Lawmakers familiar with the investigation into a prostitution scandal involving U.S. Secret Service agents said Thursday that they expect more employees will soon depart — either by resigning or being fired.
The scandal involves 11 Secret Service employees and 10 military personnel alleged to have been involved in bringing prostitutes to the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, on April 11, during a night of heavy drinking and partying. The employees were members of a security detail sent to Colombia in advance of President Obama’s visit to the town on Friday for an international summit.
On Wednesday, the Secret Service announced the departure of three employees linked to the scandal. An agency statement said one agent was expected to resign and another, a supervisor, was to retire. A third, also a supervisor, has been recommended for firing but will have an opportunity to appeal, officials said.
Along with Issa and Cummings on Thursday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) also said he had been told to expect a mix of voluntary resignations and firings among the eight remaining Secret Service personnel.
King, whose staff has been in “constant contact” with the Secret Service, said the 11 agents involved in the scandal underwent drug tests and polygraph exams. Agency investigators in Colombia have visited all of the hotels where Secret Service personnel stayed and have interviewed each of the maids who cleaned rooms in the Hotel Caribe, he said.
Even if those eight remaining personnel depart, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan should stay put, Issa and Cummings said.
“If you know what needs to happen to fix something, you should stay and fix it,” Issa told reporters, noting that Sullivan’s decision to stay on so far is a wiser choice than that made by Martha N. Johnson, who until recently led the scandal-plagued General Services Administration. “If anything, the GSA administrator, who sat on a story for 11 months then issued how it should be fixed and then resigned, is missing the point: She should have fixed it for 11 months and then resigned, if she thought that was appropriate.”
Cummings said Sullivan “is leaving no stone unturned” as he leads the agency’s investigation.
“I think you’ll find that 99 percent of the people who are familiar with Sullivan here on the Hill have a lot of confidence in him,” Cummings said. “He was extremely upset about this, and I believe, just based on the things he said to me, if it were up to him, every single one of them would have been fired on the spot.”
“He’s just earned a great reputation, and I think that’s what is carrying him right now,” Cummings added.
The White House also expressed support for Sullivan on Thursday, the Associated Press reported, and appeared frustrated with repeated requests for new information on the scandal.
“What I’m not prepared to do is to offer you sort of day-by-day commentary on new revelations or even new actions taken with regards to this investigation while it’s still underway,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, according to AP. “I don’t think that’s helpful to the process.”
Carney said Obama remained confident in the Secret Service chief, though he said the president had not talked with Sullivan since the incident unfolded. Senior White House aides were in touch with Sullivan about the ongoing investigation, AP reported.
Top congressional Democrats weighed in on the revelations for the first time Thursday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the scandal “a stunning thing.”
“There has to be an investigation to see how this could have happened, and those responsible will have to pay a price,” she said, adding later that “I don’t see how those who were involved in this should be able to continue.”
And Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the employees under investigation were “stupid,” but that “there is not a bill we can pass to cause people to have common sense.”
Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.
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