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Cause of Action, a nonpartisan government accountability watchdog, has been investigating Mr. Edwards and sued the government to release records on his travel and complaints from department employees. In July, the group petitioned Mr. Obama to remove Mr. Edwards from office.

“Cause of Action sees the failure of the administration to hold Edwards accountable and Edwards‘ resignation, less than three days before a Senate hearing, as a cowardly excuse to avoid answering difficult questions about allegations of his abuse and misconduct, some of which may rise to violations of the law, in the Inspector General office,” said a statement from the group’s executive director, Dan Epstein.

Each department in the federal government has an inspector general’s office, a watchdog that is supposed to remain independent of the agency leadership. But the nature of the inspector general’s work — finding mistakes and mismanagement and correcting wrongdoing — had some members of Congress worried that, at least in Homeland Security’s case, people were pressuring the investigators to hide missteps in order to make the agency look better.

“I’m concerned because I think we’ve seen what I would believe is improper contact between the inspector general and the general counsel’s office of Homeland Security,” Mr. Johnson said this year. “I’m trying to figure out what that wall of separation really ought to be to maintain the independence of the inspector general.”

Mr. Obama has nominated John Roth, a top investigator at the Food and Drug Administration, to be the department’s inspector general, but the nomination has not been confirmed.