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.
“The work to investigative the travesty of the Jan. 6th Insurrection is extremely important to us and aligns with the mission of the Secret Service which is to safeguard our nation’s highest government leaders. We have and will continue to cooperate fully with all of the oversight efforts and we have provided everything that has been requested as part of these inquiries,” the Secret Service said in a statement.
DHS’s Office of Inspector General did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the House panel over the summer that former President Trump lunged for the steering wheel of the car an agent was driving after the agent refused to drive toward the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The agents involved reportedly dispute Hutchinson’s telling of events but have not testified publicly and one has since retired from the Secret Service.
Updated at 10:39 a.m.