The January 6 committee may have closed up shop when the GOP took over the House, but that doesn’t mean that Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who was its chairman, has stopped scouring the landscape for targets. On Thursday, Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, called on Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to resign, citing deleting “business” texts on a government-issued phone and bungling an investigation into deleted Secret Service text messages.
Why would a Democrat go after an IG in a Democratic administration? Maybe because Cuffari is a Trump administration holdover whose resume includes a stint as a policy adviser to Republican Governors Jan Brewer and Doug Ducey of Arizona. Oh—and because the texts he deleted may have had to do with the whereabouts and movements of Secret Service agents on Jan. 6.
Last July, Cuffari admitted that the Secret Service, which currently falls under the purview of DHS, conspicuously deleted text messages on January 5 and January 6. Those messages would have been valuable to the Jan. 6 committee. Not long after Cuffari’s admission, members of Congress learned that Cuffari and his team actually knew that the texts were deleted—and had known for months, without notifying congressional investigators.
If anything, the call by Thompson and Congressman Glenn Ivey, the ranking member of the subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability, has been measured and reserved. It’s taken them this long to demand that someone else have Cuffari’s job despite the mounting evidence against the inspector general. Earlier this week Thompson and Ivey introduced the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Transparency Act aimed at addressing “years of troubling reports calling into question the quality, effectiveness, and transparency of the DHS Office of Inspector General’s oversight activities as well as its management,” according to a press release.
Keep in mind that this isn’t just any old inspector general job. DHS covers border security, immigration, the Secret Service, and cyber security, among other topics. Whoever runs oversight over that agency is in an enormously important and influential position. Cuffari’s tenure satisfied, to some extent, Donald Trump’s agenda. Thompson’s moves suggest that Cuffari’s conduct is still in line with the Trump administration’s values. Thus the push to get Cuffari out as soon as possible.
“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,” the two Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter publicized on Thursday. “We must restore credibility to the OIG in order to have independent oversight and accountability within DHS. Your resignation is the necessary first step.”
It’s amazing it’s taken this long for Democrats to make these calls.