The scandal that has plagued the United States Secret Service in recent weeks and led to the resignation of its director has widened yet again, this time with the White House being accused of covering up details about a 2012 incident in Colombia.
On the heels of a series of reports that have already proved to be damaging to the reputation of the president’s security detail, the Washington Post said on Wednesday that senior White House aides knew at the time about a prostitution scandal during a South American trip two years ago that led to disciplinary action against nearly two dozen officials from the Secret Service and US military.
Carol Leonnig, the Post journalist that has broken several stories concerning ineptitude within the Secret Service as of late, reported with David Nakamura on Wednesday that the White House was aware that a prostitute stayed with an advance-team member staying in Colombia ahead of US President Barack Obama’s arrival for a summit there, contrary to the administration’s official claims at the time.
The Secret Service told the White House then that firsthand accounts and hotel records indicated a prostitute was visiting the individual at a Cartagena, Colombia hotel that April, the journalists reported, “yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.”
White House volunteer Jonathan Dach, currently with the Department of State, has been named by the Post as the person in question; his attorney has denied the paper’s claims.
Meanwhile, White House officials are expected to take heat not necessarily for Dach’s alleged conduct, but with accusations that the administration covered up evidence of wrongdoing in the midst of the scandal two years ago.
“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,” the Post reported. “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.”
According to Wednesday’s report, the lead investigator involved in that DHS-administered probe said he was directed “to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election” because “it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.”
Richard Sauber, an attorney for Dach described by the Post as “a prominent Democratic donor who gave $23,900 to the party in 2008 to help elect Obama,” told the paper that “allegations about any inappropriate conduct by Jonathan Dach in Cartagena are utterly and completely false.”
Eric Schultz, a spokesperson for the White House, said an internal review conducted after the scandal first broke “did not identify any inappropriate behavior on the part of the White House advance team.”
“The White House needs to come clean,” Rep. Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Fox News after the Post article was published. The lawmaker has also written to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough seeking “all documents” from the review cited by Schultz.
Several Secret Service agents and military personnel were disciplined after it was revealed in 2012 that they hired prostitutes ahead of Pres. Obama’s trip to Cartagena for the Sixth Summit of the Americas. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan resigned several months later and was replayed by Julia Pierson, a long-time officer within the agency, who in turn resigned earlier this month after Leonnig published damaging accounts concerning multiple security breaches suffered by the White House under Pierson’s wing.