WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The attorney for some of the Secret Service agents under investigation in a scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia ahead of President Barack Obama’s trip, said on Thursday a “trial by mob” was wrong.
Lawrence Berger’s comments to Reuters in a telephone interview came after the Washington Post identified the two supervisors involved as David Randall Chaney, 48, in the international programs division, who was allowed to retire, and Greg Stokes, assistant special agent in charge of the K9 division, who has been notified that he will be fired.
Berger, general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, represents Chaney and Stokes, and took issue with news reports describing the three of the 11 agents who are leaving as being forced out.
“Nobody has been involuntarily separated from the agency as we speak today, nobody,” Berger told Reuters.
“Mr. Stokes is vigorously defending himself from any of these accusations and will take full advantage of the administrative process that is available to him to do so,” Berger said.
Senior U.S. lawmakers said they expect more Secret Service agents could be forced out of their jobs soon over allegations of misconduct with prostitutes in Colombia.
Representatives Darrell Issa and Elijah Cummings predicted more fallout from the scandal that arose from a night of partying by Secret Service agents and U.S. military personnel last week in the coastal city of Cartagena just before Obama arrived for the weekend Summit of the Americas.
The incident embarrassed the United States and overshadowed Obama’s participation in the summit. It may be the worst scandal in modern times for the agency tasked with protecting the U.S. president and other senior officials and figures.
Eleven Secret Service agents and 10 U.S. military personnel allegedly took as many as 21 women back to their beachfront hotel. They were discovered when one woman complained about money, leading to the involvement of the local police.
The Secret Service said on Wednesday one supervisor was allowed to retire, another supervisor was proposed for removal for cause and a third employee resigned over the allegations.
The other eight Secret Service employees under investigation may also go, Issa said on Thursday.
“At the least, they will be reprimanded, dealt with administratively. At the most, they will depart. That’s really something the investigation will decide,” Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told reporters.
“It would not surprise me if there were within the next few days additional resignations or firings,” said Cummings, the top committee Democrat. Both Cummings and Issa have been briefed by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.
Berger said he was not aware of any other agent leaving as of Thursday, and that such comments were “purely speculation.”
Chaney of Ashburn, Virginia, comes from a long Secret Service tradition. His father, George, who died in August 2011 in Dallas, was also an agent who guarded the children of Dwight D. Eisenhower and served on the personal detail of Lyndon Johnson, according to his obituary.
Stokes, was a supervisor of the Canine Training Section for the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center. The dogs help protect the president and vice president and work to detect explosives.
Berger said part of the defense of the agents will be violations of the Privacy Act by people who have provided information about the agents to Congress and the media.
“There are privacy act protections that absolutely bar this type of disclosure. ... Even to Congress, nobody has been subpoenaed,” he said. “So when the record is distorted in such a way as to sharp-shoot our agents like this, yes they’re getting a raw deal.”
The eight Secret Service employees who remain under investigation continue to be on administrative leave with their security clearances suspended.
Issa said people who “feigned innocence” were the ones that “are going through a process to verify their stories.” Another lawmaker, Republican Peter King, has said some of the agents say they did not know the women they brought back to the hotel were prostitutes.
The U.S. military is conducting its own probe of the incident, which happened overnight from Wednesday to Thursday last week. Obama arrived last Friday.
At least four congressional committees are looking into what happened in Cartagena. But none so far has announced hearings into the matter.
The top Democrats on Capitol Hill expressed disgust with the scandal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the alleged behavior was “stupid,” and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called it a “disgrace.”
The agents involved in the scandal had arrived in Cartagena with the plane that brings the presidential vehicles, a government source said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney repeated on Thursday that Obama still had “confidence” in Mark Sullivan, the director of the Secret Service. There is also considerable support for Sullivan on Capitol Hill, partly because he reacted quickly, bringing the agents home as soon as the scandal was exposed.
Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson, Peter Cooney and Todd Eastham