What is an Inspector General (IG)? The Inspector General Act of 1978 created a system of overseers who work within, but independently of, federal agencies, to detect and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse. Inspectors General are to be selected “without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial and management analysis, law, public administration, or investigations.” Agencies are prohibited from interfering in IG investigations, and there is a dual reporting structure where an Inspector General reports to both the agency head and to Congress. The act has been updated three times to expand the number of statutory IGs and enhance their independence, transparency, and accountability. Then came Trump…
Action #1: Call the Department of Defense Inspector General’s hotline.
My name is ____ and I’m calling from _____. I understand that this is a hotline for reporting violations of law and criminal misconduct involving the DOD, so I’m calling about the text messages that were illegally wiped from the cell phones of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy in the days after the attack on the Capitol.
As a concerned citizen, I urge you to heed Senator Durbin’s request to conduct an independent investigation into this egregious lapse in protocol and security, as it’s very likely that serious federal crimes were committed. Please get to the bottom of it and report back to the American people.
Action #2: Send a message to President Biden.
Most Americans will go a lifetime without knowing the names of Inspector Generals. Unfortunately, we’ve had a political tragedy of a lifetime – a violent coup attempt to steal a presidency. Through the January 6th Special Committee investigation, we now know names of Trump appointees at DoD, DHS, and the Secret Service who helped in the cover-up of the coup plotting. Shamefully, these officials included Inspectors General DHS IG Cuffari and DoD Acting IG O’Donnell, both of whom had a sworn duty to prevent fraud and abuse, and to serve the American public in a non-partisan manner. That these men broke their oath to us is bad enough, that they are possibly the subject of future federal indictments for violations of the Federal Records Act dictates that they be removed from their office now. Please immediately appoint new Acting IGs for DoD and DHS, while working with the Senate to confirm permanent appointees with professional integrity and no political agenda.
Action #3: Tell your senators to dump Cuffari and O’Donnell and pass H.R.5633 – DHS Inspector Transparency Act.
Minimal script for senators: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen. [___] to demand that President Biden immediately replace Joseph Cuffari as Inspector General of the Dept. of Homeland Security and expedite the confirmation of Robert Storch as Inspector General of the Dept. of Defense.
I also want Sen. [___] to pass the House bill H.R.5633 – Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Transparency Act, which adds significant and specific requirements to what has become a rogue office under Cuffari.
- Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
- and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884
- Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
Action #4: Call your Representatives – Yes on H.R. 1301 – To direct the (NEW) DOD IG and the Comptroller General of the United States to submit to Congress reports regarding white supremacy in the Armed Forces.
This bill requires the Inspector General of the Department of Defense to submit a report containing a list of all steps the Inspector General is taking to combat white supremacy in the Armed Forces. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office must submit a report on the prevalence of white supremacy in the Armed Forces, including recommendations on legislation to combat such an issue. We need to stop training future insurrectionists with taxpayer dollars and we need to be able to trust that our troops will protect democracy, not demagogues.
Minimal script for representatives: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep. [___] to quickly pass H.R.1301 – To direct the Inspector General of the Department of Defense and the Comptroller General of the United States to submit to Congress reports regarding white supremacy in the Armed Forces. (No cosponsors yet)
- Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26): email, DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
- or Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24): email. DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
- Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
The January 6th Hearings and subsequent revelations have shown us that the violent invasion of our Capitol building could not have succeeded without the assistance of Trump appointees, such as the Inspectors General (IGs) of DoD and DHS, who aided and abetted the insurrection by allowing vital evidence to be destroyed.
Earlier that year, Trump had replaced several Inspectors General, starting with the IG for the intelligence community, who had informed Congress of the whistleblower complaint of Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, which led to Trump’s first impeachment. He also replaced the IGs for the State Department, Department of Transportation, Department of Health & Human Services, and the Department of Defense (DoD).
- Department of Defense (DoD): Chris Miller, then the Acting Secretary of Defense, refused multiple requests to call in the National Guard to put a stop to the growing riot. The current Acting IG at DoD, Sean O’Donnell, has been serving in that role since April 2020 and without legal authorization since November 15, 2021, when his ”Acting” term expired. (Biden nominated Robert Storch to replace him in November 2021, but his confirmation has been held up in the Senate, perhaps because he once criticized Tucker Carlson for spreading misinformation.)
- While O’Donnell remains in office, we have learned that the DoD wiped the phones of top departing DoD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting any texts from key witnesses to events surrounding the January 6, 2021 attack. This was first revealed in a FOIA lawsuit by watchdog organization American Oversight, seeking January 6 records from former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, among other prominent Pentagon officials.
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Then-Secretary Chad Wolff and then-Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cucinelli also prioritized the corrupt former president’s wishes over those of Congress and the American people. The DHS IG, Joseph Cuffari, nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate in July of 2019, has a history of covering for Trump and is STILL IN THE DHS IG POSITION TODAY, where:
- He rejected his staff’s recommendation to investigate the Secret Service’s role in the forcible clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square for Trump’s photo op in June 2020.
- He sought to limit the scope of the investigation into the spread of COVID-19 within the Secret Service, which had been attributed to the Trump Re-Election Campaign not following COVID guidelines.
- Mishandled a whistleblower complaint about Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli, and Kirstjen Nielsen politicizing DHS assets. On April 27, 2021, Brian Volsky, former head of the DHS IG’s whistleblower protection unit, filed a memo with the Council of Inspectors General (CIGIE) documenting the mishandling of that complaint.
- Cuffari’s office learned in December 2021 that Secret Service text messages from around January 6th, 2021 had been deleted. His staff members planned to contact the respective offices, collect the phones, and use data recovery specialists to recover them. But Cuffari decided not to review any of the phones, instead just writing to Congress in July 2022 that the text messages were lost.
- In February 2022, when Cuffari learned that the text messages of former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and acting DHS Deputy Ken Cuccinelli were lost in a reset after they left the DHS, he did not investigate the deletion of those records.
- Secret Service: Trump favorites in the Secret Service like Tony Ornato and Robert Engel also prioritized his desire to remain in power regardless of the voters’ will.
- Missing Text Messages Prompted Internal Pentagon Policy Review, 8/05/22
- First on CNN: Jan. 6 text messages wiped from phones of key Trump Pentagon officials, 8/02/22
- Exclusive: DHS inspector general knew of missing Secret Service texts months earlier than previously known, CNN, 7/29/22
- House Democrats call for a new inspector general in Secret Service text investigation : NPR, 7/26/22
- DHS inspector general tells Secret Service to stop investigating potentially missing texts – CNNPolitics, 7/21/22
- Secret Service Ties to Trump Ring Alarm Bells Amid Jan 6. Revelations, Newsweek, 6/30/22
- DoD’s acting IG is in his position unlawfully, GAO finds | Federal News Network, 6/28/22
- Trump-Appointed Inspector General’s Office Had Sexual Misconduct Findings Removed From Report Rolling Stone, 4/08/22
- Biden Names Pick for Pentagon Watchdog, Filling Job That’s Been Vacant for Half a Decade | Military.com, 11/15/21
Big Picture on Government Oversight
- Letter to Attorney General Garland and Director Wray: CREW
- Accountability: The Path to Improve Government Effectiveness and the Antidote to Authoritarianism Project on Government Oversight, June 2022
- Did Whistleblower Reprisal Help Set the Stage for a January 6 Intelligence Failure?, POGO, July 2021
- Increasing Transparency of Inspector General Reporting, POGO, May 2022, includes good IG history
- The ‘Burrowing In’ of Political Appointees – American Oversight, 5/13/21
- The ‘deep state’ of loyalists Trump is leaving behind for Biden – POLITICO, Jan. 19, 2021
- Dozens of Trump appointees ‘burrow’ into Biden government | The Hill, 3/09/21
- DHS watchdog declined to pursue investigations into Secret Service during Trump administration, documents show – The Washington Post, 4/19/21
- BlueLeaks Documents Bolster Whistleblower Account of Intelligence Tampering at Homeland Security, The Intercept, 9/12/21
- DHS OIG, Whistleblower Reprisal Complaint, Sept. 8, 2020, PDF
- These are all the inspectors general Trump has fired or replaced – CBS News, 5/19/20