President Joe Biden has not ruled out firing the Department of Homeland Security supervisor who allegedly shut down efforts to retrieve Secret Service text messages requested by a House select committee on Jan. 6, according to sources familiar with the internal proceedings and debates of the Biden administration.
The independent has learned that the White House is reviewing recently reported information about the conduct of DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, including a 2013 Justice Department inspector general’s report that questions whether he misled Congress in the process confirmation 2019.
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Biden did not plan to remove Mr. Cuffari despite reports that his team had ordered Secret Service officials to stop efforts to retrieve messages they sent and received by members of Mr. Trump’s protective detail during the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.
But a source familiar with internal White House discussions says The independent that Biden administration officials are “now reviewing the events and the situation surrounding her [Mr] Cufarri, following recent revelations about his text messages and reports about his past behavior.”
The source would not contradict Ms. Jean-Pierre’s statement that Mr. Biden does not currently plan to fire Mr. Cuffari — a process that would begin by notifying Congress that he intended to remove him within 30 days — but emphasized that the president’s lack of plans does not mean he will not take action if warranted by the unique situation presented by Mr. Cuffari’s alleged misconduct.
Another source who has frequent contacts with the White House said The independent Mr. Biden is aware of the reports about Mr. Cuffari and said the president would not hesitate to remove him or any other official who does not meet the highest ethical standards.
Secret Service officials say the missing messages, sought by congressional investigators for more than a year, were accidentally deleted during a scheduled phone upgrade program. Mr. Cuffari informed select committee investigators of the deletions after the Secret Service received a subpoena from the committee, but later reports revealed that he did not inform the committee that he had ordered career staff in his office to stop efforts to have experts work. to recover the missing data.
Mr. Cuffari also failed to inform Congress that cellphone messages used by former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and his former chief of staff, Ken Cuccinelli, had also been deleted after the two former Trump administration officials left .
More recently, the House Oversight Committee released a 2013 report from the Justice Department’s office of inspector general in which DOJ investigators found that Mr. Cuffari had violated ethics rules during his tenure as a special agent in the office of the DOJ IG.
DOJ investigators found that he had violated conflict-of-interest regulations when he recommended that a federal prison inmate hire lawyers with whom he had a personal relationship, and that he violated a separate ethics rule by testifying for the defense in a civil lawsuit against the government without first receiving the consent of his supervisors.
Upon confirmation of his current role in 2019, he responded to a Senate questionnaire about whether he had ever been the subject of an IG investigation, describing that he had been interviewed about his conduct in connection with the civil suit in which he had testified, but had not he did say he was the subject of the investigation.
In a statement, the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, Carolyn Maloney, and the Jan. 6 committee’s select chairman, Bennie Thompson, said the report “raises even more questions” about whether Mr. Cuffari can conduct the investigation into the missing texts with “impartiality and integrity”.
Ms. Jean-Pierre said Thursday that Mr. Biden “believes in the independent role of inspectors general and that they serve an important function in ensuring accountability for the American people.” The former president had vowed not to fire any of the government’s independent watchdogs during his 2020 election campaign, citing his predecessor’s tendency to fire inspectors general when investigations began that could embarrass his administration.
At the time, Biden said he would not remove any inspector general for working to “keep the government honest,” but ethics experts and senior members of Congress are now calling on him to renege on that promise, citing Mr. Cuffari to fulfill his promise. work on the missing texts.
A spokesman for Mr. Cuffari’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment The independent.