(WASHINGTON) — The actions of a Secret Service agent in a Washington hotel room earlier this year put the entire First Family at risk, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Thursday.
“I think we deserve better, and certainly the President of the United States and his family deserve better,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told ABC News. “This is really unacceptable.”
A Secret Service supervisor tied to President Obama’s security detail met a woman several months ago in the bar of the Hay-Adams Hotel — near the White House — and ultimately went to her room, according to McCaul and other sources.
When the woman saw he had a firearm, she became “concerned about it,” so he removed the gun’s clip and a bullet in the gun’s chamber, said McCaul, who has been briefed on the case by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.
The Secret Service supervisor then departed the hotel. But after realizing he left the bullet behind, he went back to the hotel, identified himself as a Secret Service employee and had hotel staff retrieve the bullet, McCaul and others in his office said. The Hay-Adams then informed Secret Service officials about the matter.
In an interview Thursday with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas, McCaul said the entire encounter “compromise[d] not only the agent, but the security of the First Family,” adding that a “classic tactic” of foreign spies is to gather sensitive information by putting U.S. officials in sticky situations.
“In this case, Secret Service has information about the president’s closest security details,” McCaul said. “That kind of information, if compromised, can be lethal to the presidency.”
The woman who brought the Secret Service supervisor back to her hotel room is a U.S. citizen, according to McCaul.
Still, the House Homeland Security Committee’s chairman said the latest matter is “very disappointing” in light of the scandal that erupted last year when Secret Service employees brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia.
In April 2012, agents were in Cartagena preparing for a trip by President Obama, but an internal Secret Service probe later determined that “Presidential security, sensitive information, and equipment were not compromised” during the affair, according to the DHS inspector general.
In the most recent case, when Secret Service officials were investigating the incident at the Hay-Adams Hotel, they found questionable emails from the Secret Service supervisor to a female agent. And while following up on those emails, investigators found that the female agent had received other questionable emails from another male agent, sources and McCaul said.
In Thursday’s interview, Thomas asked McCaul whether the emails were troubling and “sexually explicit or not.”
“My understanding, in talking to the [DHS] inspector general’s office, is that there was nothing contained in the emails that gave any concern with respect to the female,” McCaul said. “So I don’t think those emails really led [to] anything that was of concern.”
In fact, the second male agent has not been removed from the president’s security detail, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
The supervisor has been removed from the president’s detail pending a final assessment, those sources said.
“The Secret Service takes allegations of improper behavior seriously and works diligently to investigate and resolve issues,” Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said in a statement. “Any misconduct is regrettable, but when it is identified, appropriate action is always taken based on established rules and regulations.”
In the wake of the Cartagena scandal, the DHS inspector general has been looking at “the culture” within the Secret Service, and a final report is expected to be finished within days, McCaul said.
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