House leaders call for independent Secret Service investigation

House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi are endorsing calls for an independent investigation into a series of Secret Service mishaps.

Boehner, R-Ohio, said he backs Homeland Security Committee chairman Mike McCaul’s plan for a “blue ribbon commission” to conduct a comprehensive review.

“Given the Secret Service’s proud history and the duties it is charged with, we are right to expect nothing but candor and clarity from its leaders, particularly at a time when Americans are as aware as ever that we live in a dangerous world,” Boehner said. “Unfortunately, the Secret Service director’s appearance before Chairman Issa’s Oversight & Government Reform Committee has created more questions than answers.”

As director Julia Pierson was testifying on Tuesday, news reports said agency protocols also failed during Obama’s recent trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The president apparently shared an elevator with a security contractor who was carrying a gun and had three criminal convictions for assault and battery on his record.

“The more we discover, the clearer it becomes that the Secret Service is beset by a culture of complacency and incompetence,” Boehner said. He stopped short of calling for Secret Service Director Julia Pierson to step down, but noted that Obama “must make a swift determination on whether the agency is being well-served by its current leadership.”

Pelosi said she, too, believes an independent investigation should be launched, calling “inexcusable” that someone would jump over the fence and get into the White House and “inexcusable” that someone would be on the elevator with Obama with a weapon.

“I think an independent investigation is what is needed, not just to hold people accountable but to see how we should go forward in a way that, again, has precision, accountability and is flawless because the protection of the president is really important to our reputation, the reputation of the Secret Service,” she said.

She too, stopped short of calling for Pierson’s resignation, saying she agrees with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, who told CNN on Wednesday that he wants Pierson to step down “if she cannot restore trust in the agency and if she cannot get the culture back in order.”

A Cummings aide said Cummings spoke with Pierson today and believes “that if she can’t restore the public’s trust in the agency – and in particular address the cultural issues so agents feel comfortable raising security concerns to their higher-ups – then of course she should not be in that position.”

The aide said Cummings’ “trust is eroding, and he believes there needs to be an independent review of the agency.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said earlier Wednesday that Obama “and everybody here at the White House stand solidly behind all of the men and women in the Secret Service, including the director of the Secret Service.”

He told CNN the agency’s employees “are professionals who have a very difficult job and every day they wake up prepared to put their life on the line to protect the White House, to protect the president, to protect the first family.”

He noted it was “clear, however, that there are some reforms that need to be implemented to bolster that security, particularly here at the White House.”