Citing a lack of cooperation from the Secret Service, Chairman Jason Chaffetz of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued subpoenas for two Secret Service agents to testify to the committee about recent security breaches and other disfunction at the agency. Chaffetz said that Secret Service director Clancy has gone back on a promise to make the two unnamed agents available to be interviewed by his committee, prompting the subpoenas. Within hours, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson fired back a sharply worded statement denying the charges of uncooperativeness along with a veiled threat to defy the subpoenas.
The immediate concern of Chaffetz's committee is the Secret Service's apparent mishandling of a March 4 bomb threat outside the White House, but Chaffetz's statement also said, "Secret Service appears to be systemically broken and in desperate need of both leadership and reform." Secretary Johnson contends that the Secret Service and his entire department have been fully cooperative, directly contradicted some of Chaffetz's assertions, and also pointing out that his department's inspector general is currently investigating the March 4 incident.
The most contentious part of Johnson's statement, however, addresses the subpoenaing of the two agents in question. Johnson wrote [emphasis added]:
Those of us who are senior leaders in the Executive Branch understand the obligation to appear before Congress and give public testimony. In 2014, I testified before Congress 12 times, in addition to my numerous other duties. However, our subordinates, in particular the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service with the responsibility to protect the President and his family, are a different story. Director Clancy and I must fight to protect them against the visibility, public glare, and inevitable second-guessing, of a congressional hearing. I hope Chairman Chaffetz appreciates this...
I will continue to work with Chairman Chaffetz and his committee to reach a reasonable accommodation that serves the Committee’s need to conduct responsible oversight without compromising the U.S. Secret Service’s extraordinarily protection mission.
Chairman Jason Chaffetz did not indicate how long the committee would give the agents to respond to the subpoenas.