Tom Cotton: Secret Service leak on Chaffetz hints at a “constitutional clash”

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas defended placing a hold on three Obama administration as part of a “constitutional clash” after the Secret Service leaked information about Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

“If they will do that to the congressman who oversees them — with his influence and his megaphone — what might they do the the little guy, to the normal American?” Cotton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.” “That’s not the level of leadership that we should expect from the Secret Service.”

Cotton called on Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to get “personally involved” and for the Attorney General to launch a criminal investigation into whether certain laws were broken.

“The gravity of this scandal hasn’t thus far been met with appropriate action from the highest levels of the executive branch,” Cotton said on the Senate floor. “Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson stated last week that he’s ‘confident U.S. Secret Service Director Joe Clancy will take appropriate action to hold accountable those who violated any laws or policies of this Department.’ This response is woefully inadequate on multiple counts.”

He added the incident warranted a “presidentsial response” but that “President Obama has been silent.”

Cotton has held up the nominations of Cassandra Butts as ambassador to Bahamas, Azita Raji as ambassador to Sweden and Samuel Heins as ambassador to Norway, CNN has confirmed. The names were first reported by The Washington Post.

Cotton defended that decision by suggesting the Chaffetz leak speaks to a broader attempt by the administration to intimidate the congressional committees that oversee it.

“This is not just about specific instance of misconduct,” Cotton said. “This is a constitutional clash between the executive and the legislature.”

A government watchdog reopened an investigation into Secret Service agents that improperly accessed and disseminated personal information of Chaffetz, who had previously applied for a job at the agency he is now so critical of.

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation is being taken up again following the revelation by Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy that he knew March 25 of a “speculative rumor” in the agency about planning to reveal information about Chaffetz and became aware of the actual breach on April 1.

Clancy revised the date he became aware of the data breach on Monday, saying he had known since April 2, not April 1, and was “going off memory” when he stated the incorrect date to the inspector general.

Chaffetz’s personal information was accessed through a restricted, secret database.

A previous investigation found that Chaffetz’s personally identifiable information was accessed more than 60 times by 45 Secret Service agents. A top official at the agency encouraged colleagues via email to release records on Chaffetz that contained “some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” according to the initial report’s findings, released last week.

“The (inspector general) identified 18 supervisors — including the acting chief of staff and the deputy director — who knew or should have known that Chairman Chaffetz’ personal information was being accessed. Yet, with a single exception, there was no evidence that any of the managers attempted to inform up the chain or to stop or remediate the activity,” the report said.

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