WaPo investigation finds pre-2012 election intimidation of inspector general and cover-up by Obama White House

As Obama scandals go, it is small beer compared to the Benghazi cover-up or the “If you like your plan…” lies. But the Washington Post investigation into the cover-up of embarrassing information about the Cartagena prostitution scandal is nonetheless instructive.

The scandal itself is less interesting than the lie and cover-up that followed. In brief:

…new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member — yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.

It is, in the words of Scott Johnson of Powerline, an example of the “Obama scandal management playbook.” Inspectors general, who are supposed to be our guardians, and fully independent, were bullied and corrupted. From the WaPo:

The lead investigator later told Senate staffers that he felt pressure from his superiors in the office of Charles K. Edwards, who was then the acting inspector general, to withhold evidence — and that, in the heat of an election year, decisions were being made with political considerations in mind.

“We were directed at the time . . . to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election,” David Nieland, the lead investigator on the Colombia case for the DHS inspector general’s office, told Senate staffers, according to three people with knowledge of his statement.

Nieland added that his superiors told him “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.”

At the time, the White House denied anyone but Secret Service members were involved:

On April 23, 2012, then White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, citing an internal review, said "there's no indication that any member of the White House advance team engaged in any improper conduct or behavior" in Cartagena, Colombia. (The Washington Post via Whitehouse.gov)

The Secret Service was thrown under the bus, while a White House staffer seems to have been protected, and understandably the Secret Service agents are not happy campers.

Peter Suderman of Reason sums up what this shows us:

The details are complex, and the actual "misconduct"—hiring a prostitute in Colombia, where it’s legal to do so—is perhaps politically embarrassing but hardly misconduct at all, and certainly not the sort of thing likely to swing a not-very-close national election. And yet the administration apparently chose to delay findings and mislead the press about what happened anyway. 

So the short version is this: The administration had evidence indicating that a young advance team member, who was also the child of a lobbyist-and-donor-turned-administration-staffer, was involved in a potentially embarrassing incident with a prostitute while serving as a member of the presidential advance team—and yet explicitly denied that this was the case, and also appears to have pressured independent investigators to delay and withhold evidence until after the election was over.

And the question the story raises is: If the White House was so determined to cover up this embarassing but relatively minor incident, what larger stories has the White House suppressed or covered up that we don't know about?  

Exactly.

As Obama scandals go, it is small beer compared to the Benghazi cover-up or the “If you like your plan…” lies. But the Washington Post investigation into the cover-up of embarrassing information about the Cartagena prostitution scandal is nonetheless instructive.

The scandal itself is less interesting than the lie and cover-up that followed. In brief:

…new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member — yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.

It is, in the words of Scott Johnson of Powerline, an example of the “Obama scandal management playbook.” Inspectors general, who are supposed to be our guardians, and fully independent, were bullied and corrupted. From the WaPo:

The lead investigator later told Senate staffers that he felt pressure from his superiors in the office of Charles K. Edwards, who was then the acting inspector general, to withhold evidence — and that, in the heat of an election year, decisions were being made with political considerations in mind.

“We were directed at the time . . . to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election,” David Nieland, the lead investigator on the Colombia case for the DHS inspector general’s office, told Senate staffers, according to three people with knowledge of his statement.

Nieland added that his superiors told him “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.”

At the time, the White House denied anyone but Secret Service members were involved:

On April 23, 2012, then White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, citing an internal review, said "there's no indication that any member of the White House advance team engaged in any improper conduct or behavior" in Cartagena, Colombia. (The Washington Post via Whitehouse.gov)

The Secret Service was thrown under the bus, while a White House staffer seems to have been protected, and understandably the Secret Service agents are not happy campers.

Peter Suderman of Reason sums up what this shows us:

The details are complex, and the actual "misconduct"—hiring a prostitute in Colombia, where it’s legal to do so—is perhaps politically embarrassing but hardly misconduct at all, and certainly not the sort of thing likely to swing a not-very-close national election. And yet the administration apparently chose to delay findings and mislead the press about what happened anyway. 

So the short version is this: The administration had evidence indicating that a young advance team member, who was also the child of a lobbyist-and-donor-turned-administration-staffer, was involved in a potentially embarrassing incident with a prostitute while serving as a member of the presidential advance team—and yet explicitly denied that this was the case, and also appears to have pressured independent investigators to delay and withhold evidence until after the election was over.

And the question the story raises is: If the White House was so determined to cover up this embarassing but relatively minor incident, what larger stories has the White House suppressed or covered up that we don't know about?  

Exactly.