Team Obama fails to justify its sham investigation of Cartagena allegations against aide

Scott has presented the facts, as uncovered by the Washington Post, surrounding the latest from the Obama administration scandal playbook — its handling of allegations that a presidential advance team member hosted a prostitute in his hotel room during the president’s visit to Cartagena, Colombia in 2012. Ten members of the Secret Service were fired based on similar allegations.

By contrast, the advance team member, Jonathan Dach, son of a big Democratic donor, was let off the hook based on his denial of wrongdoing and a review of his expense account. This, in spite of (1) hotel logs showing that a woman was registered to his hotel room at 12:02 a.m. with a photo id (prostitutes are required to present such id to make sure they are not underage), (2) evidence that the woman who registered to the aide’s room advertised herself on the internet as a prostitute, and (3) the statement of an agent that he saw the aide with a woman he believed to be a prostitute.

The White House doesn’t deny that it let young Dach off the hook based solely on his denial of wrongdoing and his expense account (which proves that he didn’t charge the government for a prostitute, not that he didn’t hire one). By contrast, Secret Service agents — who put their lives on the line to protect the President — were subjected to an exhaustive investigation which included the examination of hotel records and the use of multiple polygraph tests.

It was appropriate thoroughly to investigate the allegations regarding these agents. The question is: why weren’t the allegations against Dach investigated with comparable thoroughness?

Was it because, in an election year, Team Obama did not want the scandal to reach into the White House? Was it because Team Obama wanted to protect the son of a generous donor? Or was there a legitimate reason for such a disparity in the investigation. If so, what was that reason?

The administration’s proffered explanation to the Post is that (1) Dach was not a government employee and (2) prostitution is legal in Cartagena. White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who was in charge of the investigation is said to have claimed that it would be scandalous to send a team to Colombia to investigate a volunteer over alleged conduct that is not illegal.

Ruemmler’s argument fails at multiple levels. For one thing, Dach could have taken a polygraph without anyone going to Colombia. Hotel logs could also have been obtained without a special trip to Colombia.

In fact, they were. According to the Post, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan informed Ruemmler that agency investigators had obtained the relevant hotel records. However, says the Post, “the new information did not change the White House’s position.”

The fact that Dach was a volunteer is irrelevant. Although he was unpaid, he still had to pass a background check to get his position. And as a coordinator of drivers, he was familiar with Obama’s general itinerary. Thus, it could compromise security for him to have contact with a local prostitute.

This is true even though engaging the prostitute’s services was legal. It would still put Dach in a compromising position because of the way the conduct is viewed by many in the U.S.

Moreover, once Dach denied the allegations, another reason arose to investigate further — to test his truthfulness. The White House should not use volunteers who lie to its lawyers.

If the allegations against Dach were irrelevant due to his volunteer status or the lack of criminality, then Ruemmler should not have investigated at all. The fact that she did shows that the allegations raised a serious concern.

Dach’s volunteer status and the non-criminal nature of the allegations against him are irrelevant for another reason. According to the Post, travel volunteers are “repeatedly reminded that they are ‘mini-ambassadors’ for the U.S. government and that their conduct reflects on the president and the first lady.” Obama himself said, when the scandal first broke, that “we’re representing the people of the United States” and “when we travel together I expect us to observe the highest standards because we’re not just representing ourselves.”

The White House’s incredibly lame investigation of Dach is inconsistent with these principles.

In sum, the explanations offered for not conducting a meaningful investigation of Dach do not hold up. We should conclude that the true explanation was the desire to insulate the White House in an election year, the desire to protect the son of generous donor (both father and son have since been rewarded with positions in the administration), or both.

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