Published April 19, 2012
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called the Secret Service prostitution scandal "stunning" and "disgusting," becoming the latest lawmaker to call for strict punishment in the wake of the incident.
Three agency employees already have been ousted, and more firings could be on the way. The White House reiterated the president's support Thursday for Director Mark Sullivan, though a few lawmakers have raised doubts in recent days about his leadership.
Pelosi said those responsible for the misconduct should "pay a price."
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee who has stood by Sullivan's handling of the affair, also said Thursday he "wouldn't be surprised" if more dismissals are announced soon.
Lurid details about the party in Cartagena, Columbia, continue to stream out. Supposed photos of one of the escorts have been published by The New York Post.
Government officials say 11 Secret Service agents have been implicated in the incident, as well as up to 10 U.S. military members.
In Washington and Colombia, separate U.S. government investigations are under way. The Secret Service has investigators in Colombia, and King said he has assigned four congressional investigators to the probe. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sought details of the Secret Service investigation, including the disciplinary histories of the agents involved and assurances that none of the women involved was under the age of 18.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the Secret Service employees under investigation "stupid" and said there is not much Congress can do to stop others from making similar choices.
"There is not a bill we can pass to cause people to have common sense," Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday.
While congressional lawmakers pushed for more answers from the Secret Service, the White House, frustrated by the election-year embarrassment, pleaded for patience.
"What I'm not prepared to do is to offer you sort of day-by-day commentary on new revelations or even new actions taken with regards to this investigation while it's still under way," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "I don't think that's helpful to the process."
Carney said Obama remained confident in the Secret Service chief, though he said the president had not talked with Sullivan since the incident unfolded. Senior White House aides were in touch with Sullivan about the ongoing investigation.
One Republican lawmaker said Thursday the Secret Service incident raised questions about whether Obama was capably leading the government.
"I don't sense that this president has shown that kind of managerial leadership," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said.
Carney shot back: "That sounds very much like a lawmaker attempting to politicize something that is not at all political."
Two of the employees forced out Wednesday were supervisors in the agency's uniformed division; one is a sergeant, according to a person familiar with Secret Service operations.
Eight other Secret Service employees remain on administrative leave and have had their top-secret clearance revoked.
King said agency investigators in Colombia still have not been able to talk to the women who were brought back to the hotel. The investigators do, however, have the names, addresses and pictures of the women, said King.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.