House Democrats investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol have issued a scathing letter that accuses the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general of covering up the extent of missing text messages related to events on that day.
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, who leads the House’s Jan. 6 and Homeland Security committees, accused Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari of reporting to Congress that texts were missing about 14 months after first learning the message were unavailable.
The Democratic lawmakers on Monday also said they have papers that reveal the inspector general’s office “secretly abandoned” efforts to obtain the messages over a year ago. They want Mr. Cuffari to step aside from the investigation.
“These documents also indicate that your office may have taken steps to cover up the extent of missing records, raising further concerns about your ability to independently and effectively perform your duties,” the lawmakers wrote.
House lawmakers want the text messages because they might offer critical details about former President Donald Trump’s actions before and during the Capitol riot, which occurred after Mr. Trump aired grievances about the 2020 election results in a speech to supporters near the White House.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Secret Service agents told her Mr. Trump lashed out at agents in his vehicle on Jan. 6 when he was told it would be impossible to take him to the Capitol with the crowd.
Members of the Secret Service indicated they were ready to dispute that account, leading to a fight over the texts from that day and whether they’d been deleted forever.
Ms. Maloney and Mr. Thompson said they reviewed emails that suggest the inspector general’s office dropped efforts to obtain the text messages in mid-2021.
“It is unclear to the committees why your office chose not to pursue critical information from the Secret Service at this point in this investigation. Information obtained by the committees indicate that more than four months later, on December 3, 2021, your office finally submitted a new request to DHS for certain text messages,” they wrote.
The lawmakers demanded all communications related to efforts to retrieve the text messages and reiterated their call for Mr. Cuffari to be replaced.
“We recently called for you to step aside from this matter and for a new IG to be appointed in light of revelations that you had failed to keep Congress informed of your inability to obtain key information from the Secret Service,” they wrote. “Removing yourself from this investigation is even more urgent today.”
Politico obtained an email from Mr. Cuffari to his workforce that suggests he is ready to push back against Congress.
“Because of the U.S. Attorney General guidelines and quality standards, we cannot always publicly respond to untruths and false information about our work,” Mr. Cuffari wrote Monday. “I am so proud of the resilience I have witnessed in the face of this onslaught of meritless criticism.”
He also thanked everyone for remaining calm and working long hours to respond to congressional and media inquiries.