WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Democrats in Congress are demanding that the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general turn over information about deleted Secret Service text messages related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, accusing him of of using delaying tactics to block their investigation.
READ MORE: January 6 Committee subpoenas Secret Service over deleted text messages
In a letter released Tuesday, leaders of the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees said they were prepared to subpoena Inspector General Joseph Cuffari if he did not comply with their demands.
Lawmakers are pushing for Cuffari to provide records and testimony on alleged efforts to cover up the erasure of Secret Service communications related to the Jan. 6 attack. They also want Cuffari to recuse himself from the department’s internal investigation into text processing.
“Your obstruction of committee investigations is unacceptable, and your justifications for this noncompliance appear to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the authority of Congress and your duties as Inspector General,” the chairman of the oversight of the Congress wrote. House, Carolyn Maloney, and Homeland Security Chairman, Bennie Thompson. in the letter.
“If you continue to refuse to comply with our requests, we will have no choice but to consider alternative measures to ensure your compliance,” they wrote.
The renewed request comes a week after Cuffari told the committee he would seek legal advice before providing internal documents about his office’s ongoing investigation or making his staff available for transcribed interviews with lawmakers.
“Sharing information about ongoing criminal investigations could impact potential witnesses or others who may be involved in the investigative process,” Cuffari wrote in an Aug. 8 letter to the two committees. . “To protect the integrity of our work and preserve our independence, we do not share information about ongoing cases, such as the information you have requested in your letters.”
This is just the latest text back and forth since mid-July, when Cuffari sent a letter to Congress revealing that Secret Service text messages sent and received around January 6, 2021 have been deleted despite requests. Congress and federal investigators. that they are preserved.
Since then, both House committees say they have obtained evidence that shows the Inspector General’s office was first made aware of the missing Secret Service text messages as part of its investigation into the attack on the Capitol. American, in May 2021. Security IG officials show that the agency – which oversees the Secret Service – decided to abandon its efforts to recover these text messages in July 2021, almost a year before informing Congress that they had been erased.
Lawmakers want answers about why surveillance officials chose “not to seek critical information from the Secret Service at this stage of this investigation,” and have decided to renew their request to DHS for some text messages only more than four months later in December 2021.
The deletion of the messages raised the prospect of lost evidence that could shed more light on then-President Donald Trump’s actions during the insurgency, particularly after testimony about his confrontation with security as he attempted to join supporters at the Capitol. There are now two congressional investigations into the handling of these communications by the Secret Service and DHS.
The missing texts are also the focus of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, of which Thompson is chairman.
The Secret Service has since turned over a large number of files and documents to the committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, but only one text message between agents the day before the attack and as a crowd of rioters broke into the Capitol building on January 6.
The Secret Service insisted that proper procedures were followed. Agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said last month that “the insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false.”
Maloney and Thompson told Cuffari that its “failure to comply with our outstanding demands has no legal justification and is unacceptable.”
They have given his office until Aug. 23 to provide “all relevant documents” and make staff available for interviews before lawmakers issue a subpoena to Congress.