Jan. 6 Inquiry: DHS Has Had 24 Secret Service Phones for 2 Months

They went to DHS Inspector General, who's been accused of a lack of transparency: report
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2022 9:02 AM CDT
Secret Service Turned Over 24 Agents' Phones
A secret service agent is stationed outside the funeral of Ivana Trump, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in New York.   (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, File)

Secret Service leadership confiscated the cellphones of 24 agents involved in the response to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, and gave them to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general up to two months ago, reports NBC News. The phones were handed over to Inspector General Joseph Cuffari's office "shortly after" the office sent a July 19 letter to the Secret Service announcing a criminal probe into missing text messages, according to the outlet. Per CBS News, the phones of former Secret Service Director James Murray, President Trump's lead agent Robert Engel, and others were turned over that same month, meaning the office has had them for at least two months.

It's unclear what information, if any, has been gained from the phones. A spokesperson for the Inspector General's Office said it does not "confirm the existence of or comment on criminal investigations" so as to "protect the integrity of our work [and] preserve our independence." But the detail puts more scrutiny on Cuffari, a Trump nominee, who's been accused of hiding information from the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6. He reportedly waited months to tell investigators that subpoenaed texts from Secret Service agents had been erased in a factory reset in the weeks following the riot.

Earlier this month, staff members within his office asked President Biden to fire Cuffari, whom they accuse of "significantly editing reports to remove key findings" and "interfering with staff efforts to gather information necessary to perform independent oversight," according to a letter shared by the Project on Government Oversight. It cites "years of poor decision-making by IG Joseph Cuffari," adding "DHS OIG will continue to fail under his disastrous leadership." The Hill now questions whether a failure to notify Congress about the phone confiscation "could hamstring efforts to recover evidence from the phones." (More Secret Service stories.)

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