By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) â€” The White House expressed renewed confidence Thursday in the director of the Secret Service in the midst of a sordid prostitution scandal that has threatened to become a serious political distraction in an election year. A key lawmaker who oversees the Secret Service predicted more firings there soon.
President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman, Jay Carney, noted that some Secret Service employees involved have already lost their jobs, just days into the government’s formal investigation of the incident last weekend in Colombia, where Obama was to attend a summit meeting. Carney also said the president’s security in Cartagena was never compromised, and he asked for patience as official investigations continue.
“Perhaps it would be in the interests of a complete and thorough and fair investigation not to make determinations about the conclusions of an investigation before they’ve even been reached,” Carney said. “That’s the president’s position.”
The scandal arose ahead of the Summit of the Americas when at least some of 11 Secret Service employees brought prostitutes back to their Cartagena hotel. The agency has moved quickly to try to quell the embarrassing episode, forcing out three employees so far, including two supervisors. The supervisors were in the agency’s uniformed division; one is a sergeant, according to a person familiar with Secret Service operations who refused to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Lawrence Berger, general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officials Association, confirmed Thursday he is representing the supervisors, Greg Stokes and David Chaney, but said he could not discuss details of the investigation.
“I cannot comment because I have an obligation of confidentiality with my clients and I have to maintain that,” Berger said.
A third employee has resigned. The employees under investigation include members of the agency’s “jump teams,” which are sent to sites to set up security in advance of the president’s arrival. Others are on counter-assault and counter-sniper teams. The majority of the group is believed to be based in the Washington area.
Eight men remain suspended and have had their top-secret security clearances lifted. The scandal also involves about 10 military personnel and as many as 20 Colombian women.
Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican and chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Thursday that more firings could be imminent.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw more dismissals and more being forced out sooner rather than later,” said King, who is being updated on the investigation by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. “You may see a few more today or tomorrow.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he thought more people would be fired within “just a few days.”
“‘I expect there will be more, but that’s what the investigation is all about.”
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