The watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has abandoned efforts to recover missing text messages from its various agencies that were deleted after January 6 and downplayed the claims. deductions for those who failed to create them, according to emails released by the lawmakers.
The evidence, released Monday by the House Homeland Security and Oversight Committee, accompanied a new call for Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to drop his investigation into how DHS agencies responded to January 6 attack.
“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 seniors knowingly chose not to pursue that evidence and then appear to have taken steps to cover up these failures,” the committees wrote in a letter to Cuffari.
The panel said it also obtained evidence that Cuffari’s office did not attempt to retrieve records from a former DHS official’s personal cell phone.
The letter marks the second time in a week that Representative Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.), chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, have announced request that Cuffari reuse himself after the investigation.
They wrote: “It is even more urgent to exclude yourself from this investigation than it is today.
Letters from committees provide more details following a Friday report from washington articles outlines how Cuffari’s office halted efforts to recover or retrieve text messages from the Secret Service or from top Trump-era DHS officials.
Cuffari first notified lawmakers earlier this month that some of the agents’ text messages had been “deleted” as part of a device replacement program. (The agency thinks that any text messages that may be missing are lost through the software transition.)
Documents obtained by the Government Oversight Project also indicate that Cuffari was unable to receive text messages from acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf or his deputy Ken Cuccinelli.
In each case, Cuffari knew for months that the messages had been lost and only informed lawmakers of problems with the Secret Service, a potential violation of the law governing the totality of payments. Investigations require prompt notification of “particularly egregious or flagrant” violations of public records laws.
“Your July 13, 2022 letter does not mention that a year earlier, and just six weeks after you requested the initial text message from Secret Service personnel, senior officials in Your office has instructed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the Office of the Ombudsman. The General Directorate (OIG) no longer needs Secret Service text messages as part of the investigation into the January 6 attacks,” the committees wrote.
Two investigative teams received an email from Cuffari’s deputy, Thomas Kait, directing a liaison officer to thwart the attempt to collect text messages.
“Jim, please use this email as a reference to our conversation where I said we are no longer asking for phone records and text messages from the USSS. [United States Secret Service] regarding the events of January 6,” Kait wrote on July 27.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) would reverse the process about 4 months later and look for some of the messages, but when the watchdog hit a wall in collecting them, it eased the problem for a while. agency memo.
An initial February document noted that the OIG did not receive the requested information. But Kait and others edited the document, writing instead that they “received a consistent and timely response from each component to our December 3, 2021 request; however, additional information and clarifications are needed before we can complete assessments. “
Other information obtained by the committee said that Cuffari’s office had known since January that Cuccinelli was using his personal phone for DHS business, “but your office did not seek to collect messages from this device,” it said.
Neither Cuffari’s office nor the Department of Homeland Security responded to requests for comment.
The letter asks Cuffari to turn over all communications about the decision not to pursue the text messages, as well as all emails related to their decision to ultimately notify Congress of the messages. message is missing.
Concerns about Cuffari extend beyond two tables.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene and pass the January 6 investigation at DHS. Thompson’s other committee, the commission that investigated the riot, also published a letter to Cuffari saying he may have broken the law by not ensuring more timely notification of the missing files.
Update: 5:18 pm