Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, discussed how the Secret Service can make sure the behavior that took place Colombia doesn’t happen again, admitting to CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday that “you can’t legislate people not being stupid.”
“You don’t necessarily change behavior, but you certainly set the tone of what you want,” Cummings said. In response to Sen. Harry Reid’s comments that what the agents did was stupid, Cummings added: “You can’t legislate people not being stupid, but certainly you can uphold the high standards of this organization… We’re going to make sure that it remains the great organization that it is.”
Republicans and their allies like Joe Lieberman are dying to pin this scandal on President Obama. We know how the GOP loves a good sex scandal if it involves a Democratic president.
Full transcript below the fold.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which this week has had its hands full.
CUMMINGS: We've been busy.
CROWLEY: Yes you have. And not in great ways.
The Secret Service scandal with the prostitutes, you know, almost two dozen we're told and almost a dozen Secret Service men, do we now know the scope of what went on?
CUMMINGS: Candy, we don't know the full scope. The Secret Service, I believe, they're investigating themselves and they're doing I think a very good job. And they acted on it very quickly. They got in there within a matter of a few hours, got those folks out of there, took away their security clearance, and suspended them. Now we know that six of them are gone, and others are being investigated.
So -- but -- and they have it -- and the thing that Director Sullivan has assured us of is he will go wherever the evidence leads. And he has expanded his investigation from the initial 11, and that's why the most recent person who came up on Friday I think it was has been included.
So I think we're going to have to wait and see.
CROWLEY: And it is your understanding it's exactly what we've been told, which is a group of Secret Service men sort of barhopping, picking up women along the way, prostitutes along the way, coming back to the hotel, and it all came to light because of a dispute over money and how much they'd be paid.
CUMMINGS: That's exactly right.
CUMMINGS: And it's a sad situation, but, you know, our committee, the Government Reform Committee, we take this very seriously. This is our watch. The Secret Service is a phenomenal organization. It's an elite force.
And I have said to the director, look, it's not only important that you be excellent, but we also don't want people to even imagine, imagine that they can pierce the shield of the Secret Service because that's --
CROWLEY: Is that what bothers you most?
CUMMINGS: Not the most but it bothers me a lot because I know that there are a lot of folks who are perhaps looking for opportunities to do harm to the president or others that the Secret Service, you know, guard.
And you never know what they think that is a moment of weakness, Candy, that's the time that they may think that they can act. But I want to make sure that we get this matter resolved. I want it resolved fairly, I want it thoroughly investigated, and make any changes that might be necessary.
CROWLEY: How do you change the behavior of folks? I mean, in some ways you -- you know, Senator Reid said this is just stupid, you know, and it's hard to fix stupid.
CUMMINGS: Yes, well, I think that you don't necessarily change behavior, but you certainly set the tone of what you want, and when --
CROWLEY: Surely they must have known that going down to Cartagena in advance of the president to set up security down there and movements down there, you probably shouldn't get drunk and pick up prostitutes.
CUMMINGS: Exactly right, and I think we have some bad actors here. I don't think that we judge the Secret Service by its weakest link. They are gone, half of them, and I think others will be leaving shortly.
So, you know, you can't, you know, legislate people not being stupid, but certainly you can uphold the high standards of this organization. Keep in mind, the Secret Service has been around since 1865, and we're going to make sure that it remains the great organization that it is.
CROWLEY: So you're suggesting that the other -- there are now another six that are still on leave or have been suspended, whatever we call that, that you suspect may well resign or be --
CUMMINGS: I would not be surprised.
CROWLEY: OK. And let me ask you, will higher heads roll? That is, we know the supervisors that were down there and involved in this are gone, but what about the Secret Service director? How do you feel about him, because very often, when these things happen, GSA, something else you have been involved in, the head goes.
CUMMINGS: Yes. I'm very confident that what happened here was limited to these folks, but we'll find out. But the thing that impressed me about Sullivan is that he acted quickly. Keep in mind, the head of the region down there in South America was on that situation immediately.
CUMMINGS: Got those folks out there immediately. And she, of course, was acting on behalf of Sullivan. So I think Sullivan has done a very good job. A lot of us on Capitol Hill, most of us have a lot of confidence in him, both sides of the aisle, by the way.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you as a final question, you have mentioned a couple times that folks in your district ask you with regularity about the safety of this president.
Do you have more concerns with the safety of this president because he's African-American than you would have had for, say, George Bush or those that --
CUMMINGS: First of all, let me say I have concern about all presidents and everybody that the Secret Service guards.
CUMMINGS: But the fact is that African-American people have always expressed concern to me about this president. They see, Candy, folk around this president with guns strapped on their legs. And they say, you know, how can that be?
And they're just -- they worry. They're concerned, but, again, I believe that the Secret Service is going to get through this. I think this is a time that they have to take a look at themselves.
By the way, the other thing we're doing is we're also going to be taking -- our committee is going to be looking at DOD. We're sending a letter to them, trying to figure out what role they played in all of this, too.
CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much, Congressman, for stopping by. We really appreciate it.
CUMMINGS: Thank you. It's my pleasure.