The director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, could have retired from government nearly 10 years ago and avoided the scandal of the White House gate-crashers and, more recently, the one involving a dozen agents, officers and supervisors implicated in a prostitution case.
Instead, Mr. Sullivan chose to remain in the Secret Service, where he has spent half his life. The question is: Will Mr. Sullivan will be allowed to keep his job as the scandal unfolds in coming weeks?
Mr. Sullivan, 58, appears to have weathered the storm’s early stages, although details are still shaking out, and congressional hearings haven’t started. He’s credited with taking quick disciplinary action and being open about facts in the sordid affair with members of Congress, with whom he has shrewdly cultivated important relationships over the years.
When Mr. Sullivan learned April 12 about reports of prostitutes with Secret Service agents, officers and supervisors in Cartagena, Colombia, he quickly expressed concern about the president’s security, according to a senior Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Assured there was no threat, Mr. Sullivan instructed all the implicated employees to be removed from Colombia.
Later, Mr. Sullivan personally called the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at home to talk about the investigation. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, spoke fondly of Mr. Sullivan during a subsequent oversight hearing, noting that he has known the director since Mr. Sullivan was just a Secret Service agent.
“I think he’s doing all he can to ensure a timely and thorough investigation, accountability for behavior that failed to meet the standards he expects, and certainly the standards that the president of the United States and the American people deserve,” Mr. Leahy said.
There have been only a few signs so far of eroding support. The White House has said the president — who joked in a speech during the weekend about a new “curfew” for Secret Service agents — remained supportive of Mr. Sullivan.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, said last week that Mr. Sullivan’s job could be secure if the scandal were an isolated incident. “But if it goes much deeper, you know, nothing happens or nothing’s changed in Washington, if heads don’t roll,” Mr. Grassley said.
In another response to the prostitution scandal, Mr. Sullivan late Friday announced new conduct rules for agency agents to prohibit them from drinking excessively, visiting disreputable establishments while traveling or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms. Mr. Sullivan urged agents and other employees to “consider your conduct through the lens of the past several weeks.”
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