GOP lawmaker: White House cover-up in prostitution scandal?

SHARE GOP lawmaker: White House cover-up in prostitution scandal?

WASHINGTON — A lawmaker leading a congressional inquiry into the Secret Service raised questions Thursday about a White House volunteer’s possible involvement in a prostitution scandal that rocked the agency two years ago.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, said in an interview that the White House had new questions to answer in light of information he has received from Secret Service whistleblowers, as well as a report in Thursday’s Washington Post.

White House officials were adamant in denying involvement by anyone on their team in the incident. The scandal led to the firing of more than a half-dozen Secret Service agents who had hired prostitutes while sent to Colombia with President Barack Obama for the 2012 summit.

Chaffetz, R-Utah, suggested that based on his conversations with the whistleblowers, he feels the White House might be covering up some information.

The White House disputed claims that there was any attempt to suppress information related to a young volunteer on the White House advance team and whether he, too, had a prostitute in his hotel room.

“As was reported more than two years ago, the White House conducted an internal review that did not identify any inappropriate behavior on the part of the White House advance team,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. “And of course there was no White House interference with an (inspector general) investigation.”

The Post reviewed records from the hotel where the advance team stayed that identified the prostitute and appeared to show she had signed in to visit the room with the White House volunteer, identified by the newspaper as Jonathan Dach.

Dach, the son of a major Democratic donor, is now employed by the State Department. Richard Sauber, a Washington lawyer representing Jonathan Dach, said allegations that Dach brought a prostitute to his room during the 2012 trip to Colombia “don’t ring true.”

In September 2012, the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog wrote in a summary of his investigation that there was a hotel record suggesting a member of Obama’s team might have been involved in the Colombia prostitution scandal. That summary was sent to Congress.

Charles K. Edwards, the acting inspector general at the time, said in the summary that the employee, described by the administration as a volunteer, “may have had contact with foreign nationals” and “may have been affiliated with the White House advance operation,” according to a letter to lawmakers obtained at the time by The Associated Press.

Edwards cited a hotel registry obtained by his investigators as evidence.

Also at that time, the White House said its own review concluded that a guest, possibly a prostitute, signed in at the hotel front desk to visit the room assigned to the White House worker, but the hotel log was deemed false and there was no other evidence to corroborate the allegation.

But the Post reported Thursday that the lead investigator on the case later told Senate aides that he felt pressured by his supervisors to withhold evidence and that political decisions were made in an election year.

Chaffetz said he had learned, as reported in the published account, that staffers who raised questions about the White House role were put on leave.

“All signs point to a cover-up but I want to give the White House a chance to explain itself,” Chaffetz said. He said the White House has not said precisely how and why it was able to clear Dach of any wrongdoing.

“The immediate question for the White House is whether or not they’re going to share the information they have with the Congress,” Chaffetz said. He said he planned to hold hearings on the matter.

The developments come with the Secret Service in the midst of a shake-up after a series of scandals and security breaches. In one incident last month, a man with a knife jumped the White House fence and dashed deep into the executive mansion. The agency’s director, Julia Pierson, later resigned under pressure.

ERICA WERNER, Associated Press

Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Alicia Caldwell and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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