National Security

Durbin calls for DOJ probe of missing Jan. 6 texts from Secret Service, Trump-era DHS officials

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is calling on the Justice Department to intervene amid reports that a government watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) repeatedly failed to alert improper handling of government documents.

Durbin’s call follows news that there are additional texts that cannot be accounted for among top Trump administration DHS officials Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, appearing to mark a second time that Inspector General Joseph Cuffari failed to follow protocols for alerting higher-ups over serious mishandling of public records.

“The destruction of evidence that could be relevant to the investigation of the deadly attack on our Capitol is an extremely serious matter. Inspector General Cuffari’s failure to take immediate action upon learning that these text messages had been deleted makes clear that he should no longer be entrusted with this investigation,” Durbin said.  

“That’s why I’m sending a letter today to Attorney General [Merrick] Garland asking him to step in and get to the bottom of what happened to these text messages and hold accountable those who are responsible,” Durbin added.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to request for comment, nor did Cuffari’s office.

The call from Durbin comes just two weeks after a similar move from lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Oversight Committee asking Cuffari to step aside after he failed to notify Congress in a timely manner of what he called “erased” Secret Service text messages. 

Cuffari told Congress about the issue this month, despite being alerted in December of last year that the text messages could not be accessed. 

“These omissions left Congress in the dark about key developments in this investigation and may have cost investigators precious time to capture relevant evidence,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter. 

“Inspector General Cuffari’s actions in this matter, which follow other troubling reports about his conduct as Inspector General, cast serious doubt on his independence and his ability to effectively conduct such an important investigation. In light of these serious failures, we request that Inspector General Cuffari step aside from the ongoing investigation into the Secret Service’s erasure of text messages,” the two lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers said the failure to notify could be a violation of the Inspector General Act — which requires inspectors general to report particularly serious matters to the head of their agency within seven days.

Updated at 4:04 p.m.

Tags Bennie Thompson Carolyn Maloney Chad Wolf Congress Department of Homeland Security Department of Justice Dick Durbin Dick Durbin House Oversight Committee Inspector General Act Jan. 6 Joseph Cuffari Joseph Cuffari Ken Cuccinelli Merrick Garland Senate Judiciary Committee
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