Two senior House Republicans expressed confidence in the head of the U.S. Secret Service Sunday despite the Colombia prostitution scandal while a Senate committee chairman planned hearings into the matter.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent, said that Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee he chairs will send specific questions to the Secret Service this week about the scandal before the panel holds public hearings. Other congressional committees also are investigating, Reuters reported.
The Secret Service, which protects the president, vice president and other prominent U.S. political figures, said on Friday that three more of its employees resigned. That brought to six the number who have departed in connection with alleged misconduct involving prostitutes in Colombia this month before President Barack Obama's trip to the seaside city of Cartagena.
A Secret Service official confirmed Sunday that one of the 12 implicated in the scandal was staying at a different hotel than the others, the Associated Press reported.
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.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the NBC program Meet the Press that he expects several more Secret Service agents to leave the agency within the very near future.
At least 21 women were brought back to the beachfront Hotel Caribe, and the behavior of the Secret Service men was exposed when one of the Colombian women complained that she had not been paid enough, resulting in local police getting involved.
Lieberman also said the White House should launch its own internal review of all White House personnel and advance teams who were in Cartagena to make sure that no one working for the White House was involved in any of the same kind of inappropriate behavior that the Secret Service agents were.
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan was given an endorsement on Sunday by King and a second Republican House committee chairman.
Director Sullivan, from the moment this broke, has moved effectively and this investigation is going full speed ahead, King said. I believe Director Sullivan has done a fine job.
King added that procedures must be put in place to ensure it never happens again.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Meet the Press that he has great confidence in Sullivan's handling of the investigation into the matter.
Asked whether he has confidence in Sullivan, Lieberman said, I do at this point. ... I think he's conducting a comprehensive investigation.
'MORE SERIOUS THAN JUST A FROLIC'
Lieberman said his committee's investigation will seek to determine whether the actions in Colombia were part of a pattern of behavior that happened over time elsewhere and what steps will be implemented to prevent any such actions in the future.
It's more serious than just a frolic. History is full of cases where enemies have compromised people and security or intelligence of positions with sex, Lieberman said on the program Fox News Sunday.
He told the CBS program Face the Nation: For Secret Service agents who have the responsibility to protect the president, to act as these people did in Cartagena, as if they were college kids on a spring break, is reprehensible.
King's office released a letter he sent to Sullivan, dated Friday, asking for answers to 50 questions about the matter, including whether any White House officials were involved in the incident in Cartagena.
David Axelrod, senior advisor to Obama's re-election campaign, said the president has confidence in Sullivan and the Secret Service. But this is really disturbing. We have to get to the bottom of it and I'm sure that we will, he told NBC's Meet the Press.
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.