Senior leaders at the Secret Service reportedly confiscated the cellphones of 24 agents who were involved with the Jan. 6, 2021, response and delivered the phones to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) inspector general.
A source familiar confirmed to The Hill that the phones were handed to Inspector General Joseph Cuffari’s office after a July 19 letter was sent to the agency from DHS investigators indicating he had begun a criminal probe. NBC News first reported the development.
Cuffari, who is investigating how the Secret Service responded to Jan. 6, first notified lawmakers in July there were missing texts from agents that may have been “erased” as part of a device replacement program. Secret Service has said messages may have been lost in a software migration.
While prior reporting indicated Cuffari had sought phone records, it was unclear he had the phones, and the detail emerges as his office has faced questions over delays in notifying Congress and that could hamstring efforts to recover evidence from the phones.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, rioting at the U.S. Capitol has obtained other records and documents from the agency, but only one text message from the 24 Secret Service agents involved with the Jan. 6 response.
The panel has said in recent weeks it’s begun to get a more steady flow of information from the Secret Service.
The committee and others, however, have asked Cuffari to step aside from his probe, calling into question his judgment given his delay in alerting Congress to the lost messages.
Last week an anonymous group of employees at DHS OIG asked President Biden to fire Cuffari.
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