High lawmakers renew name for DHS IG to drop investigation into lacking texts, citing CNN report

House Oversight Committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney and House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson reiterated their calls for Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to step aside in a letter Monday, citing due to concerns about “your lack of transparency and independence, which appears to jeopardize the integrity of a vital investigation run by your office.”

Maloney and Thompson are also requesting transcription interviews with key DHS IG employees. CNN first reported that DHS Inspector General investigators abandoned efforts to recover missing Secret Service text messages in July 2021, a year before Cuffari raised concerns about the integrity of the text messages. Secret Service and DHS transparency to congressional oversight committees.

“The Committees have obtained new evidence that your office may have secretly abandoned an attempt to collect text messages from the Secret Service more than a year ago,” the letter read. “These documents also indicate that your office may have taken steps to cover up the extent of the omission of records, raising further concerns about your ability to independently and effectively perform your duties. as Inspector General (IG).”

The committees will request a range of communications and documents on Monday, ranging from correspondence regarding any decision not to collect or recover text messages to communications related to the notification. for Parliament.

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, on Monday reiterated his call for the Justice Department to investigate the missing text messages.

“This is about the destruction of vital evidence, whether it’s material for the January 6 episode or not. The reality is that this man, Joseph Cuffari, as inspector general, couldn’t get it. got information that should have been passed on from the regulator to someone else and didn’t properly report it to Congress or the agency he was working for, we could have jeopardized some very important evidence. important when it comes to the historical record on January 6, and he considers it more of a routine event than something that should have been marked,” Durbin told CNN’s Don Lemon.

In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General said it “does not discuss ongoing administrative reviews and does not confirm the existence of or otherwise comment on the criminal investigation.”

Watchdogs protect themselves

However, in an internal email to employees obtained by the Government Oversight Project and shared with CNN, Cuffari defended himself and commended them for their work amid “indications”. useless quote”.

“Over the past few weeks, the DHS OIG has been the subject of a lot of public speculation,” Cuffari told employees in an email obtained by the Government Oversight Project and shared with CNN.

“Due to the U.S. Attorney General’s guidelines and quality standards, we are not always able to publicly respond to untruthful and untrue statements about our work,” he wrote. “I’m so proud of the resilience I’ve witnessed in the face of this onslaught of pointless criticism.”

The email, sent at 2:28 p.m. Monday, was sent shortly before key House Democrats accused Cuffari’s office of manipulating and omitting information about the Secret Service investigation. missing and text messages from top DHS officials.

The letter shows that DHS deputy inspector general, Thomas Kait, emailed the senior DHS liaison, Jim Crumpacker, on July 27, 2021, advising DHS investigators not to search the text messages anymore. . Kait is one of the employees the committee wants to interview right now.

“Jim, please use this email as a reference for our conversation where I was told we are no longer requesting phone records and text messages from the USSS. [United States Secret Service] in connection with the events on January 6,” the email said, according to the letter.

The letter also confirms CNN’s report that the poll to text message was reopened in December 2021.

Lawmakers said in Monday’s letter that Kait also removed “primary language” from a February memo to DHS that emphasized the importance of text messages to its investigation. inspector general. The original memo mentioned that most components of DHS did not provide the requested information and noted the text message content was “an important source of information for the DHS OIG review”, but the The final version claims to the contrary, saying it has received a response, according to the letter.

“These documents raise disturbing new concerns that not only has your office failed to notify Congress for more than a year that key evidence in this investigation has gone missing, but staff Your senior has deliberately chosen not to pursue that evidence and then appear to have taken steps to cover up these failures,” the letter read.

It went on to cite lost text messages to two top Homeland Security officials under former President Donald Trump – acting Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. Information obtained by the committee revealed that the inspector general’s office knew in February that those messages could not be accessed but failed to notify Congress. CNN has reached out to Cuccinelli for comment.

Latest Twist in the saga

Monday’s letter is another twist in the ongoing story of messages that went missing around January 6. Memos obtained by CNN show that the Department of Homeland Security repeatedly reminded the force. The workforce complies with Hill’s inspector general and related committees.

After the Office of the Inspector General raised concerns with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about compliance with the requirements, the secretary issued a memo in September 2021 to the workforce stating that employees should cooperate with interviews and provide information.

“The Department is committed to supporting OIG’s mission. DHS employees must cooperate with OIG inspections, inspections, investigations, and other investigations that result in serious consequences,” the memo said. remember to write.

Then, in October 2021, DHS General Counsel Jonathan Meyer issued a memo specific to January 6, 2021, and said the office was cooperating with the House Select Committee investigating the inquiry. Uprising on Capitol Hill.

“I am therefore directing the Department and its Divisions to respond promptly and thoroughly to any Selection Committee requests received by the Commission,” the memo states. “Such cooperation and transparency are vital to the Department’s obligation to defend our Nation and its fundamental democratic principles.”

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