Dem Chairs Demand DHS IG Recuse Himself From Probe Into Missing Secret Service Texts

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 02: A U.S. Secret Service agent wears a face covering as Marine One, with U.S. President Donald Trump onboard, leaves the White House for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the S... WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 02: A U.S. Secret Service agent wears a face covering as Marine One, with U.S. President Donald Trump onboard, leaves the White House for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the South Lawn of the White House on October 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for coronavirus. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Democratic chairs of the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees are demanding that DHS inspector general Joseph Cuffari recuse himself from the investigation into the deleted Secret Service text messages around the time of the Capitol insurrection, following the Washington Post’s report last week about Cuffari’s months-long delay in informing Congress about the missing messages.

Last week, the Post reported that Cuffari found out in February that the Secret Service had deleted texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, but chose not report it to Congress. Cuffari also reportedly decided against releasing a public alert that his office had prepared in Oct. 2021 about the Secret Service stonewalling its requests for records and texts surrounding the attack on the Capitol.

House Oversight chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Homeland Security chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) — who also chairs the Jan. 6 Select Committee — wrote to Cuffari and Allison Lerner, chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, in a letter dated Tuesday. The top House Democrats said Cuffari’s failure to inform Congress that the Secret Service was stonewalling his requests for records related to the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 “cast serious doubt on his independence and his ability to effectively conduct such an important investigation.”

“These omissions left Congress in the dark about key developments in this investigation and may have cost investigators precious time to capture relevant evidence,” Maloney and Thompson wrote. “There must be no doubt that the Inspector General leading this investigation can conduct it thoroughly and with integrity, objectivity and independence. We do not have confidence that Inspector General Cuffari can achieve those standards.”

Maloney and Thompson noted that Cuffari told Congress in Nov. 2021 that DHS “significantly delayed” the inspector general’s access to records, but Cuffari failed to disclose that the Secret Service was the source of the access issues. They also pointed to Cuffari becoming aware in Dec. 2021, two months earlier than previously reported, that text messages sent and received by Secret Service agents related to the events surrounding Jan. 6 had been deleted.

“Yet, Inspector General Cuffari took no steps to inform Congress of this serious and flagrant violation of federal records laws,” Maloney and Thompson wrote. “The DHS IG’s failure to promptly report and escalate the Secret Service’s stonewalling calls into question whether Inspector General Cuffari has the professional judgment and capacity to effectively fulfill his duties in this investigation.”

The letter to Cuffari comes after the Secret Service reportedly determined that it is unable to recover deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 to the Jan. 6 Select Committee in response to the panel’s subpoena earlier this month. A senior official briefed on the matter told the Washington Post at the time that any other texts that agents exchanged around the time of the deadly Capitol insurrection were purged.

The agency, however, reportedly produced an “initial set of documents” to the committee in response to its subpoena — thousands of which had been shared previously with an agency watchdog and congressional committees.

A Secret Service official who spoke with CNN earlier this month said that the document production did not include any of the potentially missing texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021. The official reportedly said the agency was unable to recover any records that were lost during a phone migration in that time period.

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