Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stopped short on Wednesday of demanding Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resign, but called for an "independent investigation" into the disturbing protocol breaches within the agency that she said were "inexcusable."
"The challenge may be more than one person," the California Democrat told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "Whether she [resigns] or not, I think we need an independent investigation. Her leaving doesn't end the need to learn more."
Pelosi's remarks came a day after the Oversight and Government Reform Committee convened a rare, mid-recess hearing in Washington, D.C. to hear testimony from Pierson and other officials in the wake of revelations that an armed intruder scaled the fence of the White House and actually was able to get inside the presidential residence before finally being apprehended — by an off-duty officer.
It's all led the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., to say on MSNBC "my confidence and trust in this director ... has eroded," and "I do not feel comfortable with her in that position."
Cummings later clarified on Twitter that he had "not decided" whether he would affirmatively call for her resignation, but reiterated his discomfort with her tenure.
Pelosi said she had been unable to watch all of Tuesday's hearing and that she was not as up to speed on the details as some others, but that she agreed with Cummings' analysis.
"I support his suggestion," she said. "I am subscribing to his superior judgment and knowledge on the subject. But I'm also saying that this is more than one person, because there were problems before she went there."
When asked to describe the sort of independent investigation she envisioned, Pelosi said that she imagined a line of inquiry from outside stakeholders to complement committee work.
"There could be ... people who have experience directly in protecting the presidents and first family and ... visiting dignitaries and the rest," Pelosi said. "And that expertise might be useful in a 'no nonsense, this is what this is, and this is what we recommend is what we want to see happen.'
"This isn't a conversation," she continued. "This isn't a conversation. This is more than a recommendation. It is a requirement."
Pelosi might find an unexpected ally in this effort. Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, on Tuesday announced he would soon be introducing legislation "to establish a blue ribbon commission charged with conducting a full, top-to-bottom review of the agency."
"The commission will recommend specific steps the Secret Service can take in order to ensure it has the best possible leadership structure, internal policies, tools, and resources to meet its mission," McCaul said in a statement.
Later on Wednesday, the alleged White House intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, was scheduled to appear in the U.S. Court for the District of Columbia. The day before, he was indicted by a grand jury and could ultimately face up to 15 years in prison.
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