Despite across the board denials of any White House involvement following the dismissal of 12 Secret Service and military members connected to a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, new details have emerged that suggest Obama administration aides may have known more than previously suggested.
According to new information and interviews by the Washington Post, Obama Administration aides were told that a prostitute was an overnight guest of a presidential advance-team member in Cartagena, but the aides neither investigated nor publically acknowledged the information.
The misbehavior became public after a dispute over payment between the agent and a prostitute at a Cartagena hotel on April 12, 2012. The Secret Service was in the coastal resort for a Latin American summit before Obama's arrival.
The Secret Service shared its information – mostly hotel records and first-hand accounts – with White House officials, including then-White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, twice in the new few weeks. Both times the White House group determined that nothing wrong had occurred.
Along with this investigation, an inspector general’s office of the Department of Homeland Security investigation found more information from the Colombia trip, but the lead investigator said that he was pressured by superiors in the office of then-acting inspector general Charles K. Edwards to withhold evidence since 2012 was an election year.
“We were directed at the time . . . to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election,” David Nieland, the lead investigator on the Colombia case for the DHS inspector general’s office, told Senate staffers, according to The Washington Post. Nieland added that he was told “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz denied Wednesday that President Barack Obama or any of his advisers worked to suppress the information before the 2012 presidential elections.
“As was reported more than two years ago, the White House conducted an internal review that did not identify any inappropriate behavior on the part of the White House advance team,” Schultz added.
The advance team member in question, Jonathan Dach, declined to be interviewed, but his lawyer said that the then-25 year old Yale law student never hired a prostitute or brought anyone to his hotel room. Dach, son of a prominent Democratic donor Leslie Dach, currently works full time in the Obama administration on a federal contract as a policy adviser in the Office on Global Women’s Issues at the State Department.
The Colombia escapade along with a recent major security breach at the White House has cast a critical spotlight on the Secret Service, with key members of Congress now weighing dramatic changes to the agency, including moving it out of the Homeland Security Department and breaking up its mission.
The agency's director, Julia Pierson, resigned amid the controversy, but lawmakers are promising they'll continue their focus once Congress reconvenes after the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.