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‘Obfuscation And Obstruction’: Lawsuit Demands National Archives Obtain Secret Service, DHS Jan. 6 Texts

  • A journalist has sued the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to obtain Secret Service and top Homeland Security officials’ text messages on January 6, 2021.
  • The Secret Service and DHS had previously claimed that the messages were deleted at the start of the Biden administration and are unavailable, though the lawsuit claims otherwise.
  • Journalists and investigators are seeking the text messages to find clues about former President Donald Trump’s actions on January 6, which are the subject of a criminal probe.

A new lawsuit in federal court is suing the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to obtain text messages between Secret Service and Homeland Security officials about former President Donald Trump.

Ken Klippenstein, a reporter for The Intercept, filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday. It asks the Court to order NARA to seek the Department of Justice’s subpoena power to obtain all text messages “sent or received by 24 Secret Service personnel during the period of December 7, 2020, through January 8, 2021,” as well as those sent by top Trump DHS officials at the time, according to the complaint.

Trump, during this period, had suggested that the 2020 presidential election was being “stolen” and met with advisers to find ways for him to remain in office. On January 6, when Congress met to certify the results, hundreds of Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and disrupted the proceedings, which later resulted in several Congressional inquiries about the day’s events.

Investigators and journalists have been seeking the Secret Service text messages referenced in the complaint for clues about Trump’s activities prior to and during January 6, which is the subject of a federal criminal probe by DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith. Previously, the Secret Service said that it couldn’t provide the messages after claiming they were deleted in a re-set of software at the start of the Biden administration.

They are also seeking text messages sent by former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, around this time, which DHS said were also deleted during software re-sets, according to the complaint. Wolf and Cuccinelli were the top Homeland Security officials in the final days of the Trump administration, overseeing both the Secret Service and the department’s election security work.

Klippenstein’s suit argues that NARA has violated federal law, specifically the Federal Records Act, by not acting swiftly through DOJ to obtain the text messages from the Secret Service and DHS. According to the suit, the DOJ and FBI have the forensic capabilities to recover the text messages even if they were deleted.

NARA sent a letter to the Secret Service in July requesting the messages but has neither received them nor followed up since then, per the complaint. The complaint accuses the Secret Service of “obfuscation and obstruction,” for failing to provide them, claiming that “each day that passes without aggressive measures being taken to recover these critical messages makes it more likely that they cannot be recovered.”

Klippenstein’s lawsuit, in part, is motivated by another controversy regarding DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, a Trump appointee, who is himself being investigated for alleged inaction to procure the messages. The complaint cites Cuffari’s alleged “obstruction” as a reason for seeking NARA intervention.

Cuffari “knew about this records destruction for months without notifying anyone,” according to Klippenstein, in a letter his lawyers sent to NARA in July before filing the suit, which is referenced in the complaint.

This lawsuit is one of several legal proceedings involving the NARA regarding Trump. The agency had previously reported Trump to the DOJ for failing to provide it with classified information stored at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., resulting in a highly controversial raid on the property in August.

NARA told the DCNF it did not comment on litigation matters.

The Daily Caller News Foundation has contacted Klippenstein and the Secret Service for comment.

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