Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House committee that oversees the Secret Service, warned that the mismanagement at the Secret Service is putting President Barack Obama and his family “in jeopardy.”
Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Chaffetz said that “we should” be worried about the safety of the first family following the news that the administration is investigating an incident in which two Secret Service agents, who were allegedly drunk, drove into a barrier on White House grounds, and then were allowed to drive off with no repercussions by a supervisor.
“The more I’ve learned about it, the more concerned I’ve become,” he said. “We’re very united, Republicans and Democrats, in saying that the safety of the President is paramount, and we’re putting this person in jeopardy, and his family in jeopardy.”
Chaffetz said he had spoken to his Democratic counterpart on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, and that it was “fair to say we’re both very concerned about the lack of action on the supervisor’s part.”
The Secret Service has been embroiled in multiple scandals over the past few years, including allegations that service members entertained prostitutes in Colombia, prompting the resignation of previous director Julia Pierson and questions over whether the Secret Service has a culture that overlooks or even fosters such misconduct.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, speaking to CNN earlier Thursday just off the Senate floor, said that the fact the supervisor did nothing about the incident earlier this month confirmed that there’s a deep “cultural problem” within the Service.
“No, I mean the explanation would be there is cultural problem there. It’s like, ‘Ohhh, he’s one of ours. Let’s send him home. Let’s bury this, let’s whitewash this. Let’s pretend this never happened.’ Why else would it be?” Johnson said.
Chaffetz said that the onus was on newly-minted Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, who just came on the job last month, to completely overhaul the culture of the organization, which he described as “arrogance” and an “above-the-law attitude.” Clancy will brief members on the situation at the Secret Service next week.
“There have got to be severe consequences to this, Wolf. There haven’t in the past, but we’re going to find out a lot what Director Clancy is willing to do,” he said.
In a letter to Clancy obtained by CNN, Chaffetz and Cummings wrote, “No later than March 18, 2015, please provide a briefing regarding this incident and the steps the agency is taking in response, including whether USSS or the Inspector General will be investigating whether other agency personnel leaving that party drove their government-owned vehicles under the influence of alcohol. Please also provide a copy of any video footage, photographs, or audio recordings of this incident.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett and Chris Frates contributed to this report.