(/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/10/agents19n-1-web.jpg)Although it verges on resembling a slogan, the Obama administration is embroiled in yet another scandal. The story involving Secret Service agents busted for hiring prostitutes during an official trip to Cartagena, Colombia in 2012 has re-emerged. According to the Washington Post, “senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member–yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.” That revelation stands in stark contrast to denials made by Obama administration officials, who repeatedly insisted that no one from the White House was involved.
The original scandal broke when one of two dozen agents on the detail failed to pay one of the prostitutes for her services. All of the agents were punished or fired. But as the paper reveals, former White House presidential advance team member and volunteer Jonathan Dach not only registered a prostitute as his overnight guest, but White House officials were aware of it. Moreover, they allegedly attempted to sabotage the Inspector General office’s (IG) investigation.
The Secret Service reportedly shared the information on two different occasions with with top White House officials, including former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler. Both times those officials conducted interviews with Dach. Both times they concluded he had done nothing wrong.
While this was occurring, a separate investigation conducted by the IG’s office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a Senate committee looking into the scandal discovered additional evidence, courtesy of records, along with eyewitness accounts from people who had accompanied Dach in Columbia. The lead investigator in the case subsequently told Senate staffers that pressure was brought to bear from his superiors in the offices of then-acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards. “We were directed at the time . . . to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election,” lead investigator David Nieland told Senate staffers, according to three unidentified people with knowledge of his statement. Nieland further revealed those superiors told him “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.”
Edwards countered at the time, telling Senate staffers that changes to the report were part of the normal editing process and that he was trying to maintain the focus on DHS employees. In a summary letter submitted to Congress in September 2012, he reveals that his investigation “did find a hotel registry that suggests that two non-USSS personnel may have had contact with foreign nationals.” But because his investigation was limited to DHS personnel, he “did not conduct any additional investigation into this finding and has made no determination related to these individuals because they are not DHS personnel.”
In April 2012, the White House itself tried to defuse the allegations against advance team members, claiming they had conducted their own investigation and had found nothing wrong. But they refused to any share details, with then-Press Secretary Jay Carney insisting that “I don’t have, and I’m not going to give you, a blow-by-blow of what is involved in the review.” Carney was also contemptuous of Internet “rumors” published by writers “with no editors and no conscience.” “If someone comes to us with some credible allegation that anybody at the White House was involved in any inappropriate conduct, I’m sure that we’ll look at it, but there isn’t that,” he said. “There is an attempt by some to throw rumors out there.”
Edwards eventually resigned due to allegations of misconduct stemming in part from an ongoing dispute between the investigators and their superiors regarding the possible pursuit of involvement by White House team members. The Post notes that “staffers who raised questions about a White House role said they were put on administrative leave as a punishment for doing so,” and that “the way the White House handled the scandal remains a sore point among rank-and-file members of the Secret Service more than two years later.”
Unsurprisingly the White House has pushed back. On Wednesday, spokesman Eric Schultz insisted Obama and his advisors did not interfere with the investigation, and cited a Senate report on the IG’s office, saying an inquiry was unable to substantiate Nieland’s allegations. “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 insisted.
The “old news” meme was amplified by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest who tweeted, ”Supposed WaPo ‘exclusive’ was previously reported by AP, CBS, ABC, Politico, The Hill & others – 2 years ago,” and hyperlinked to an AP piece of the Obama administration—exonerating itself. Carol Leonnig, one of the writers who broke the Washington Post story tweeted back, noting, “such different stories. None tell of evidence WH had in hand & decision to stop looking when it got more.”
Jonathan Dach, the man at the center of the storm, was a 25-year-old Yale University law student at the time. His father, Leslie Dach, contributed $23,900 to the Democratic party in 2008 to help elect Obama, and in his former job as a top lobbyist for Wal-Mart he worked with the White House on a number of projects, including Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. In July he joined the administration as a senior counselor with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Part of his responsibilities include working on the next phase of ObamaCare.
Jonathan has a new position as well. He has been appointed as policy advisor – for the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. According to their website, the Office of Global Women’s Issues “seeks to ensure that women’s issues are fully integrated in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy,” and “works to promote stability, peace, and development by empowering women politically, socially, and economically around the world.” Apparently allegations of paying a woman for sex were insufficient to derail Dach’s post. Those allegations now include a Washington Post review of the hotel logs for Dach’s stay, “which showed that a woman was registered to Dach’s room at 12:02 a.m. April 4 and included an attached photocopy of a woman’s ID card.”
Dach has declined to be interviewed, but his attorney insists he denies hiring a prostitute, or taking anyone to his hotel room. “The underlying allegations about any inappropriate conduct by Jonathan Dach in Cartagena are utterly and completely false,” said Richard A. Sauber, who represents Jonathan and his father. “In addition, neither he nor anyone acting on his behalf ever contacted the DHS IG’s office about its report.”
The revelations are an additional headache for a White House already reeling from a series of Secret Service debacles. They include a fence-jumper who managed to get as far as the East Room of the White House, allowing an armed security contractor with three charges of assault and battery to get on an elevator with the president, and promoting an agent who has regularly served in Obama’s protective detail – despite the reality his gun was stolen from his car in 2009. Those lapses led to the resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson following her disastrous testimony before a House committee on Sept. 30. Ironically she was hired following the resignation of her predecessor Mark J. Sullivan in 2013—ten months after the Cartagena hooker scandal.
A high-ranking Secret Service agent interviewed by the New York Observer under condition of anonymity speaks to an agency enduring a “catastrophic failure of all procedures and protocols,” one that is “under-staffed, under-trained, under-funded, not being innovative in doing more with less.”
This latest scandal and the allegations of the administration’s efforts to cover it up obviously merit additional investigation. Much like the Bengahzi disinformation campaign, the IRS’s targeting of conservative non-profits, and the president’s ridiculous assertion that terror is “on the run,” the alleged derailing of this investigation fits the pattern of an administration willing to use any means necessary to suppress information that would have damaged Obama’s 2012 reelection prospects. Moreover, Dach’s promotion and his father’s new job in the administration has a stench of quid pro quo about it unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. For the last six years, Democrats and their media cheerleading section have furiously opposed the notion that this administration is a cesspool of corruption. The November election is likely to show them the error of their ways.
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