Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Monday morning that he is putting a hold on three of President Obama’s ambassadorial nominees until the administration shows it is taking steps to punish Secret Service staff involved in leaking unflattering information about a lawmaker.
“This was apparently a violation of law, and absolutely shocking conduct,” Cotton said in an interview. “The executive branch all the way up to the West Wing needs to treat this with the seriousness it requires.”
Cotton called on Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to “personally attend” to disciplining top Secret Service leaders — specifically including new Director Joseph Clancy — for the leak of personnel information about of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) from the agency’s files.
Cotton also called on the Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation into the matter, which involves Secret Service agents repeatedly accessing and sharing a file showing that Chaffetz had been rejected for a job as a Secret Service agent a decade ago. Accessing and sharing such personnel information, with rare exceptions, is a violation of federal privacy law.
The senator’s hold applies to three nominees who have been waiting for months for the Senate to confirm them — Cassandra Butts, for ambassador to Bahamas; Azita Raji, ambassador to Sweden; and Samuel Heins, ambassador to Norway.
Cotton said he will consider blocking more nominees if the administration refuses to fully investigate and discipline Secret Service staff.
“When President Obama and Secretary Johnson take appropriate action, I will likewise take action and release these and future objections,” Cotton said.
The senator is among a growing group of lawmakers in both parties expressing outrage about how the Chaffetz information was handled. Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been a vocal critic of the Service.
An investigation by a top federal watchdog found that 45 Secret Service employees improperly accessed Chaffetz’s file in an agency database following a contentious hearing Chaffetz ran in March, and that an assistant director of the agency urged making the information public. It was published two days later in the Daily Beast and Washington Post.
Source: Washington Post
Published: May 10, 2015