At Subcommittee Hearing, DHS Inspector General Cuffari Admits to Destroying Federal Records

Jun 6, 2023
Press Release
Subcommittee Democrats Highlight Repeated Failures Under IG Cuffari’s Leadership

Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2023)—Rep. Robert Garcia, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs, led Democrats in addressing the serious concerns about Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari’s conduct as Inspector General for the department of Homeland Security (DHS).

 

“Under Inspector General Cuffari’s leadership—Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General has developed a pattern of flawed and misleading investigations, including a failure to report rampant sexual misconduct and harassment at DHS, and a failure to investigate and disclose to Congress missing Secret Service text messages from the January 6th insurrection.  I would also like to address the report on which this hearing is based—a report that is misleading, nonrepresentative of the broader agency, and deeply flawed.  The DHS Office of Inspector General claimed that the purpose of their work was to gain insight into staffing.  Instead, the report made sweeping generalizations about morale at CBP and ICE,” said Ranking Member Garcia in his opening statement.

 

Subcommittee Democrats explained the longstanding ethics, credibility, and independence concerns related to Inspector General (IG) Cuffari.

 

  • Under questioning by Rep. Glenn Ivey, IG Cuffari admitted to consistently deleting text messages from his government issued iPhone because of his unilateral assessment that the messages were not required to be preserved under the law.  Deleting federal records—including text messages—are potentially violations of the Federal Records Act.

 

  • Ranking Member Jamie Raskin described how IG Cuffari did not immediately report to Congress the Secret Service’s refusal to comply with requests for information regarding the disappearance of thousands of text messages sent on federally issued phones around the January 6, 2021, insurrection, as he was statutorily required to do.
  • Rep. Daniel Goldman unveiled IG Cuffari’s efforts to categorically prevent DHS OIG employees from taking part in transcribed interviews regarding text messages deleted by Secret Service agents on January 6, 2021, and his ability to independently and effectively perform his duties as Inspector General.  “You just blanketly refused to permit them, even though they could, of course, come in here and say they can’t answer specific questions related to ongoing investigations?” Mr. Goldman asked.  “That’s correct,” Mr. Cuffari responded.  “I find it remarkable that we are having this hearing with someone with a very clear vendetta and political, politicized approach to the job of an independent Inspector General,” Mr. Goldman said.

 

Committee Democrats scrutinized IG Cuffari’s flawed work, including the recent report on morale at CBP and ICE, which undermines his ability to provide accurate and timely evidence to Congress and the American public.

 

  • Ranking Member Garcia called into question the validity of the recent report on morale at CBP and ICE, noting that it was based on a “non-statistical survey” with only 16% of CBP and ICE staff responding to the inquiry—Mr. Garcia likened the survey to an informal poll conducted on Twitter.  “An examination of your report shows that it is exceptionally flawed, and I am stunned that you and your team released this report – it does not meet the standards required of Inspectors General or, quite frankly data collection of any kind,” Mr. Garcia said.  “If you don’t actually conduct statistical analysis, you’re not actually going to get a real report.”

 

  • In his closing remarks, Ranking Member Garcia condemned the IG’s report, explaining:  “This work in this report would never be accepted in a basic stats class.”  He continued, “I personally have no confidence in your ability to hold up the mission that you are intended to do. Coming in here with a study that doesn’t meet the basic standards of data reliability by your own admission should be an embarrassment.  An Inspector General who does not understand his own duties, who resists basic Congressional oversight, who is deleting federal records, who is under investigation, and who has lost the faith of his workforce has no business serving.”

 

Given his failure to respect the rule of law and his troubling actions as DHS IG, Committee Democrats made clear that IG Cuffari is not fit to lead the agency.

 

  • Following a question from Rep. Stephen Lynch, IG Cuffari confirmed that the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency is investigating numerous allegations against him, including his failure to comply with Congressional requests:  “I have to say that, based on the evidence I have before me, our relationship with you is different. It is different.  We have not had the cooperation and relationship of trust that we have had with other Inspectors General.  We have not had that with you,” Mr. Lynch said.

 

  • Ranking Member Garcia highlighted a report from the Project On Government Oversight that outlined Mr. Cuffari’s efforts to censor findings of sexual harassment and misconduct at the Department of Homeland Security.  “Twenty-eight thousand DHS employees were surveyed, and more than 10,000 of the 28,000 reported experiencing sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace, yet the report was shelved,” Mr. Garcia said.

 

  • Rep. Maxwell Frost brought to light that, while IG Cuffari touted his organization’s federal employee viewpoint survey, which measures employee engagement, 66% of Mr. Cuffari’s employees “do not believe that senior leadership maintains high standards of honesty and integrity.”  In response to Rep. Frost, Mr. Cuffari admitted that he was aware that less than half of his staff in the Office of Counsel felt like they could safely disclose suspected wrongdoing.  Rep. Frost emphasized his concern “I find this incredibly alarming, especially when coupled with the fact that you’ve run away from any efforts to conduct oversight in your office, using taxpayer money, $1.4 million, to contract a law firm to run away from accountability on your part.”

 

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118th Congress