Three more Secret Service officers resigned Friday in the expanding prostitution scandal that has brought scorching criticism of agents' behavior in Colombia just before President Obama's visit for a summit meeting last week. Agency Director Mark Sullivan came to the White House late Friday to personally brief Obama in the Oval Office.
The Secret Service announced the new resignations, bringing to six the number of agency officers who have lost their jobs so far because of events at their hotel in Cartagena.
Also late Friday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa urged a broader investigation, including checking hotel records for White House advance staff and communications personnel who were in Cartagena for the summit. In a letter to Sullivan and the inspector general at the Homeland Security Department, Grassley asked whether hotel records for the White House staffers had been pulled as part of the investigations.
An additional Secret Service employee was implicated Friday, a government official said, commenting only on condition of anonymity concerning the continuing investigation. That brings the number to 12.
Obama's spokesman has assailed Republican criticism that has attempted to blame a lack of presidential leadership for the scandal and has said Obama would be angry if allegations published so far proved to be true. Friday's was Obama's first personal briefing by Sullivan on the subject, officials said.
The scandal also involves at least 11 military members who were working on security before Obama arrived in Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas. The Pentagon acknowledged Friday that the 11th military person, a member of the Army, was implicated.
The incident in Colombia involved at least some Secret Service personnel bringing prostitutes to their hotel rooms. News of the incident, which involves at least 20 Colombian women, broke a week ago after a fight over payment between a prostitute and a Secret Service agent spilled into the hotel hallway.
Two Secret Service supervisors and another employee were forced out of the agency earlier in the week. All of the agents being investigated have had their top-secret clearances revoked.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for the two Secret Service supervisors said that Obama's safety was never at risk, and he criticized leaks of internal government investigations in the case, signaling a possible strategy for an upcoming legal defense. Lawrence Berger of New York, representing ousted supervisors David Chaney and Greg Stokes, said that leaks surrounding the investigations "distort the process."
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview Friday that the Secret Service's investigation has been moving quickly enough to satisfy him and that the resignations are a good sign.
"Secret Service is questioning anyone who has any knowledge at all," King said. "They're talking to maids, they're talking to hotel employees, they're talking to women involved, so I have faith in the investigation."
In Colombia on Friday, Colombian prosecutors spent more than three hours questioning a taxi driver who led reporters to the home of the young woman who he said was the prostitute who launched the scandal by complaining of not being paid by a Secret Service agent at the Hotel Caribe.
A senior official in the local prosecutor's office said the driver, Jose Pena, was not suspected of any crime but that a Colombian investigation into the case began Thursday to ensure that none of the prostitutes involved was a minor.
On Chaney's Facebook account, which was made inaccessible on Friday, Chaney joked about his work with former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin while he was protecting her in 2008. The AP published a photograph it took of Chaney working in Palin's protective detail in October 2008 during a campaign rally in Carson, Calif.
"I was really checking her out, if you know what i mean?" Chaney wrote after a friend commented on the picture posted in January 2009 on Chaney's Facebook account.
Speaking on Fox News late Thursday, Palin said the joke was on Chaney.
"Well, check this out, buddy -- you're fired!" Palin said.