Calls for the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security to step aside from the investigation into the now-infamous “erased” text messages have increased among lawmakers.
The call appears to stem from Inspector General Joseph Cuffari waiting months to alert Congress that messages from the agency on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, had been erased as part of a device replacement program.
In a letter calling for Cuffari to step aside, House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) expressed “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.”
The two lawmakers write that Cuffari’s “omissions… may have cost investigators precious time to capture relevant evidence.”
Comparing Cuffari’s actions when handling the text messages to “other troubling reports about his conduct as Inspector General,” the lawmakers question “his independence and his ability to effectively conduct such an important investigation.”
They conclude with a call for the Inspector General to “step aside from the ongoing investigation into the Secret Service’s erasure of text messages.”
The request is significant as the Inspector General is expected to review matters at the agencies they hold accountable impartially.
But, in the letter — that lawmakers ask the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to appoint a different inspector general to conduct the investigation — Cuffari’s impartially is thrown into doubt.
The lawmakers assert that Cuffari knew as far back as December 2021 that messages sent and received by the Secret Service for the period it’s investigating had been erased, but “took no steps to inform Congress of this serious and flagrant violation of federal records laws.”