Fox News is drawing sweeping and unsupported conclusions to accuse the White House of covering up a volunteer's role in a 2012 Secret Service prostitution controversy. Fox's “bombshell” claims are undermined by the fact that it has long been known that a White House volunteer was implicated in the controversy, and by the fact that a bipartisan Senate committee did not substantiate allegations that the White House tampered with an independent investigation into the controversy for political reasons.
Wash. Post Reports “Possible” White House Connection To Secret Service Prostitution Scandal
Wash. Post: “Aides Knew Of Possible White House Link” To Prostitution Scandal. An October 8 Washington Post article reported that government documents from interviews conducted in the wake of the 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia showed that “senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member.” [The Washington Post, 10/8/14]
Fox Calls Wash. Post Report “Bombshell” Proof Of Potential White House “Cover-Up”
Fox's Doocy: Wash. Post Revealed A “Potential Cover-Up Involving The White House.” On the October 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy reported that theWashington Post had revealed a “potential cover-up involving the White House slowing the [Department of Homeland Security inspector general's] investigation into the Secret Service scandal.” Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck argued that the White House suppressed the allegations of former White House volunteer Jonathan Dach's alleged involvement “because it would just tarnish the image of the president” and it “would look bad for the White House” during the 2012 election. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/9/14]
But These Allegations Were Long Known And Publicly Reported
CBS News: “It Has Long Been Known A White House Travel Office Volunteer Was Implicated In The Cartagena Prostitution Scandal.” An October 9 CBS News report said that news of a White House connection was not a revelation, but rather, “What wasn't known was the name: Jonathan Dach, son of prominent Democratic donor and former Wal-Mart lobbyist Leslie Dach.” [CBS News, 10/9/14]
ABC News Reported On Investigation Of Alleged Misconduct By “White House Advance Team Volunteer” In October 2012. In an October 18, 2012, article, then-ABC reporter Jake Tapper revealed details from the report by the DHS inspector general's report, including the fact that there was a follow-up investigation on a “White House Advance Team volunteer”:
Ten days after the scandal broke, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, “There have been no specific, credible allegations of misconduct by anyone on the White House advance team or the White House staff.”
The inspector general's report also noted that the White House counsel conducted her own investigation when two staffers -- one a soldier who was part of the White House Communications Agency, the other a White House Advance Team volunteer -- were also cited in follow-up investigations, after Carney's comments. [ABC News, 10/18/12]
Politico Obtained Inspector General's Report in September 2012. In a September 21, 2012, report, Politico's Seung Min Kim detailed a letter from the DHS inspector general that outlined an “investigation” of Secret Service employees' "'personal encounters' with female Colombian nationals" in advance of the president's 2012 trip. Politico reported:
[T]he investigation -- conducted by Charles Edwards, the acting inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security -- shows that two non-Secret Service employees “may have had contact with foreign nationals.” One may have been with the White House advance team, but Edwards said that person's employment status was not verified. The other was a Defense Department employee who was affiliated with the White House Communications Agency.
Edwards wrote in the letter that he didn't investigate further because those two individuals were not DHS employees.
His letter was addressed to Capitol Hill lawmakers who are investigating the scandal. [Politico, 9/21/12]
White House Volunteer Was Not A Government Employee Or Accused Of A Crime
Wash. Post: Officials Said There Was No Reason To Investigate Dach Further Because “He Was Not A Government Employee” And Was Not Accused Of Any Criminal Activity.The Post reported that administration officials said it made no sense to investigate Dach in the same way as Secret Service agents because he was not a government employee at the time and sending “a team of people to Colombia to investigate a volunteer over something that's not a criminal act ... would be insane.” [The Washington Post, 10/8/14]
DHS IG Report: Investigation Focused On Danger That Secret Service May Have Compromised “Sensitive Information” And Scope Was “Limited To The Conduct Of DHS Personnel.” The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's report said its investigation focused on possible misconduct by DHS personnel and whether Secret Service personnel had compromised sensitive information:
As part of our investigation of misconduct reported prior to the President's April 2012 visit to Cartagena, we interviewed or attempted to interview 251 USSS personnel. Based on our interviews and review of records, we identified 13 USSS employees who had personal encounters with female Colombian nationals consistent with the misconduct reported. We determined that one of the female Colombian nationals involved in the incident was known to the Intelligence Community. However, we found no evidence that the actions of USSS personnel had compromised any sensitive information.
While the scope of the investigation was limited to the conduct of DHS personnel in Cartagena, we did obtain hotel records that suggested female foreign nationals signed in as guests to rooms registered to one White House Communications Agency employee (an officer with the Department of Defense) and one reported member of the White House staff and/or advance team. We did not interview the two non-DHS employees. [Department Of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, accessed 10/9/14]
Fox Claims Report May Show White House “Obstruction Of Justice” In Inspector General's Investigation
Fox's Doocy: “It Appears That The Barack Obama Administration Did Indeed Corrupt The Inspector General Process.” Citing the Post's report, Doocy claimed that the Obama administration “corrupted the inspector general process” by requesting that information about Dach's alleged involvement not be released until after the election:
DOOCY: It also involves a potentially obstruction of justice charge, or many, and it appears that the Barack Obama administration did indeed corrupt the inspector general process. They're supposed to be independent. Not so.
DOOCY: [T]his comes out and this is from The Washington Post, and this is from David Nieland, who was involved in the inspector general process at Homeland Security. He said we were directed at the time, before the election, to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election. So there, ladies and gentlemen, it does appear that the inspector general process, which they're supposed to be independent, it was corrupted by the White House. Look, we don't want this coming out before the election, so whatever you do, keep it quiet. And then there was this struggle behind the scenes and they did their best to do it. And now that everything has blown up at the Secret Service, now we know that apparently the White House pressured this investigation, nothing's got to come out before the election. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/9/14]
Bipartisan Senate Subcommittee Did Not Substantiate Allegations Of WH Tampering With DHS Investigation
Subcommittee Report Didn't Substantiate Allegations That Changes To DHS Report Ahead Of Election Were Politically Motivated. An April 2014 report from the Senate subcommittee that oversees DHS reviewed the original 2012 inspector general's report and allegations that the inspector general was ordered to change the report “in order to remove information that could have been embarrassing to DHS and/or to the Obama Administration in an election year.” The subcommittee “did not substantiate allegations relating to Mr. Edwards' involvement or motivation with regard to the changes.” [Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, “Investigation into Allegations of Misconduct by the Former Acting and Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security,” 4/24/14]