DHS watchdog slams ‘assault of baseless criticism’ amid Jan 6 Secret Service texts

Cuffari did not specify which criticisms he said were unfounded. But two hours after sending his memo, two House committee chairs blew a letter saying they had obtained evidence showing that Cuffari’s office “may have secretly abandoned efforts to collect Secret Service text messages over a year ago.”

“These documents raise troubling new concerns that your office not only failed to notify Congress for more than a year that key evidence in this investigation was missing, but your senior officials deliberately chose not to pursue that evidence and then appear to have taken steps to cover up those failures,” read the letter from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who leads the Jan. 6 select panel as well as the Homeland Security Committee, and Chief Rep. monitoring Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.).

Maloney and Thompson also renewed their calls for Cuffari to step aside from his office’s scrutiny of the Secret Service’s handling of the Jan. 6 violence.

Cuffari’s email suggests he has no such plans. And his Monday afternoon memo urging staff to “support each other” implied that the close scrutiny lawmakers were giving his office was worrisome for his workforce.

“Thank you to everyone who stayed calm, carried on and got the job done,” he continued. “Special thanks to our Front Office and External Affairs teams, who maintained a phenomenal pace working long hours to prepare and coordinate meetings and respond to Congressional and media inquiries.”

The Office of the Inspector General of Public Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The DHS Independent Watchdog’s Office, which handles Secret Service oversight, began to take heat earlier this summer after reports that texts related to Jan. 6 from some Secret Service personnel had gone missing. .

The Inspector General’s office learned earlier this year of the disappearance of the messages, but forgot to tell Congressas reported by the Washington Post, and the Jan. 6 select committee last month assigned the secret service in its growing push to get the messages.

Amid that tension, Cuffari’s Monday post met with less than total sympathy. A DHS Inspector General’s Office official tells POLITICO that Cuffari and his immediate staff are “exceptionally unqualified to lead the office of an Inspector General, and the current negative congressional and media review confirms this.” .

“The DHS OIG’s crucial surveillance mission has been compromised,” continued the official, who was granted anonymity due to fears of further retaliation, “and there will be no course correction as long as Cuffari leads the DHS IGO”.

And Liz Hempowicz, public policy director of the nonprofit Project on Government Surveillance, told POLITICO that Cuffari’s portrayal of the criticism he faces is part of a pattern as she calls for his removal.

POGO, a government watchdog group, obtained a file showing that Cuffari’s team learned in February of this year of the disappearance of the Jan. 6 texts from two senior DHS officials. But, the Washington Post reportedCuffari did not inform Congress of the matter – a potential similarity to the Secret Service messaging problem – and did not attempt to find the officials’ texts.

“There is a clear pattern, going back months, that Cuffari has no respect for his role as inspector general,” she said in a statement. “Every time we report another inexplicable misstep that makes it clear that Cuffari isn’t fulfilling his mission, he doubles down and pretends it’s okay and just trust him. Biden should remove Cuffari as DHS inspector general now. DHS needs a credible watchdog.

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