In one example from the draft report on sexual misconduct, Kristen Fredricks, the inspector general’s chief of staff, objected to including the finding that the department’s law enforcement agencies had paid 21 employees nearly $1 million in settlements from sexual-harassment-related complaints, despite inspectors finding “in most instances” no record of an investigation or disciplinary action in those cases.
“Faulty premise,” Ms. Fredricks wrote in comments about the draft report. “Why/how are you correlating settlements with investigations and disciplinary action???”
Mr. Cuffari also directed his staff to remove parts of another draft report on domestic violence committed by officers in the department’s law enforcement agencies because it was “second-guessing D.H.S. disciplinary decisions without full facts.”
The inspector general’s office did not respond to emailed requests for comment on Tuesday.
Mr. Cuffari, a Trump appointee who has served as inspector general since July 2019, has previously blocked investigations, against his staff’s recommendations. He blocked inquiries into the Secret Service’s role in the violent dispersal of protests against police brutality outside the White House in 2020, and on the spread of Covid-19 within that agency. He also delayed an inquiry into whether senior homeland security officials demoted an employee who had criticized the Trump administration.
Inspectors general are independent, internal watchdogs for federal agencies, though they can be removed by the president. When asked in late April if President Biden would fire Mr. Cuffari for interfering with inquiries, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said only that “there can be changes made.”
A White House official later said Mr. Biden would leave it to Mr. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, to decide how to handle the revelations. But only the president can fire an inspector general, and a department secretary does not typically interfere with the work of the watchdog office.
The letter from the House committees also said the inspector general’s office “could not provide a timeline” for when a final version of the sexual misconduct report would be published. The draft report obtained by The Times was dated December 2020. The final version of the other report, on domestic violence, was published in November 2020.