Jan. 6 committee condemns Homeland Security inspector general for 'obstruction' over missing Secret Service messages

·3 min read
Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat, is interviewed by reporters after a hearing.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat is the chairman of House Select Committee investigating the January 6 capitol attack.Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
  • Jan. 6 committee members criticized the DHS inspector general's handling of the missing Secret Service texts.

  • The inspector general also blocked DHS employees from testifying before Congress.

  • Cuffari told Congress last month that all texts from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021 had been erased.

Top Democrats are scrutinizing the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, Joseph V. Cuffari, for blocking testimony inquiries and his role in the deleted Secret Service texts sent during the January 6 attack on the US Capitol requested by the committee, lawmakers wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney 0f New York, chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, write in the letter that Cuffari's failure to comply with the committee's outstanding requests "lacks any legal justification."

"You have refused to produce responsive documents and blocked employees in your office from appearing for transcribed interviews," the letter said. "Your obstruction of the Committees' investigations is unacceptable, and your justifications for this noncompliance appear to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of Congress's authority and your duties as an inspector general."

Cuffari, who was appointed in 2018 by President Donald Trump, claimed the Secret Service was hampering the investigation, but lawmakers think he didn't adequately carry out an inquiry, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Earlier this summer, the committee requested that DHS turn over Secret Service text messages sent on or around January 6, 2021. However, it was later revealed that the relevant text messages had been deleted due to a "mobile phone system migration" that wiped all the data.

The Secret Service submitted a single text message to the committee.

The committee wrote that Cuffari's failure to disclose that the messages had been erased was a violation of the Inspector General Act of 1978. The act requires an inspector general to "immediately" flag any serious abuses or problems relating to the administration and send them to the appropriate congressional committee within seven calendar days. Thompson and Maloney wrote that it took 14 months for the Department of Homeland Security to disclose that the texts were unavailable.

The committee members say they are concerned that the inspector general is "improperly" hiding behind the guide of a criminal investigation to "hide evidence from Congress" of his "misconduct" and "mismanagement."

Cuffari was previously asked by the committee to recuse himself, allowing another inspector general to continue the investigation, but he did not.

"You gave no indication that you would step aside from the investigation, raising the prospect that the inquiry could be further compromised," the lawmakers wrote.

The committee gave Cuffari a hard deadline of August 23 to comply with their requests for transcribed interviews and to turn in the responsive documents, otherwise they will consider "alternate means" to ensure the inspector general's "compliance."

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