The chairman of a US House of Representatives committee investigating an alleged US Secret Service prostitution scandal predicted more firings as key lawmakers and a top adviser to US President Barack Obama expressed confidence on Sunday that the agency would effectively deal with the incident.
“Every possible lead is being examined,” said US Representative Peter King, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee.
King said he expected that in the “near future, several other” members of the Secret Service would leave.
“What they were thinking is beyond me,” King told NBC TV’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 on 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 might have happened on April 9, days before the president arrived and while the hotel was still open to the general public.
US Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the US Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, also mentioned the 12th agent under investigation in an appearance on CBS TV’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, an independent, told Fox News Sunday there was “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 US Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan’s handling of the matter.
Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said the allegations were 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 at Obama’s re-election headquarters 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.”
US Senator Tom Coburn, a frequent critic of the president, declined to fault the White House’s response.