Lazy Caturday Reads

117e788ba6a99375d6d826a17311ce9aHappy Caturday!!

It’s a busy news day for a Saturday, and multiple outlets are breaking January 6 investigation scoops.

Last night the Washington Post’s Maria Sacchetti and Carol Leonig posted a new story on the missing Secret Service text messages and the so-called investigation by Trump-appointed IG Joseph Cuffari: Homeland Security watchdog halted plan to recover Secret Service texts, records show.

The Department of Homeland Security’s chief watchdog scrapped its investigative team’s effort to collect agency phones to try to recover deleted Secret Service texts this year, according to four people with knowledge of the decision and internal records reviewed by The Washington Post.

In early February, after learning that the Secret Service’s text messages had been erased as part of a migration to new devices, staff at Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari’s office planned to contact all DHS agencies offering to have data specialists help retrieve messages from their phones, according to two government whistleblowers who provided reports to Congress.

But later that month, Cuffari’s office decided it would not collect or review any agency phones,according to three people briefed on the decision.

The latest revelation comes as Democratic lawmakers have accused Cuffari’s office of failing to aggressively investigate the agency’s actions in response to the violent attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.

Cuffari wrote a letter to the House and Senate Homeland Security committees this month saying the Secret Service’s text messages from the time of the attack had been “erased.” But he did not immediately disclose that his office first discovered that deletion in December and failed to alert lawmakers or examine the phones. Nor did he alert Congress that other text messages were missing, including those of the two top Trump appointees running the Department of Homeland Security during the final days of the administration.

Why is this guy still in his job? It might be a good idea for Biden to get rid of all Trump appointees ASAP.

03b6ba8a9311154d078acef7df2111c3It gets worse day by day. This is from CNN: Exclusive: DHS inspector general knew of missing Secret Service texts months earlier than previously known.

The embattled inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security first learned of missing Secret Service text messages in May 2021 — months earlier than previously known and more than a year before he alerted the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, that potentially crucial information may have been erased, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

Earlier this month, Secret Service officials told congressional committees that DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, the department’s independent watchdog, was aware that texts had been erased in December 2021. But sources tell CNN, the Secret Service had notified Cuffari’s office of missing text messages in May 2021, seven months earlier.

The Secret Service now says the texts were lost as a result of a previously scheduled data migration of its agents’ cell phones that began on January 27, 2021, exactly three weeks after the attack on the US Capitol. After the data migration was completed, in May 2021 the Secret Service told Cuffari’s office that they tried to contact a cellular provider to retrieve the texts when they realized they were lost, a source told CNN.

The source added that key Secret Service personnel didn’t realize data was permanently lost until after the data migration was completed, and erroneously believed the data was backed up. In July 2021, inspector general investigators told DHS they were no longer seeking Secret Service text messages, according to two sources. Cuffari’s office then restarted its probe in December 2021.

These new details come as Cuffari faces mounting pressure from key Democrats to hand off his investigation into the missing messages. They also come amid revelations that text messages for the two top DHS officials under former President Donald Trump, acting Secretary Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli, are missing for a key period leading up to the January 6 attack.

The Washington Post first reported the missing Wolf and Cuccinelli texts, which were lost in a “reset” of their government phones when they left their jobs in January 2021 in preparation for the new Biden administration, according to the Post.

333d896c0c3719dee962e151aa76649bFrom Raw Story: Trump admin official reveals she went public because she did not trust DHS inspector general.

The scandal over the Jan. 6 evidence that was deleted by the Department of Homeland Security is being investigated by a public official that can’t be trusted, a CNN panel explained on Friday….

For analysis, former Trump homeland security advisor Olivia Troye was interviewed by CNN’s Jim Sciutto alongside former CIA agent Phil Mudd and government ethics expert Norm Eisen.

“When you work at senior levels in the Trump administration you kind of know where people’s loyalties lie,” Troye said. “There is a reason that I went very public with my concerns about the Trump administration rather than going through the traditional whistle-blower process, which would have led me to the inspector general’s office at DHS. And I’ll just say that. There’s a level of trust there that you understand.”

But Troye suggested there may not be text messages to recover.

“The other part of it is I’ve got to tell you, being a Trump admin person, most of the administration communicated on encrypted signal apps,” she revealed. “A lot of the time these messages were likely disappearing.”

Mudd said that Cuffari needs to go.

“This is beyond incompetence,” he said. “Any inspector general, whether CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, doesn’t work for, say, the head of Homeland Security, they work in essence for the Congress.”

So why does Cuffari still have a job?

Yesterday afternoon The Washington Post published a story based on interviews with cybersecurity experts: Secret Service’s ‘ludicrous’ deletion of Jan. 6 phone data baffles experts.

Cybersecurity experts and former government leaders are stunned by how poorly the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security handled the preservation of officials’ text messages and other data from around Jan. 6, 2021, saying the top agencies entrusted with fighting cybercrime should never have bungled the simple task of backing up agents’ phones.

00146d940a6a2c96813fbb5480c6d59cExperts are divided over whether the disappearance of phone data from around the time of the insurrection is a sign of incompetence, an intentional coverupor some murkier middle ground. But the failure has raised suspicions about the disposition of records that could provide intimate details about what happened on that chaotic day, and whose preservation was mandated by federal law.

“This was the most singularly stressful day for the Secret Service since the attempted assassination of [Ronald] Reagan,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a senior policy official at the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration who’s now a cybersecurity consultant in Washington. “Why apparently was there no interest in preserving records for the purposes of doing an after-action review? It’s like we have a 9/11 attack and air traffic control wipes its records.”

Rosenzweig said he polled 11 of his friends with cybersecurity backgrounds, including information-security chiefs at federal agencies, on whether any of them had ever done a migration without a plan for backing up data and restoring it. None of them had. “There’s a relatively high degree of skepticism about [the Secret Service] in the group,” he said.

The experts said that backing up the data on the phones would have been ridiculously easy.

If the Secret Service had truly wanted to preserve agents’ messages, experts said, it should have been almost trivially easy to do so. Backups and exports are a basic feature of nearly every messaging service, and federal law requires such records to be safeguarded and submitted to the National Archives.

Several experts were critical of the Secret Service’s explanation that it had asked agents to upload their own phone data to an agency drive before their phones were wiped. Cybersecurity professionals said that policy was “highly unusual,” “ludicrous,” a “failure of management” and “not something any other organization would ever do.”

The error is especially notable because of the Secret Service’s vaunted role in the federal bureaucracy. Besides protecting America’s most powerful people, the agency leads some of the government’s most technically sophisticated investigations of financial fraud, ransomware and cybercrime.

I’m no expert, but I smell a coverup.

A couple more January 6 stories:

Betsy Woodruff Swan at Politico: The RNC ‘election integrity’ official appearing in DOJ’s Jan. 6 subpoenas.

In addition to a group of former President Donald Trump’s top lawyers, the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 probe is also seeking communications to and from a Republican National Committee staffer in a sensitive role.

da268b94c8995a615cdcda7b987a185cAt least three witnesses in DOJ’s investigation of so-called alternate electors in the 2020 election — two in Arizona and another in Georgia — have received subpoenas demanding communications to and from Joshua Findlay, who is now the RNC’s national director for election integrity.

POLITICO reviewed the subpoena sent to the Georgia witness afterthe Washington Postpublished copies of two Arizona subpoenas. Findlay’s appearance in the documents means the Justice Department has taken interest in his communications as part of its probe related to pro-Trump GOP officials and activists who presented themselves as legitimate electors from states where Joe Biden won.

Findlay worked for Trump’s 2020 campaign in multiple capacities. In January 2019, the campaign announced he was joining the team that would handle the 2020 Republican National Convention. After the convention, he worked as an attorney on the Trump campaign’s legal team.

The three subpoenas order the witnesses to share all documents and communications from October 2020 on, “[t]o, from, with, or including” a list of people, including Findlay.

While Findlay is not a central figure in the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation, the head of the Trump campaign’s legal team, Matt Morgan, mentioned him in testimony to the panel. At a hearing on June 21, the panel played a video clip where one of its investigators, Casey Lucier, said some Trump campaign lawyers “became convinced that convening electors in states that Trump lost was no longer appropriate.”

Read the rest at Politico.

Lisa Rubin at Maddowblog: Why an unnamed ‘White House employee’ could be a pivotal Jan. 6 witness.

With the revelation that several senior Trump administration officials and Cabinet secretaries have testified or will soon testify before the House Jan. 6 committee, the political press is abuzz about what that could mean for the congressional fact-finding mission — and for the Justice Department’s criminal investigation. After all, as Politico reported Thursday, the DOJ and the Jan. 6 committee finally have reached a “general agreement” over evidence sharing that could grant federal investigators access to more than 1,000 transcripts of witness testimony.

50362e7c46f16929020bba5999c56ce4That the DOJ soon will have a vehicle for obtaining evidence from the Jan. 6 committee has me thinking about a wholly different witness, however, and one whose name I don’t even know. Based on former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s prior testimony and committee members’ own statements at the hearings to date, an as-yet-unnamed White House employee or employees could be among the most significant witnesses to then-President Donald Trump’s words, actions and inaction on and around Jan. 6.

Specifically, at the so-called season finale of the committee’s hearings last week, Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., highlighted that “within 15 minutes of leaving the stage” at the Ellipse rally, Trump was informed about the attack on the Capitol by a person she described only as “a White House employee” who encountered Trump “as soon as he returned to the Oval [Office].” From there, Luria said, Trump went to the private dining room off the Oval Office at 1:25 p.m.

Later in the hearing, her colleague Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., returned to that unnamed White House employee, noting that Trump left the dining room on Jan. 6 for the White House residence at 6:27 p.m. Kinzinger added:

“As he was gathering his things in the dining room to leave, President Trump reflected on the day’s events with a White House employee. This was the same employee who had met President Trump in the Oval Office after he returned from the Ellipse. President Trump said nothing to the employee about the attack. He said only quote, ‘Mike Pence let me down.”

Rubin suggests that the person who overheard this remark could be a White House valet, and that person could have witnessed interactions between Trump and other officials and heard more remarks from Trump during the time that Trump was watching the violence at the Capitol. Read more at the link.

More stories to check out, links only:

The New York Times: Russian National Charged With Spreading Propaganda Through U.S. Groups.

NBC News: Combat vet ‘fuming’ over lawmakers’ failure to pass two bipartisan measures that could have helped millions.

Slate: When Can Dying Patients Get a Lifesaving Abortion? These Hospital Panels Will Now Decide.

The New York Times: Fox News, Once Home to Trump, Now Often Ignores Him.

NBC News: New York Gov. Hochul declares state disaster emergency over monkeypox.

Axios: Sinema indicates she may want to change Schumer-Manchin deal.

The Washington Post: Hot mic captured Gaetz assuring Stone of pardon, discussing Mueller redactions.


Thursday Reads: Jan. 6 Committee Hearing Tonight

Good Morning!!

Tonight is the final January 6 Committee hearing, at least for this month. It should be a blockbuster. There are plenty of predictions about what will happen tonight. There is also more news about the Secret Service deleting text messages from January 5 and 6. I’ll get to those stories in a minute, but first some breaking news.

Despite his advanced age, Biden appears to be healthy and fit. Here’s hoping his symptoms stay mild.

Tonight’s January 6 Committee Hearing

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: January 6 panel to show Trump violated law by refusing to stop Capitol attack.

The January 6 House select committee is expected to make the case at its hearing on Thursday that Donald Trump potentially violated the law when he refused entreaties to take action to stop the 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mass of his supporters, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The panel will demonstrate that the former Republican president was “derelict in his duty” to protect the US Congress and might have also broken the federal law that prohibits obstructing an official proceeding before Congress, which had gathered to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

Matthew Pottinger

Matthew Pottinger

Trump could have called on national guard troops to restore order when he saw on TV the melee unfolding at the Capitol, the panel is expected to argue, or he could have called off the rioters via a live broadcast from the White House press briefing room, but he did not. Or he could have sent a tweet trying to stop the violence far earlier than he actually did, during the 187-minute duration of the Capitol attack.

The former president instead only reluctantly posted a tweet in the afternoon of January 6, hours after his top advisors at the White House and Republicans allies in Congress repeatedly implored him to intervene, the select committee will show….

The sources described what the select committee sees as potential legal culpability for the former president, speaking on the condition of anonymity ahead of the prime time hearing.

Two insider witnesses, “former deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger and former Trump press aide Sarah Matthews,” will testify in the hearing.

The two witnesses with inside knowledge of how the West Wing operated on January 6 are expected to narrate how that day unfolded, starting with how desperately Trump did not want to return to the White House after delivering his speech at the rally at the nearby Ellipse, where he had urged supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat….

Sarah MatthewsThe Guardian has learned, according to a person directly familiar with the matter, that in a previously unreported incident, the fracas [described in testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson” about going to the Capitol, after Trump told his supporters at the rally to go to Congress and “I’ll be there with you”, continued when he arrived back at the White House, and the argument spilled into the West Wing driveway.

Pottinger and Matthews are expected to testify about what happened when Trump was back at the White House, including details on Trump in his dining room off the Oval Office, where he watched the Capitol attack erupt on TV, transfixed by the images as rioters overran police and rampaged through the halls of Congress, the sources said.

The select committee will show through videotaped testimony from the Trump White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, and other aides, that the former president ignored repeated entreaties from advisers to help stop the Capitol attack, the sources said.

Rolling Stone: Exclusive: Jan. 6 Committee Plans to Humiliate MAGA Lawmakers Who Cowered During Capitol Attack.

The Jan. 6 committee plans to use its Thursday-night hearing to call out insurrection-friendly lawmakers who cowered during the Capitol attack but have since downplayed the insurrection’s severity, according to two sources familiar with the committee’s planning.

“They have plans to paint a really striking picture of how some of Trump’s greatest enablers of his coup plot were — no matter what they’re saying today — quaking in their boots and doing everything shy of crying out for their moms,” one source tells Rolling Stone. “If any of [these lawmakers] were capable of shame, they would be humiliated.” [….]

The committee has at times switched plans at the last minute, and it remains unclear which specific lawmakers the committee could call out. But at least some Republicans have already had their attempts to downplay or justify the attempted coup undone by footage from the day of the attack. When Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) claimed the insurrection “a normal tourist visit,” social media users quickly located photos of the Georgia Republican gasping in terror and hiding behind an armed Capitol police officer pointing a handgun at a barricaded entrance to the Senate floor.

In the 18 months since the insurrection, Republican lawmakers have tried to whitewash it through a series of contradictory talking points. Republicans have alternately downplayed the attack by calling it “a peaceful protest,” claimed it was violent but that the violence was carried out solely by nonexistent “antifa” or federal informants at the Capitol, or that Democrats were to blame for failing to adequately defend the Capitol against the protesters they variously claim weren’t violent or a threat.

Republicans like Reps. Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Paul Gosar have gone so far as to cast alleged rioters held in pretrial detention as unjustly accused political prisoners.

Read more at Rolling Stone.

The Washington Post: Even a day after Jan. 6, Trump balked at condemning the violence.

One day after the last rioter had left the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, President Donald Trump’s advisers urged him to give an address to the nation to condemn the violence, demand accountability for those who had stormed the halls of Congress and declare the 2020 election to be decided.

He struggled to do it. Over the course of an hour of trying to tape the message, Trump resisted holding the rioters to account, trying to call them patriots, and refused to say the election was over, according to individuals familiar with the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

The public could get its first glimpse of outtakes from that recording Thursday night, when the committee plans to offer a bold conclusion in its eighth hearing: Not only did Trump do nothing despite repeated entreaties by senior aides to help end the violence, but he sat back and enjoyed watching it. He reluctantly condemned it — in a three-minute speech the evening of Jan. 7 — only after the efforts to overturn the 2020 election had failed and after aides told him that members of his own Cabinet were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

“This is what he wanted to happen,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), who is scheduled to lead the questioning Thursday along with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), said in an interview this week. “You might have earlier on said, ‘Was he incompetent? Was he someone who freezes in a moment when they can’t react to something? Or was it exactly what he wanted to have happened?’ And after all of this, I’m convinced that this is exactly what he wanted to have happen.”

 

CNN: Trump had ‘extreme difficulty’ with his speech on the day after January 6.

The House committee investigating the insurrection plans to show footage at Thursday’s hearing of then-President Donald Trump having difficulty working through efforts to tape a message to his supporters on January 7, 2021, the day after the Capitol riot, sources familiar with the committee’s plans tell CNN….

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who is a member of the committee, confirmed Wednesday night to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the panel has the outtakes and plans to share some of them during the hearing.

“The President displayed extreme difficulty in completing his remarks,” Raskin said on “Anderson Cooper 360.”

“It’s extremely revealing how exactly he went about making those statements, and we’re going to let everybody see parts of that,” he added.

Rep. Adam Schiff, another committee member, told CNN’s Don Lemon later Wednesday that the outtakes “will be significant in terms of what the President was willing to say and what he wasn’t willing to say.”

The California Democrat said the outtakes will show “all of those who are urging him to say something to do something to stop the violence. You’ll hear the terrible lack of a response from the President, and you’ll hear more about how he was ultimately prevailed upon to say something and what he was willing to say and what he wasn’t.”

The video tape outtakes will be one part of a larger presentation during which the committee plans to detail Trump’s lack of attention to the ongoing riot. The committee has said it will focus on the 187 minutes that Trump sat back, refusing to act, as the Capitol was under siege. Some committee members have described this as Trump’s “dereliction of duty.”

The Secret Service and the Missing Text Messages

This shocking story broke last night. Carol Leonig and Maria Sacchetti at The Washington Post: Secret Service watchdog knew in February that texts had been purged.

A watchdog agency learned in February that the Secret Service had purged nearly all cellphone texts from around the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, but chose not to alert Congress, according to three people briefed on the internal discussions.

Joseph Cuffari, Homeland Security Inspector General

Joseph Cuffari, Homeland Security Inspector General

That watchdog agency, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, also prepared in October 2021 to issue a public alert that the Secret Service and other department divisions were stonewalling it on requests for records and texts surrounding the attack on the Capitol, but did not do so, the people briefed on the matter said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal investigations.

The previously unreported revelation about the inspector general’s months-long delay in flagging the now-vanished Secret Service textscame from two whistleblowers who have worked with Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari, the people knowledgeable about the internal discussions said.

In recent days, one former employee approached the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), an independent government-accountability group, and described the decision from Cuffari’s office not to promptly disclose that Secret Service records had been wiped from agency phones starting in January 2021. The group relayed the information to congressional staff, who independently corroborated the account with a second whistleblower.

The congressional staff and two whistleblowers shared a concern that Cuffari’s office not alertingcongressional investigators to the missing records reduced the chances of recovering critical pieces of evidence related to the Jan. 6 attack.

The purged texts of Secret Service agents — some of whomplanned President Donald Trump’s movements on Jan. 6 and shadowed Trump as he sought to overturn the election results — could shed light on what Trump was planning and saying.

This story broke this morning on CNN.

(CNN)The Department of Homeland Security inspector general has directed the Secret Service to stop its internal investigations into what happened to text messages related to January 6 that may have been deleted, according to a letter reviewed by CNN.

The inspector general wrote that the Secret Service should stop investigating the matter because it could interfere with the inspector general’s own investigation into what happened to the agency’s text messages.

The letter adds to the growing tension between the Secret Service and the DHS inspector general over the potentially missing text messages, which are being sought by the House select committee as part of its investigation into former President Donald Trump’s actions and movements on January 6, 2021.

“To ensure the integrity of our investigation, the USSS must not engage in any further investigative activities regarding the collection and preservation of the evidence referenced above,” DHS deputy inspector general Gladys Ayala wrote in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray on Wednesday evening. “This includes immediately refraining from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The inspector general wrote that the Secret Service should explain what interviews had already been conducted related to the text messages, along with the “scope off the questioning, and what, if any, warnings were given to the witness(es).” The inspector general told the Secret Service to respond by Monday.

Today should be interesting for politics junkies. All of the big news organizations are jockeying for scoops about tonight’s hearing. I’m really looking forward to it. 

Have a great Thursday, Sky Dancers!