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Democrats call for investigation into Homeland Security watchdog

DHS inspector general testified it is his 'normal practice to delete text messages'

Joseph V. Cuffari, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, testifies Tuesday during a House hearing.
Joseph V. Cuffari, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, testifies Tuesday during a House hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats on Monday called for an investigation into the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, after the federal watchdog told Congress last week that he regularly deletes text messages from his government phone.

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, and other committee Democrats said they are “deeply troubled” by DHS Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari’s “flagrant disregard” for federal record-keeping laws.

“We ask that you immediately conduct an investigation into his potential unlawful destruction of federal records and report your findings to our Committee,” they wrote in a letter to the head of the federal archives agency.

The letter was also signed by Democratic Reps. Robert Garcia of California, Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia and Kweisi Mfume of Maryland.

The call for an investigation comes less than a week after Cuffari testified before the Oversight panel, during a hearing intended to focus on staffing challenges at the U.S.-Mexico border, that it is his “normal practice to delete text messages.”

Cuffari also said during the hearing that he does not use his government-issued phone “to conduct official business” and that he had not deleted anything “that would be considered a federal record.”

But later, asked by Rep. Glenn F. Ivey, D-Md., what he does use the government phone for, Cuffari replied, “to conduct business.”

Monday’s letter isn’t the first time Cuffari has come under fire over handling of federal records.

Oversight Democrats have previously criticized the watchdog for his failure to notify Congress more promptly of the deletion of text messages by the U.S. Secret Service related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and accused him of obstructing their investigation into the matter.

And last year, the committee — then controlled by Democrats — said it was investigating reports that Cuffari tried to “censor findings of domestic abuse and sexual harassment” by DHS employees.

Cuffari’s latest admission has fueled severe backlash from congressional Democrats. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, and Ivey sent a letter to Cuffari last week that called on him to resign.

“Your apparent violations of Federal criminal laws and your mishandling of key investigations within DHS have undermined any confidence in your ability to carry out your duties. We must restore credibility to the OIG in order to have independent oversight and accountability within DHS,” they wrote. “Your resignation is the necessary first step.”

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