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Report: DHS inspector general previously accused of misleading investigators

The Homeland Security inspector general overseeing a probe into deleted Jan. 6 Secret Service messages once was accused of misleading investigators, in accordance with a 2013 report released Wednesday.

Why it matters: Joseph Cuffari, a Trump appointee, has been facing calls to step aside amid allegations of a cover-up in his office’s investigation in to the deleted messages. The report raises new questions about his conduct in another of probably the most critical oversight roles in the government.

Details: The 2013 investigation discovered that Cuffari, a special agent overseeing a Department of Justice inspector general field office in Arizona, violated several agency requirements and federal ethics regulations, including using his public office for private gain.

  • He didn’t properly notify the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) he provided testimony at the request of a plaintiff in an incident against the authorities, per the report. The Inspector General manual dictates he must have “notified the correct OIG officials and obtained approval before testifying.”
  • Nonetheless, DOJ OIG investigators “were skeptical of Cuffari’s assertion to us” regarding his presence at the hearing. “Cuffaris purported response was materially unique of what he previously e-mailed his supervisors about one hour earlier,” per the report.
  • They did “not believe” Cuffari’s explanation for having less disclosure.
  • Cuffari at one point also provided the names of two “lawyer friends of his” to mom of the plaintiff who sought his testimony, based on the report.

Of note: An interior team recommended a far more in-depth overview of Cuffari’s actions through any office of Inspector Generals investigations unit, based on the report. But he retired soon after and visited work with then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), the Washington Post notes.

What they’re saying: House Oversight chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and House Homeland Security chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) stepped up their demands Cuffari to step aside following release of the newly disclosed report, citing what they called his “repeated failures.”

  • “The 2013 memo we have been releasing today raises yet more questions about whether Mr. Cuffari can complete this investigation with impartiality and integrity as Inspector General,” they said in a statement.
  • “We realize that Inspector General Cuffari sat on the data of the erased texts for per year, choosing never to notify Congress and also discouraging their own investigators from recovering key information.”

Another side: Cuffari’s office didn’t immediately return Axios’ obtain comment, but his spokesperson told WashPost he’s pleased with his records in both Air Force and the DOJ OIG, noting his several awards and he “retired with a spotless record from DOJ OIG.”

  • Cuffari told Politico earlier this week in reaction to criticism of his office’s Secret Service investigation that protocols prevented him from publicly responding “to untruths and false information regarding our work,” but he’s “pleased with the resilience I’ve witnessed when confronted with this onslaught of meritless criticism.”

The picture as a whole: CNN reported on the weekend that Cuffari allegedly learned of the missing Secret Service messages linked to the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol riot four months after it occurred.

  • The Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the insurrection, which Thompson also chairs, has since subpoenaed the trick Service and Cuffari has launched a criminal investigation in to the matter.
  • Maloney and Thompson demanded Cuffari’s office provide documents and interviews, citing emails indicating his staff could have tried to avoid efforts to get the deleted messages.

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