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White House Attempts to Put Scandal in the Past

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. John McCain said he and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (above) asked for a briefing to inquire about the national security implications from the Secret Service incident in Cartagena, Colombia.

The Obama administration looked Wednesday to minimize the Colombia prostitution scandal engulfing the Secret Service and the Defense Department as a few bad apples even as some lawmakers expressed new frustrations with the level of information they are getting.

“Ninety-nine percent of the men and women who work in the Secret Service are absolute professionals who do an extraordinary job protecting the president, protecting his family, protecting others,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Obama himself told late-night TV show host Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday that “a couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do. What they were thinking, I don’t know. That’s why they’re not there anymore.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the internal investigation “will leave no stone unturned.”

All 12 Secret Service personnel accused of soliciting prostitutes during their work in advance of the president’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia, two weeks ago have already been dealt with, she said. Eight have left the agency, three face administrative action, and another will lose his security clearance. The investigation hasn’t turned up evidence of prior incidents yet, she said.

“We will not allow the actions of a few to tarnish the proud legacy of the Secret Service,” she said. Napolitano also said she had no knowledge of involvement by anyone working at the White House.

But Republicans are far from satisfied. Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) ripped the Defense Department Wednesday after receiving a briefing with “appallingly little new information” about the investigation into the prostitution scandal, which also involves a number of military service members.

McCain said he and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked for the briefing to inquire about the national security implications from the incident in Cartagena.

“Unfortunately, nearly two weeks after the events in Colombia, the briefers sent by the Department of Defense were woefully unprepared to answer even the most basic questions about what happened in Cartagena and provided appallingly little new information other than the mechanics and timeline of the ongoing investigation,” McCain said in a statement. “The Department of Defense briefers did not even know the date the president arrived or the name of the senior military commander on the ground in Cartagena.”

McCain called the briefing “entirely unacceptable” and the “most ridiculous” he’s ever received.

“We need to know the facts. We need to know the impact of this potential misconduct — which occurred less than a day, or perhaps hours, before the president arrived in Cartagena — on the performance of the military Joint Task Force charged with his security.”

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