The Maryland lawmaker and ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has kept close tabs on the scandal since it broke in mid-April, and Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan invited Cummings and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to speak at today’s sessions, scheduled to be held at a facility in Laurel.
Issa won’t be able to attend, but Cummings said he plans to show up to try and buck up the rank and file.
“It’s not going to be a take-them-out-and-beat-them-up session, that’s for sure,” Cummings said Tuesday. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for these guys. These ladies and gentlemen have signed up with a willingness to take a bullet for somebody else, and that’s pretty patriotic to me and pretty courageous.”
“We don’t like what happened, but we realize that they themselves will be harder on themselves than probably the Congress, because of their pride in the organization,” Cummings added. “And we have to remind them that they have to continue to have excellence. And that it is their duty to weed out the bad apples.”
In the wake of a scandal that implicated 12 agents and officers for a night of heavy drinking and payments to prostitutes two weeks ago in advance of President Obama’s visit to Cartagena, Sullivan last week distributed a list of new rules that codify a traditionally unwritten code of conduct. Among other restrictions, the new rules ban staffers from bringing foreigners into their hotel rooms, drinking alcohol within 10 hours of duty and visiting “non-reputable establishments.”
The agency also plans to put all of its 3,500 agents and 1,400 uniformed officers through mandatory ethics training. Professors from Johns Hopkins University who specialize in teaching ethics and management courses will lead the classes, according to Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan.
Cummings’s appearance at the first session comes as the Secret Service is due to provide answers this week to the House Oversight and Homeland Security panels about what the agency has done in the weeks since the scandal. Agency officials were expected to submit answers by Tuesday afternoon, but aides said the information had yet to arrive. A Senate committee is also investigating the scandal, and the Homeland Security inspector general plans to probe how the agency responded to the misconduct.
Asked if Sullivan’s invitation was meant to help the director keep his job, Cummings said Sullivan and the agency have nothing to fear: “It’s not going to go away,” he said of the Secret Service. “As a matter of fact, it’s an essential organization and it’s an organization that is viewed like the Navy SEALs and viewed like the folks who guard the leaders of Israel. These kinds of folks are the elite.”
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