WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over the past several weeks, Americans have learned that the Trump-appointed inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, Joseph Cuffari, is facing pressure over erased Secret Services text messages. He has been accused of refusing to release documents, blocking interviews, and delaying the probe into the Secret Service.
According to a new report from The Revolving Door Project, a watchdog group at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Cuffari is just a small part of the leftover Trump loyalists who are still influencing President Joe Biden's government. At the same time, the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago helped further highlight the culture of the obstruction of justice through document destruction.
Cuffari has been described as the “kind of laissez-faire watchdog Trump [was] looking for” when seeking to nominate IGs friendly to his own cavalier attitudes around government processes.
It's also unclear if the former president destroyed documents after his presidency. While cable news clamors to cover every detail of passports taken and the continuously evolving excuses from the former president, former Justice Department staff have warned that the real issue is the danger to national security.
"I would consider it to be noise or distraction when the fact is, again, there are real national security issues at play and that should be the focus," said Brandon Van Grack, a former lawyer on Robert Mueller's team who specializes in national security and espionage. "It's really important that we're not distracted by the cacophony and really focus on the important information..."
Cuffari’s time at DHS has been described as “nearly dormant” by The Washington Post, after he created a mere fraction of the reports the previous inspector general did. As the third-largest agency, Homeland Security's IG would have had a lot to do when it comes to oversight, but Revolving Door's report described him as "asleep at the wheel."
"It is this laissez-faire environment that allowed for – if not facilitated – the wanton destruction of crucial materials that were (and remain) of interest to other federal agents and agencies, Congress, and the public at large," the group said.
The overarching concern, however, is that Cuffari isn't the only holdover that continues to promote Trumpism in the Biden government. Sean O'Donnell was Trump's appointee at the Environmental Protection Agency. He was confirmed less than a year before Trump was out of office. Then Trump appointed O'Donnell to be the IG for the Department of Defense at the same time as the EPA. Trump had fired well-regarded Glenn Fine, who was conducting oversight regarding the COVID-19 pandemic response.
After it was reported that text messages from Secret Service agents had been deleted, it was also revealed that Pentagon officials also wiped their phones at the end of the Trump presidency. The Department of Defense said it was a standard procedure.
The watchdog group American Oversight published court documents claiming that the government phones were "wiped" of all information at the time Vice President Mike Pence and officials in Congress were calling and messaging demanding help at the U.S. Capitol.
"Perhaps the massive overstretching of O’Donnell’s capacity to manage oversight of the DoD enabled the accountability vortex which saw the DoD, joining its Secret Service colleagues, destroy crucial evidence and communications from senior leadership," suggested the Revolving Door report.
Meanwhile, FBI Director Chris Wray, another Trump appointee, has funneled taxpayer dollars to surveilling Black Lives Matter protesters, abortion activists, and “animal rights extremists.” Meanwhile, radical right-wing terrorists are threatening the lives of Wray's own agents, a federal judge and at least one of them attempted to attack the state FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio last week.
"Wray failed to take seriously the quite public indications that the right was set to attempt a coup on January 6th, and it was his apathy that effectively allowed seditionists to run free through the Capitol halls," attacked the Revolving Door Project. "Of course, Wray also told Congress that the FBI simply does not have the mandate nor the resources to monitor and track social media in attempting to justify how January 6th caught the bureau unawares, but records show that the FBI did find the time and resources to do just that when it came to criminalizing the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020."
At the same time, it has been revealed that Wray ignored reports from the public about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was a nominee. Instead of investigating the reports, Wray turned them over to Trump.
Revolving Door concluded by saying that it has been more than a year and a half and the Trump appointees have no place in the American government, particularly after they failed to preserve documents and prioritize national security.
"We cannot wait until the next constitutional crisis – and the apparent flurry of destroyed evidence that accompanied the last one – to begin acting on the dangers these figures pose to the public," the group closed.
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