Arkansas senator Tom Cotton will place a hold on three ambassador nominations until the Obama administration agrees to investigate and discipline officials within the Secret Service over a leak of private personnel information about a sitting congressman.
Cotton plans to deliver a speech from the Senate floor Monday afternoon decrying the Secret Service and its director, Joe Clancy, after several officials accessed the information for Jason Chaffetz, the Republican congressman from Utah and chairman of the House oversight committee, which oversees the Secret Service.
In 2003, before being elected to Congress, Chaffetz applied and was rejected for a job at the agency. Shortly after the beginning of a March 2015 hearing led by Chaffetz and investigating misconduct within the agency, a Secret Service official accessed the Republican's file. Eventually, more than 40 other employees would see the file as it was circulated around the agency, and the contents of it were leaked to the press.
Clancy, a Secret Service veteran who has headed the agency since last October, intially said he did not know about his staff accessing and viewing the Chaffetz file. But the director now says he needs to revise his official account of the leak to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. Cotton told the Washington Post Monday Clancy's revision shows the administration needs to conduct a full criminal investigation into the leak.
“If he intentionally misled investigators, he has to be fired,” Cotton told the Post. “But even if he didn’t mislead anyone, his conduct is not what we would want or expect from the person in charge of reforming this agency.”
In his address to the Senate, Cotton will argue the executive branch should be held accountable for misdeeds and that the Obama administration should discipline the appropriate officers of the Secret Service. While the Arkansas Republican will say he is only currently objecting to three nominations—the ambassadors to the Bahamas, Sweden, and Norway—Cotton will leave the door open for holding up more nominations.
“When President Obama and Secretary Johnson take appropriate action, I will likewise take action and release these and future objections,” Cotton told the Post.
Chaffetz, who served with Cotton in the House before the latter's election to the Senate in 2014, tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD he has spoken to Cotton "a couple of times" about the Secret Service leak but did not elaborate on whether he thought the hold was appropriate.
A four-term congressman, Chaffetz is also running for House speaker in the October 29 election, taking on House majority leader Kevin McCarthy