Three more U.S. Secret Service employees are leaving the agency after being suspected of consorting with prostitutes while preparing for President Barack Obama’s arrival at a summit in Colombia.
The three resigned, bringing to six the number that the agency has said are either leaving voluntarily or being forced out, Paul S. Morrissey, a Secret Service assistant director, said in a statement yesterday. He didn’t release their names.
The departures stem from allegations about the employees’ behavior during preparations for the trade and economic summit in Cartagena, which ended on April 15. The episode has sparked condemnation from Republicans and Democrats, some of whom have called for all the workers to be fired.
Twelve employees have been implicated, one more than previously disclosed, according to Morrissey. The 12th employee has been placed on administrative leave and his security clearance was temporarily suspended.
One employee involved in the case was cleared of “serious misconduct” and faces “administrative action,” according to Morrissey. Five employees remain on administrative leave pending the investigation’s outcome, he said.
Obama was briefed on the probe during an Oval Office meeting yesterday with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, said an administration official who wasn’t authorized to speak about a private meeting.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters yesterday the president retains his faith in the Secret Service’s ability to protect him, his family and members of the administration.
He said he saw no need for the administration to investigate whether White House officials might have been linked to the prostitution episode.
As far as he knew, the incident didn’t “involve anything but the agents and the military personnel,” Carney said. At least 10 members of the military also were implicated, and the Defense Department is conducting a separate investigation.
In a letter yesterday, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked if Secret Service employees shared hotel rooms with White House officials while in Cartagena.
Grassley sent the letter to Sullivan and Charles Edwards, the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service’s parent agency. Edwards has begun his own investigation.
The Secret Service employees’ alleged actions are the latest in a series of scandals, including an $823,000 General Services Administraion conference in Las Vegas that have brought into question Obama’s ability to manage, said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican.
The president must focus “on restoring faith in the operation of the federal government,” Sessions said in a statement.
Carney said Sessions and other Republican critics are trying to gain political advantage.
“It is preposterous to politicize the Secret Service,” Carney said.
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