Top lawmakers renew call for DHS IG to walk away from investigation into missing texts, citing CNN reports

Top lawmakers renew call for DHS IG to walk away from investigation into missing texts, citing CNN reports
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House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney and House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson reiterated their call for Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to step aside in a letter Monday.

“We write to you with new and serious concerns about your lack of transparency and independence, which appears to be jeopardizing the integrity of a crucial investigation led by your office,” they said in the letter.

Maloney and Thompson also require transcribed interviews with key DHS IG staff members. CNN first reported that DHS inspector general investigators abandoned efforts to recover missing Secret Service text messages in July 2021, a year before Cuffari raised concerns about Secret Service and DHS transparency to congressional oversight committees.

“The committees obtained new evidence that your office may have secretly abandoned efforts to collect Secret Service text messages more than a year ago,” the letter said. “These documents also indicate that his office may have taken steps to conceal the extent of the missing records, raising further concerns about his ability to independently and effectively perform his duties as Inspector General (IG).”

The committees are requesting a list of communications and documents by Monday, ranging from correspondence related to any decision not to collect or retrieve text messages to communications related to notifying Congress.

CNN has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General for comment.

The letter shows that a DHS Assistant Inspector General, Thomas Kait, wrote an email to a senior DHS liaison, Jim Crumpacker, on July 27, 2021, informing DHS investigators that they were no longer looking for text messages. Kait is one of the staff members the committee wants to interview now.

“Jim, please use this email as a reference to our conversation where I said we no longer request phone records and text messages from the USSS. [United States Secret Service] related to the events of January 6,” the email said, according to the letter.

The letter also confirms that CNN reported that the texting investigation was reopened in December 2021.

Lawmakers said in Monday’s letter that Kait also removed “key language” from a February memo to DHS that underscores the importance of text messages to the inspector general’s investigation. The original memo mentioned that most DHS components had not provided the requested information and noted that the content of the text messages is a “critical source of information for DHS OIG review,” but the final version said to the contrary, saying they had received responses, according to the letter.

“These documents raise troubling new concerns that not only did his office fail to notify Congress for more than a year that critical evidence was missing from this investigation, but that his senior staff deliberately chose not to seek that evidence and then appears to have taken steps to cover these failures,” the letter says.

It goes on to cite missing text messages for the two top Homeland Security officials under former President Donald Trump: Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. Information obtained by the committee revealed that the inspector general’s office knew in February that those messages could not be accessed, but did not notify Congress. CNN has reached out to Cuccinelli for comment.

Monday’s letter is another twist in the ongoing saga of missing messages around January 6. Memos obtained by CNN indicate that the Department of Homeland Security repeatedly reminded the workforce to comply with the inspector general and relevant Hill committees.

After the Office of the Inspector General raised concerns with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about compliance with the requests, the secretary issued a September 2021 memo to the workforce saying employees must cooperate with interviews and provide information.

“The Department is committed to supporting the mission of the OIG. DHS employees are expected to cooperate with OIG audits, inspections, investigations, and other inquiries. lead to serious consequences,” the memorandum says.

Then, in October 2021, DHS General Counsel Jonathan Meyer issued a specific memo dated January 6, 2021, saying the office was cooperating with the House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.

“Therefore, I direct the Department and its components to respond to any Select Committee request it receives in an expeditious and thorough manner,” that memo says. “Such cooperation and transparency are vital to the Department’s obligation to safeguard our nation and its fundamental democratic principles.”

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