By Carol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura, Washington Post
As nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and members of the military were punished or fired following a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, Obama administration officials repeatedly denied that anyone from the White House was involved.
But new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member — yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.
The information that the Secret Service shared with the White House included hotel records and firsthand accounts — the same types of evidence the agency and military relied on to determine who in their ranks was involved.
Investigator claims he was told to delay Secret Service prostitution report until after election
The lead investigator into the Secret Service prostitution scandal told Senate staffers that he was directed to delay the release of the report until after the 2012 election, according to a published report.
According to The Washington Post, David Nieland also said that he was instructed by his superiors in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general's office to "withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration." He likely gave the account to aides on the Senate homeland security committee, which had looked into the case.
The Post also reported that senior White House aides were given information suggesting that a prostitute had stayed in the hotel room of a member of the White House's advance team, contrary to earlier denials that any member of the administration was involved.
Nearly two dozen Secret Service agents were disciplined or fired as part of the scandal, which began when Secret Service agents brought prostitutes into their hotel in Cartagena, Colombia ahead of President Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas in April 2012. The Post reports that the Secret Service twice shared the findings of its own internal investigation with top White House officials, who concluded that the advance team member had done nothing wrong.
Charles Edwards, the Department of Homeland Security's acting inspector general at the time of the investigation, told the Senate staffers that any changes to the report were part of the editing process, a statement that was backed by White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
"As the bipartisan Senate investigation found ... changes made to the IG Report were 'part of the ordinary process of editing the report' and found that allegations that changes were made because they were embarrassing could not be substantiated," Schultz said in a statement late Wednesday.
The White House advance team member has been identified as Jonathan Dach, then a 25-year-old Yale Law School student and volunteer who helped to coordinate drivers for the White House travel office. The Post reports that Dach has repeatedly denied bringing prostitutes to his hotel room. Prostitution is legal in parts of Colombia, including in Cartagena.
The DHS inspector general's office conducted its own investigation into the scandal at the request of a subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Nieland told staffers that Edwards had asked him to remove references to Dach in their report after Edwards had briefed then-Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano on the advance team member's possible involvement. A spokesman for Napolitano denied that she had asked for the report to be altered or delayed.
Nieland and two other members of the office later claimed that they were put on administrative leave for questioning the changes to the report, claims that The Post reports their superiors denied.