The Secret Service’s excuses for why text messages from Jan. 5th and. Jan. 6, 2021 were erased have changed again. Joseph Cuffari, the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, contacted the House Select Committee on Friday and told the panel that he’s been stonewalled by the U.S. Secret Service, who have been stalling when asked to produce documents. Instead, he was told the requested tests disappeared during a “device replacement program” after initially blaming the erasure on “software upgrades.”
Retired Secret Service Assistant Deputy Director Jim Helminski isn’t buying it. The veteran agent of three presidencies – Clinton, Bush, and Obama – placed the blame on Tony Ornato, calling out the former secret service agent and former deputy Chief of Staff for Mark Meadows.
Let’s be clear, the Secret Service didn’t erase the text messages Ornato USSS who was also Trump’s Deputy CoS did!!!! And the USSS investigation authority is cyber and cell phones. So Secret Service find the erased text! https://t.co/jpzXZQo8eG
— Jim Helminski (@jhelminski) July 15, 2022
Helminski went on to suggest the investigative panel go back to December 18 – the same day as the “unhinged” meeting in the West Wing where Trump’s White House counsel clashed with his conspiracy theory pushing attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell – claiming that’s where the “real story” is.
1) Why hasn't the Director put Ornato, and any relevant employee on admin leave until issues are resolved?
2) Why just text messages around Jan 5/6th? Go deeper to the Dec 18th Oval meeting where the "stop the steal" originated. That's the full story. https://t.co/JusEkQY4d0
— Jim Helminski (@jhelminski) July 16, 2022
The Secret Service has pushed back on the Office of the Inspector General’s accusations, insisting that the erasure happened before Cuffari requested the records – not after. But while Cuffari may not have made the request until February, records show Congress asked for them to be turned over to the committee ten days after the Capitol riot, according to The Guardian.
Inspector General Cuffari has suggested to the panel that the erased texts can be “reconstructed.” A successful retrieval in 2018 helped the inspector general retrieve deleted messages between two high-level FBI officials investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-President Trump.
Jim Helminski has been critical of former advisor Ornato from the beginning, criticizing his switch from Trump’s Secret Service detail to the West Wing, all while keeping his Secret Service post. According to Helminski, that’s something unheard of,
I've been saying this elevation of Ornato to Dep. Chief of Staff stunk from the beginning. Unethical as hell. Simply an attempt to control USSS security. You don't detail an agent to the WH and they keep their USSS job. They quit the USSS first. Not here. Tweeted in April pic.twitter.com/BJjJrqFTpi
— Jim Helminski (@jhelminski) July 1, 2022
It’s been reported that Ornato is a Trump loyalist, and after Cassidy Hutchinson’s public testimony in June – his attempts to discredit her accounts — accounts that were corroborated by previous Ornato testimony, and unnamed agents – reveal an ulterior motive. The erasing of key communications while the agency’s actions on Jan. 6th are being investigated makes then-Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to get in a car with them after the attempted coup a smart move.
The select committee has subsequently subpoenaed the Secret Service text messages.
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