The White House on Thursday stood by an internal review that cleared a travel office volunteer suspected of inappropriate conduct during the 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia and vigorously disputed a Washington Post report that presidential aides had not thoroughly investigated the matter.
Spokesman Eric Schultz said the White House review after President Obama’s trip to an economic summit in Cartagena focused on interviews with members of the travel advance team and an examination of other records, including a Hilton hotel log that showed that a female guest was registered overnight on April 4, 2012, to the room of travel team member Jonathan Dach.
White House lawyers “looked at these allegations and found there was nothing to them,” Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Obama traveled to California.
The review overseen by then-White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler “was conducted in an aggressive, thoughtful and thorough way,” he added.
The reverberations from the 2012 scandal, in which 10 Secret Service agents and 10 members of the military lost their jobs, have continued to echo through Washington more than two years after the incident. In the aftermath of The Post’s report, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of a House 0versight subcommittee that has been investigating the Secret Service, reiterated his demand, made to the White House in a letter last week, that the president’s lawyers turn over all the information from their investigation.
Schultz declined to say whether the White House would comply with Chaffetz’s request.
White House officials said in the days after the Cartagena trip that none of its personnel, including the travel team members, were implicated in the misconduct. Dach was on the trip as a volunteer assigned to coordinate drivers for the presidential delegation; his expenses were paid by the federal government.
But The Post reported in its Thursday editions that Ruemmler had twice been informed by then-Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan that the agency’s investigation had uncovered information, including the hotel records, that showed the woman registered to Dach’s room.
A separate investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general uncovered additional information, including an eyewitness account from a Secret Service agent. The Post reported that the lead investigator in the Colombia case, David Nieland, told members of Congress that he felt pressured to remove the information from his report and delay final publication until after the 2012 presidential election.
“When the allegations of a White House staffer first surfaced,” Schultz said, “the White House counsel immediately conducted an internal review that included interviews with the White House advance team, and looking at other materials, including contemporaneous accounts. In addition, the White House counsel had requested Secret Service to send over all information related to the White House personnel engaging in inappropriate conduct.”
Schultz said that “based on an absence of information corroborating that log, the White House counsel concluded that there had been no misconduct by the White House advance team.”
Schultz categorically stated that Dach was not treated specially because his father, Leslie Dach, is a prominent Democratic donor who has given thousands of dollars to the party. Both Dachs started working in the administration this year — Jonathan Dach as a policy adviser in the Office on Global Women’s Issues at the State Department and his father as a senior counselor with the Department of Health and Human Services.
In his defense of the White House’s review, Schultz said that a Senate report this year into the DHS inspector general’s office concluded that Nieland’s claims of changes to his report were “part of the ordinary process of editing the report.” In fact, the Senate report stated only that Nieland’s bosses claimed that the changes made to the report were not made under inappropriate pressure.
Schultz offered praise for Ruemmler, who is now in private practice and has been frequently mentioned as one of the top candidates to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
Schultz said Ruemmler conducted the review in a “careful, thorough way.” He would not speculate on potential attorney general replacements but said that the former White House counsel is a renowned attorney who is “respected by members on both sides of the aisle.”