Nearly two weeks in, there are no signs of the scandal, that has engulfed the American Secret Service, of abating.
In fact, instead, it is getting bigger by the day as it emerges the antics of the agents visiting Cartagena, Colombia wasn’t a one-off.
Firstly, Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S. calls the media coverage “superficial, sensationalist and unfair,” and is asking the White House for a new apology. The State Department says the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did both apologize when they were in Colombia.
Now, it is emerging that the dispute over the payment of escort Dania Londono Suarez in Colombia, which sparked the controversy, has now ignited a new round of revelations, stretching to other countries.
Two weeks after the incident in Cartagena, the Secret Service is working to quickly wrap up that portion of the scandal, but the U.S. government is investigating reports of unprofessional behavior and rule-breaking by agents in four countries, going back 12 years.
On Capitol Hill, there are growing demands for an outside agency to take over the probe.
Seattle CBS affiliate KIRO-TV reported Thursday that Secret Service agents visited a strip club in El Salvador — by the vanload — in advance of President Obama’s trip there in March 2011.
The Secret Service is looking into that report. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have reported that Secret Service personnel traveling in 2009 with former President Clinton partied at strip clubs on a visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and that agents and White House staffers went to a Moscow night club known for its sexually charged atmosphere prior to Mr. Clinton’s trip to Russia in 2000.
A Secret Service spokeswoman called those accusations just “rumors.”
The new allegations come soon after a hearing Wednesday in which senators were assured that the Colombia scandal was an isolated incident.
“That’s why we need thorough investigation not just by the White House, not just by DHS (Department of Homeland Security), but by Congress; that’s part of our oversight responsibilities,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “It’s an obligation we owe the American people.
Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said the agency was taking a preliminary look into the new reports. “Any information brought to our attention that can be assessed as credible will be followed up on in an appropriate manner,” he said in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president won’t pass judgment on whether there’s a pattern of misbehavior at the Secret Service until all investigations have been completed.
“When we travel abroad on official trips,” Carney said, “we are representing the people of this country, and we should do so by conducting ourselves in an appropriate manner.”