [...] as it relates to the events of January 6, 2021,” according to a letter sent to the agency’s head and obtained by CNN.
So here we have not one but two instances of Trump officials and agencies apparently destroying or otherwise deleting potential evidence of their own actions on the day of the Capitol riot, all while those same agencies engage in a knotted bureaucratic tussle over investigating themselves and each other. Which isn’t to say there’s absolutely something nefarious afoot here. But it sure seems weird, doesn’t it?