White House: No wrongdoing in prostitution scandal

AP News
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Posted: Sep 21, 2012 2:52 PM
White House: No wrongdoing in prostitution scandal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigating the prostitution scandal at the Secret Service, the Homeland Security Department's inspector general uncovered a hotel record suggesting a member of President Barack Obama's team might have been involved, according to a summary of the case submitted to Congress. A senior administration official told The Associated Press the White House determined the record was false and that the person in question did nothing wrong.

The acting inspector general, Charles K. Edwards, said the employee "may have had contact with foreign nationals" and "may have been affiliated with the White House advance operation," according to a letter to lawmakers obtained by the AP. Edwards cited as evidence a hotel registry obtained by his investigators.

Edwards acknowledged that his investigators did not pursue information about the activities of the White House employee, who was not identified, or the actions of another U.S. military employee, because his report was intended to focus solely on employees at the Homeland Security Department. Edwards said his office "did not conduct any additional investigation into this finding and has made no determination related to these individuals because they are not DHS personnel."

The mere possibility of such an encounter raises the potential for election-year fallout for the White House, which reviewed the matter months ago and cleared all its workers of wrongdoing.

The senior administration official told the AP that the hotel record Edwards cited in his letter to Congress was incorrect, and the person affiliated with the White House team did nothing improper. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details of a review that has not made been public and also spoke to quickly quash a potential controversy.

The Obama team member in question was a volunteer working as part of White House advance team that helped set up Obama's trip to Cartagena, Colombia, for a Latin America summit in April. The worker had his expenses paid but is not on the White House staff.

The White House review found that a guest, perhaps a prostitute, had signed in to visit the same room assigned to that volunteer member of Obama's team. This occurred at the Hilton hotel where Obama would later stay during his visit.

But the review found that hotel log was false and that there was no other evidence to corroborate that the individual had received a visitor, the official said.

"As we've said for months, the White House review concluded that no members of the White House advance team, either staff or volunteers, engaged in inappropriate conduct during the president's trip to Colombia," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz on Friday.

One other member of the Secret Service had been inaccurately implicated when a guest who signed into the hotel falsely gave the Secret Service member's room number.

The prostitution scandal engulfed both Secret Service and military personnel.

The inspector general focused solely on Homeland Security officials and therefore reached no conclusions about people outside its jurisdiction. Yet the summary raises questions about two non-Secret Service personnel — the one person tied to Obama's advance operation, and one Department of Defense worker affiliated with the military's White House Communications Agency.

The official who spoke to the AP refused to name the White House advance team member.