The wrongfully-installed “acting” head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ordered changes in 2020 to a report on Russian interference saying it would hurt then-United States President Donald Trump, according to a report from the department.
The report from the DHS Office of the Inspector General, which was released in redacted form on May 3 2022, also said that Chad Wolf — referred to by the acronym “AS1” rather than by name — delayed the release of the information about Russian efforts to meddle in the 2020 presidential election.
Despite a weapons-grade attempt to foment disinformation narratives to the contrary, Trump lost that election to Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden, which inspired a right-wing coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol in January 2021.
A spokesperson for the agency told CBS News that the report “raises concerns over the prior Administration’s inappropriate interference in the review and clearance process for an intelligence product.”
The report cited interviews with several officials including Brian Murphy, who at the time was acting DHS under secretary for intelligence and analysis (I&A). It stated that Wolf made the request during a meeting on July 8 2020:
We interviewed the Acting USIA, who told us the Acting Secretary asked the product be held because it made President Trump look bad and hurt President Trump’s campaign — the concept that Russia was denigrating candidate Biden would be used against President Trump. The Acting USIA also told us he took contemporaneous notes of the meeting, a copy of which we obtained. The notes … read “AS1 – will hurt POTUS – kill it per his authorities.” The Acting USIA told us these notes meant that the Acting Secretary told him to hold the product because it would hurt President Trump; he also believed the Acting Secretary was referring to authorities possessed by the DHS Secretary.
The report also includes a photograph of Wolf’s notes issuing that directive:
Murphy had told CBS News in October 2021 that during Wolf’s tenure, DHS did not want to report on disinformation out of Russia, which had also meddled in the 2016 presidential election on Trump’s behalf. Murphy said:
Wolf told me that the plan with respect to the administration was to downplay Russian disinformation, that was supporting the Democrats … and instead, upscale the threat from China. That’s where the real manipulation by the politicals came into effect. The same thing with Iran. I’m not dismissing China and Iran as threats, particularly in the disinformation space, but they differ on scale and their objectives. The Russians are the best at it. There’s no one that even comes close.
When asked about the allegation Wolf reportedly told investigators, “I play no part in approving I&A intelligence products. I am also not part of the review chain with respect to intelligence products.” However, the report noted that Wolf requested an interview in writing, rather than talking to someone or meeting in person.
The Washington Post reported on July 28 2022 that text messages from both Wolf and his acting deputy secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, were “missing for a key period” prior to the January 2021 coup attempt against the U.S. Capitol.
According to the newspaper, the agency told DHS Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari’s office that messages from the two men were “lost in a ‘reset'” of their official phones when they departed their positions prior to Biden’s inauguration.
The office of Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari did not press the department leadership at that time to explain why they did not preserve these records, nor seek ways to recover the lost data, according to the four people briefed on the watchdog’s actions. Cuffari also failed to alert Congress to the potential destruction of government records.
Rep. Bernie G. Thompson, who is chairing the House committee investigating the Capitol atack, said in a statement that it was “extremely troubling that the issue of deleted text messages related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol is not limited to the Secret Service, but also includes Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, who were running DHS at the time.”
Wolf claimed on Twitter that reporters for the Post gave him “just hours to ‘respond'” while he was traveling, and added a statement:
I complied with all data retention laws and returned all my equipment fully loaded to the Department. Full stop. DHS has all my texts, emails, phone logs, schedules, etc. Any issues with missing data needs to be addressed to DHS. To imply otherwise is lazy reporting.
Wolf’s appointment to “acting” DHS secretary was declared unlawful by U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in November 2020, meaning that he was acting outside his authority when after being installed by Trump, Wolf attempted to curtail the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which allowed U.S. residents who were brought into the country by undocumented immigrant parents to obtain two-year work permits.
In September 2021, the Biden administration proposed a rule that would reinstate the program, which originated in 2012, during Biden’s tenure as Vice President in the administration of then-President Barack Obama.
“The proposed rule recognizes that enforcement resources are limited, that sensible priorities must necessarily be set, and that it is not generally the best use of those limited resources to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived since early childhood and whose languages they may not even speak,” the proposed rule stated.
“It recognizes that, as a general matter, DACA recipients, who came to this country many years ago as children, lacked the intent to violate the law, have not been convicted of any serious crimes, and remain valued members of our communities.”
Update 7/28/2022, 10:31 p.m.: Updated with report that text messages from both Wolf and his acting deputy secretary leading up to January 6 2021 were reported missing. — ag