Former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has flatly rejected suggestions that he deleted key text messages from January 6, 2021, and said the House Democrats committee investigating the matter does not hadn’t even contacted about it.
Mr. Wolf, speaking on the latest edition of The Washington Times’ “Politically Unstable” podcastsays he handed over his government-issued laptops and desktops and two cell phones when he left office, and the government has everything it ever had.
He said he hadn’t dealt with text anyway and said it was “absurd” to suggest he had tried to erase anything.
“I returned a laptop, a desktop computer, two cell phones, a bunch of secure equipment in my house, they snatched it the same day Jan 20. They have everything. They have all my emails, they have all my schedules, they have all my diaries. Everything,” he said. “I’ve always been told that if you work on anything on a government computer or cellphone, there are recordings or backups. Great. They have everything. I returned everything, as they asked me to do.
Questions about Mr. Wolf and former acting undersecretary Ken Cuccinelli were raised a month ago after the Washington Post reported that text messages were “missing during a key period leading up to the attack on the 6 January 2021 against the US Capitol”.
This followed previous reports that messages related to January 6 from officials of the Secret Service, a homeland security agency, had also been lost, as were messages from the Department of Defense.
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The stories coalesced, fueling a firestorm on social media, with allegations of a ‘cover-up’. Some have even compared the missing texts to Watergate and the infamous gap on Nixon’s White House audio tapes.
While all messages from Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli appear to have been lost during the transition to a new administration, criticism has focused on January 2021, when mobs stormed the Capitol and disrupted the vote count of the Electoral College that confirmed President Biden. electoral victory.
The Democratic-led Homeland Security and House Oversight and Reform committees have asked the Homeland Security inspector general to explain why he didn’t alert them sooner than the related messages on January 6 were not accessible.
The two committees also accused “Mr. Cuccinelli was using his personal phone and failed to collect messages from that device.
Mr Cuccinelli, in an email to The Times, dismissed the insinuations of wrongdoing.
“I own a personal phone, but I did my work on my work phone. Although on January 6, I was in the DHS virtual operations room and communicated directly with the agencies there,” did he declare.
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Mr Wolf said complaints about missing messages are misleading when linked to January 6.
He said it appears government records management and retention policies and capabilities, which typically require devices to be wiped after they are returned by an outgoing employee, are the real issue.
But he said no one raised these issues with him while he was head of the department.
“The computer problems didn’t come to the acting secretary,” he said.
The question of how to handle text messages has long baffled federal agencies. All texts dealing with government business, whether sent to official phones or private devices, are potential government records and are meant to be stored as such.
But agencies across government have struggled to achieve this goal.
Under the Obama administration, Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson faced a lawsuit for claiming she deleted material she was required to save.
A 2013 Washington Times review of government agencies found that few agencies had policies in place to combat texting, and the National Archives, which oversees the retention of official records, had not issued any specific guidelines.
Listen to the full episode here: