April 22, 2012

More firings expected in Secret Service scandal

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The chairman of a House committee investigating an alleged Secret Service prostitution scandal predicted more firings as key lawmakers and a top adviser to President Barack Obama expressed confidence Sunday that the agency will effectively deal with the incident.

click image to enlarge

People walk past Hotel El Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, late Thursday, April 19, 2012. Eleven Secret Service employees are accused of misconduct in connection with a prostitution scandal at the hotel last week before President Barack Obama's arrival for the Summit of the Americas. The identities of two Secret Service supervisors who have been pushed out of the agency in the wake of the scandal have been revealed. (AP Photo/Pedro Mendoza)

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"Every possible lead is being examined," said Rep. Peter King, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee. King, R-N.Y., said he expected that in the "near future, several other" members of the Secret Service will leave.

"What they were thinking is beyond me," King told NBC's "Meet the Press."

So far, the scandal includes 12 Secret Service employees and 11 military members.

Six of the Secret Service members have lost their jobs. One has been cleared and five remain on administrative leave. The main incident occurred shortly before Obama arrived for a meeting of regional presidents last weekend.

A Secret Service official confirmed Sunday that one of the 12 implicated in the scandal was staying at a different hotel than the others.

He was staying at the Hilton, where Obama eventually would stay, said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The agent is being investigated for improprieties in a separate incident that may have happened on April 9, days before the president arrived and while the hotel was still open to the general public.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, also mentioned the 12th agent under investigation in an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"Now we don't know at this point what that 12th agent is being charged with and why he's been put on administrative leave. But now you're into the hotel where the president of the United States was going to stay. And it just gets more troubling," Lieberman said.

Lieberman told Fox News Sunday there is "no evidence that information was compromised" in the incidents. Those involved "were not acting like Secret Service agents. They were acting like a bunch of college students away on a spring student weekend," Lieberman said.

King, Lieberman and other leaders of congressional committees examining the scandal made the rounds on Sunday news shows. Generally, they said the scandal was being closely scrutinized on Capitol Hill and voiced support for Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan's handling of the matter.

Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said the allegations are disturbing, but that the misdeeds of a few individuals should not tarnish the overall work and reputation of the service.

Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union" that he always felt the agents were willing to go to great lengths to protect the president and the people around him. He called the conduct in Colombia "really disappointing."

"I think we will get to the bottom of it," said Axelrod, who worked at the White House before leaving last year to work full time in Obama's re-election campaign office in Chicago.

He later told NBC that "on the whole, the Secret Service does heroic work. This is quite disturbing. We have to get to the bottom of this, and I'm sure we will."

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a frequent critic of the president, declined to fault the White House's response. "You know, I'm not critical of what the administration has done thus far," he told CBS. "I think what we're seeing is an aberration."

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., both said that more female Secret Service agents might help guard against such incidents from happening again.

"I can't help but wonder if there had been more women as part of that detail, if this ever would have happened," Collins said on ABC's "This Week."

Maloney told the same program that only 11 percent of the Secret Service's agents are women.

"I can't help but keeping asking this question: Where are the women? We probably need to diversify the service and have more minorities and more women," Maloney said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told NBC that the episode was "something the Secret Service can fix. We have confidence that it will be fixed."

"The most important thing is that this never happens again," Issa said.

Ralph Basham, a former Secret Service Director, told CBS the behavior of those implicated in the scandal "could have compromised the trip and the safety of the president."

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