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Top Democrats say Trump-appointed inspector general is not helping with inquiry into missing Secret Service texts

Joseph Cuffari has refused to recuse himself, testify, provide documents or let his employees be interviewed, according to a letter sent by two House committee chairs Tuesday.

The Democratic chairs of the House Oversight Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee sharply criticized the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general Tuesday for refusing to testify or share documents related to his office’s handling of missing Secret Service texts, according to a letter sent to DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari.

The committees have previously urged Cuffari to recuse himself from the investigation into the missing text messages sent by Secret Service employees around the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in large part because he failed to notify Congress that the messages were missing until over a year after he knew they had been lost.

Cuffari refused to recuse himself, testify before the committee, provide documents or allow his employees to be interviewed, according to the letter sent by the two committee chairs Tuesday. 

“Your obstruction of the Committees’ investigations is unacceptable, and your justifications for this noncompliance appear to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of Congress’s authority and your duties as an Inspector General,” the letter from Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Bennie Thompson said. “If you continue to refuse to comply with our requests, we will have no choice but to consider alternate measures to ensure your compliance.”

DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari.
DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari.Department of Homeland Security

The committees have subpoena power to compel individuals to testify or hand over documents as part of congressional investigations. The committees allege Cuffari is in violation of the Inspector General Act for not complying with his reporting obligations to Congress. 

Cuffari, a Trump appointee, has been in the position of DHS inspector general since July 2019. According to emails obtained by the committees, Cuffari’s deputy, Thomas Kait, retracted DHS’s request for the missing text messages in July 2021, then later criticized the agency for losing them.

Maloney and Thompson are also seeking information on whether Cuffari “censored findings” in another investigation related to domestic abuse and sexual harassment by DHS employees, according to the letter.