Updated 3:44 p.m. | Julia Pierson has resigned as director of the Secret Service amid a firestorm over lapses in presidential security that had lawmakers lining up to call for her to go.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the resignation in a statement late Wednesday, and appointed Joseph Clancy, a formerly special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service, to take her place.
Earnest said the president concluded that "a new direction was necessary." Just a day earlier, Earnest had expressed confidence in the Secret Service's leadership.
Earnest said the White House did not know about an incident of the Secret Service allowing an armed person on an elevator with the president until shortly before it was reported by the press Tuesday.
Here's the statement from Johnson:
Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation. As an interim Acting Director of the Secret Service, I am appointing Joseph Clancy, formerly Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service. Mr. Clancy retired from the Secret Service in 2011. I appreciate his willingness to leave his position in the private sector on very short notice and return to public service for a period. Today, I have also asked the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, aided by this Department’s General Counsel, to assume control and direction of the ongoing inquiry by the Secret Service of the fence jumping incident at the White House on September 19. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas should complete that review and submit findings to me by November 1, 2014. Finally, I have also determined that scrutiny by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly. By December 15, 2014, this panel will submit to me its own assessment and recommendations concerning security of the White House compound. I will also invite the panel to submit to me recommendations for potential new directors of the Secret Service, to include recommendations of individuals who come from outside the Secret Service. I will also request that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service. The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority. It is worth repeating that the Secret Service is one of the finest official protection services in the world, consisting of men and women who are highly trained and skilled professionals prepared to put their own lives on the line in a second’s notice for the people they protect. Last week, the Secret Service was responsible for the protection of the President as well as 140 visiting heads of state or government as they convened at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Likewise, in August the Secret Service handled the protection of 60 world leaders as they convened in Washington, D.C. for the African Summit. As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident. There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this.Ahead of the announcement, lawmakers were starting to line up to call for Pierson to go after her rocky performance at Tuesday's hearing and a series of bombshell revelations about security lapses in recent years.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat who has close ties to the White House, was set to call for Pierson to resign at a 4 p.m. news conference, according to his press secretary.
CNN reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was also calling for Pierson's resignation, and John McCain, R-Ariz., said likewise during a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC.
"Oh, I think so," McCain said when asked whether Pierson should depart. "I would like to emphasize, again, something you and I know, and that is that men and women who are in this business are the best. They're wonderful; they have incredibly difficult lives and we respect and admire them. It's the leadership that has obviously failed in this situation."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Fox News she should be fired or resign. And Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told CNN, "I believe that not only myself but others will call for her resignation."
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, earlier Wednesday implied that Obama should consider replacing Pierson, and backed an independent investigation.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., haven't exactly been supportive, although Cummings walked back earlier statements suggesting she should go. Pelosi also wanted an independent investigation.
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