WASHINGTON – The chairman of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday he is issuing subpoenas to two Secret Service agents who witnessed an episode in which two high-ranking agency officials are accused of driving into a secure area at the White House without authorization.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the agents can shed light not only on the March 4 incident, "but also on why the Secret Service appears to be systemically broken and in desperate need of both leadership and reform."
Chaffetz had asked Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy to allow four agents and officers to testify at a hearing last week on the March 4 incident. Clancy declined the request and instead testified as the sole witness.
The committee is trying to get to the bottom of allegations that two senior agents had been drinking when they drove into the area. The agents were accused of nudging a construction barrier with their vehicle as they intruded during an investigation of a suspicious item.
Chaffetz said the committee's top priority in its investigation is to ensure that the Secret Service keeps the president and his family safe.
Clancy has been criticized for the agency's handling of the incident and has complained that he was not told about it for five days, which he called unacceptable. He said he only learned about the incident from discussions about an anonymous email that was circulating within the agency.
The email described the off-duty agents as "both extremely intoxicated" and confused about the investigation activity. It said uniformed Secret Service officers at the scene "were going to arrest both of them, but the UD (Uniform Division) watch commander said not to."
The Homeland Security Department's inspector general is investigating allegations against the agents. The Secret Service had no comment on the subpoenas Tuesday evening.
But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson took issue with Chaffetz' complaints about the cooperation given his committee.
"I regret that Chairman Chaffetz and his staff have taken the unprecedented and unnecessary step of subpoenaing two members of the U.S. Secret Service with the responsibility for the protection of the president, his family and the White House complex," Johnson said in a statement released Tuesday night. "Chairman Chaffetz's assertion that this department has been 'uncooperative' is simply wrong."
Johnson said that he also wants to know "what happened on the night of March 4."
"This is why the Department's inspector general is conducting a thorough investigation into the matter," Johnson said.