DHS IG Joseph Cuffari Rebukes House Criticism of Lost Secret Service Texts

DHS IG Joseph Cuffari Rebukes House Criticism of Lost Secret Service Texts Text messages in cellphone screen with abstract hologram speech bubbles. Instant messaging app (Tero Vesalainen/Dreamstime)

By Charles Kim | Tuesday, 02 August 2022 11:42 AM EDT

Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari took issue with House committee leaders' criticism of how his office was handling the collection of Secret Service text messages relating to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee's investigation.

"Because of the U.S. Attorney General guidelines and quality standards, we cannot always publicly respond to untruths and false information about our work," Cuffari wrote in an email sent Monday, obtained by Politico. "I am so proud of the resilience I have witnessed in the face of this onslaught of meritless criticism."

While not being specific in the memo about how his office was being criticized, two House committee chairs sent out a letter shortly after accusing him of "secretly abandoned efforts to collect text messages from the Secret Service more than a year ago."

"The committees have obtained new evidence that your office may have secretly abandoned efforts to collect text messages from the Secret Service more than a year ago," the letter from House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Committee on Homeland Security Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., read. "These documents also indicate that your office may have taken steps to cover up the extent of missing records, raising further concerns about your ability to independently and effectively perform your duties as inspector general."

Cuffari was confirmed for the post by the Senate during the administration of President Donald Trump in 2019, had previously served as a policy adviser to Arizona GOP Govs. Doug Ducey and Jan Brewer, and also served for more than 40 years in the United States Air Force, according to his DHS biography.

According to the letter, Cuffari notified Congress about the erasure of the text messages from Jan. 5-6, 2021, in July, but documents they obtained show he knew more than a year before that about the missing texts. The letter questioned why he did not "pursue" the matter.

"These documents raise troubling new concerns that your office not only failed to notify Congress for more than a year that critical evidence in this investigation was missing, but your senior staff deliberately chose not to pursue that evidence and then appear to have taken steps to cover up these failures," the letter said. "We recently called for you to step aside from this matter and for a new IG to be appointed in light of revelations that you had failed to keep Congress informed of your inability to obtain key information from the Secret Service.

"Removing yourself from this investigation is even more urgent today."

The pair then asked for other communication items to be turned over to Congress by Aug. 8 regarding the lost texts.

Cuffari's memo thanked those on his staff who have worked to get information to the committees.

"Thank you to everyone who has remained calm, carried on, and gotten the work out," the memo read, Politico reported. "I especially thank our Front Office and External Affairs teams, who have kept up a phenomenal pace working long hours to prepare for and coordinate meetings and respond to congressional and media inquiries."

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