Lawmakers Call for DHS Inspector General to ‘Step Aside’ from Secret Service Probe
Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari failed to notify Congress about the Secret Service’s refusal to comply with his office’s investigation for months, top lawmakers said.
Top lawmakers have called on the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security to step aside from an investigation into the Secret Service's handling of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari should "step aside" from the investigation for failing to promptly notify Congress about the Secret Service's refusal to comply with requests for information about the January 6 attack, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mass.), the respective chairs of the Oversight Committee and Homeland Security Committee, said in a letter sent to Cuffari and the chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
At issue is the erasure of Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, the day prior and the day of the deadly insurrection that took place as Congress was certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Cuffari acknowledged in a letter sent to the Homeland Security committee earlier this month that the Secret Service erased text messages pertaining to the attacks after officials in his office requested records of electronic communications for both days from the agency.
Cuffari told lawmakers the messages were erased as part of a device-replacement program.
But Maloney and Thompson wrote the inspector general had a legal obligation to "immediately" report serious problems or abuses, and instead failed to notify Congress about the Secret Service's months-long refusal to comply with his oversight requests.
“These omissions left Congress in the dark about key developments in this investigation
and may have cost investigators precious time to capture relevant evidence,” their letter read. “Inspector General Cuffari’s actions in this matter, which follow other troubling reports about his conduct as Inspector General, cast serious doubt on his independence and his ability to effectively conduct such an important investigation.”
Both the House Oversight Committee and Homeland Security Committee have been investigating "independence concerns" surrounding Cuffari for several years, the letter said, and added that the inspector general's office first became aware of the deleted text messages in December of last year – two months earlier than previously reported.
The lawmakers said they wrote numerous times about the “alarmingly slow pace” of reports coming from the inspector general’s office, as well as "numerous shortcomings" related to its oversight of the death of two children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection, and urged CIGIE Chair Allison Lerner to lead the council in appointing another inspector general to oversee the investigation into the Secret Service.
"Due to the nature and importance of this investigation, there must be no doubt that the Inspector General leading this investigation can conduct it thoroughly and with integrity, objectivity, and independence," the letter said. "We do not have confidence that Inspector General Cuffari can achieve those standards."