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Chairs Maloney and Thompson Call for DHS Inspector General to Step Aside from Investigation of Erased January 6 Text Messages

Washington, D.C. (July 26, 2022)— Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari and Chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) Allison C. Lerner requesting that Inspector General Cuffari step aside and CIGIE appoint a new Inspector General to lead the ongoing investigation into erased Secret Service text messages related to the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.  The Chairs raised concerns about Inspector General Cuffari’s failure to promptly inform Congress of deleted Secret Service text messages despite being required by law to “immediately” report problems or abuses that are “particularly serious or flagrant.”

“We are writing to express our grave concerns with Inspector General Cuffari’s failure to promptly notify Congress of crucial information while conducting an investigation of the Secret Service’s preparation for and response to the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” wrote the Chairs.  “These omissions left Congress in the dark about key developments in this investigation and may have cost investigators precious time to capture relevant evidence.  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.  In light of these serious failures, we request that Inspector General Cuffari step aside from the ongoing investigation into the Secret Service’s erasure of text messages and whether Secret Service personnel complied with federal recordkeeping requirements, and that the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) appoint a different Inspector General to complete the investigation.”

On January 16, 2021, Chairs Maloney and Thompson, along with other committee chairs, wrote a letter to DHS and other agencies requesting that they produce to the Committees documents and materials that relate to the January 6 insurrection.  On February 26, 2021, DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) requested records of electronic communication from the Secret Service for its own investigation into the January 6 attack.  Despite the legal obligation to preserve those records, the Secret Service reportedly undertook a system migration process on January 27, 2021, that caused the erasure of text messages related to the January 6 insurrection.

In December 2021, DHS OIG became aware that text messages sent and received by Secret Service agents related to the January 6 insurrection had been erased—two months earlier than what has been previously reported, according to a briefing by Secret Service officials to Committee on Homeland Security staff on July 21, 2022.  Despite being required by law to immediately report serious abuses, Inspector General Cuffari took no steps to formally alert the relevant agency head or Congress of the flagrant violation of federal records law, until more than six months later on July 13, 2022.

The Oversight and Homeland Security Committees have been investigating independence concerns related to Inspector General Cuffari for several years, with the Chairs writing letters in March 2020, concerning Inspector General Cuffari’s handling of investigative reports and in May 2022, concerning reports that he sought to censor findings of domestic abuse and sexual harassment by DHS employees.  Inspector General Cuffari has refused to comply with the Committees’ May 2022 request.

During the Trump Administration, Inspector General Cuffari reportedly refused to investigate the Secret Service’s actions surrounding excessive use of force, as well as its protocols on protecting officials during the coronavirus pandemic, contradicting recommendations from DHS OIG career staff.

Click here to read today’s letter.

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