This Is Bad

Oh, this is very, very, very bad:

As nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and members of the military were punished or fired following a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, Obama administration officials repeatedly denied that anyone from the White House was involved.

But new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member — yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.

The information that the Secret Service shared with the White House included hotel records and firsthand accounts — the same types of evidence the agency and military relied on to determine who in their ranks was involved.

The Secret Service shared its findings twice in the weeks after the scandal with top White House officials, including then-White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler. Each time, she and other presidential aides conducted an interview with the advance-team member and concluded that he had done nothing wrong.

Meanwhile, the new details also show that a separate set of investigators in the inspector general’s office of the Department of Homeland Security — tasked by a Senate committee with digging more deeply into misconduct on the trip — found additional evidence from records and eyewitnesses who had accompanied the team member in Colombia.

The lead investigator later told Senate staffers that he felt pressure from his superiors in the office of Charles K. Edwards, who was then the acting inspector general, to withhold evidence — and that, in the heat of an election year, decisions were being made with political considerations in mind.

“We were directed at the time . . . to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election,” David Nieland, the lead investigator on the Colombia case for the DHS inspector general’s office, told Senate staffers, according to three people with knowledge of his statement.

I am sure that within short order, we will be told that this story is not a big deal, and that we should all just move along. And we will be told this before any further serious investigation even so much as takes place. But there certainly seems to be enough to this story to warrant a congressional investigation. Let’s have one, please.

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