Friday, June 22, 2018

Secret Service chief to testify on Colombia scandal

WASHINGTON — The director of the Secret Service will be called before a Senate committee May 23 to provide details about the investigation into the Colombia prostitution scandal that has resulted in the dismissal of nine employees.

Director Mark Sullivan has not spoken publicly on the misconduct that took place last month in Cartagena, Colombia, where a dozen agents were implicated in a night of heavy carousing two days before President Barack Obama arrived for an international summit.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, announced the hearing Sunday during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union." Charles K. Edwards, the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, who is conducting an independent investigation, also will be called to testify, Lieberman said.

The senator said he would seek to determine whether there were warning signs that the scandal could occur and what steps Sullivan is taking to ensure that similar misconduct will not happen again.

"So this is really a heartbreaking incident, and really a dangerous incident, and we really have got to make sure it never does happen again," Lieberman said on the CNN show.

A dozen Secret Service employees were implicated in a night of partying April 11 that included heavy drinking, visits to a strip club and payments to prostitutes. In the wake of the scandal, the agency dismissed nine employees and has subjected three to demotion or disciplinary action.

Sullivan also imposed stricter rules for foreign trips, including more, higher-ranking chaperones and a ban on foreign nationals in the hotel rooms of Secret Service employees. The agency also has begun a series of mandatory training sessions to explain the rules to agents and officers.

Some current and former agents have said the Secret Service tolerated heavy drinking and liaisons between agents and foreign women during road trips for years. However, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said on CNN that he does not believe the behavior was part of the agency's culture.

"I believe this was the exception. I don't believe it was tolerated," King said.

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