Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari is being accused of blocking testimony in Congress’ investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. On Tuesday, Rep. (D-MS), chair of the Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to the DHS watchdog requesting compliance.
“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.”
Committee Chairs Bennie Thompson and Carolyn Maloney say the Trump appointed DHS Inspector General, Joseph Cuffari is refusing to cooperate into their inquiry on missing Secret Service text messages. pic.twitter.com/Zprnq1hI1t
— Christopher Webb🇺🇸VOTE (@cwebbonline) August 16, 2022
During the televised hearings by the House Select Committee on January 6th, it was discovered that text messages sent and received both the day before and the day of the Capitol riot had disappeared from the phones of Secret Service agents who may have had intimate knowledge of then-President Donald Trump’s actions on those days – including members of then-President Trump’s security detail.
Inspector General Cuffari previously told the committee that the U.S. Secret Service was blocking his investigation, saying the messages were deleted as part of a pre-scheduled device replacement program.
Top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense also had their messages erased – causing additional concern for the investigative panel.
Congress initially requested the electronic records from the DHS less than two weeks after the Jan. 6 attack – at least 10 days before the scheduled reboot. But it wasn’t until last month that the committee was informed by Cuffari that they weren’t available.
Representatives Maloney and Thompson have asked Cuffari to recuse himself from the investigation, The New York Times reported, citing his refusal to acknowledge the lack of adequacy in the timeliness of relaying such crucial information and saying that they believe the OIG “may have taken steps to cover up the extent of the missing records.”
“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. “You also refused to provide any documents responsive to our request and/or allow your staff to be interviewed, stating, ‘We do not authorize our staff to sit for transcribed interviews with your committee about these ongoing matters.’”
Though the House select committee’s televised hearings are currently on hiatus, the investigation is still very much active behind the scenes. Rep. Maloney and Rep. Thompson have issued a warning to Cuffari that should he continue to refuse their requests, Congress may pursue “alternate measures” to force compliance from the DHS Inspector General, most likely a formal subpoena that a refusal to comply with could lead to criminal contempt charges.
Original reporting by Luke Broadwater and Eileen Sullivan at The New York Times.
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