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Top Democrats say DHS inspector general refusing to give Congress information related to missing Secret Service texts

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Secret Service accused of deleting texts
Dept. of Justice asked to investigate deleted Secret Service texts from Jan. 6 05:48

The top Democrats on the House Oversight Committee and Reform Committee and House Homeland Security Committee say the Department of Homeland Security watchdog is refusing to comply with their investigation into missing Secret Service text messages, and they're threatening to issue subpoenas if that doesn't change.  

Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson wrote to DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari Tuesday, calling his agency's "obstruction of the committees' investigations unacceptable." 

Last month, Cuffari informed congressional leaders that members of the Secret Service had erased texts from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, after the DHS inspector general asked for them, as it probes the agency's response to the Jan. 6 Capitol assault. The Secret Service has said the erasures happened "as part of a device-replacement program." 

"In response to the Committees' requests, you have refused to produce responsive documents and blocked employees in your office from appearing for transcribed interviews," the lawmakers wrote. "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.  If you continue to refuse to comply with our requests, we will have no choice but to consider alternate measures to ensure your compliance."

Maloney and Thompson last month urged Cuffari to recuse himself from the text message investigation and hand it over to another inspector general because of the failure to inform Congress that the messages had been destroyed for months after the office was aware this was the case. Last week, they wrote to Cuffari, noting the inspector general's office failed had abandoned attempts to collect the missing messages for months.

Cuffari, in an Aug. 8 letter, insisted his office has been working on the matter diligently, but declined to share information with the committee, citing federal guidelines regarding ongoing criminal investigations. 

"To protect the integrity of our work and preserve our independence, we do not share information about ongoing matters, like the information requested in your letters," Cuffari wrote. "Similarly, we do not authorize our staff to sit for transcribed interviews with your committee about these ongoing matters." 

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a nonprofit independent watchdog, and The Washington Post also reported recently that messages from two top Trump DHS officials from early January 2021 are missing. They say messages between then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and then-Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli were lost because of a "reset" of phones that occurred when they left office. 

The government scuffle over the missing texts comes as the House select committee investigating the Capitol assault considers adding additional hearings as early as September.

— Nicole Sganga contributed to this report.

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