Senators press homeland security inspector to quit
Cite proof he soft-pedaled Secret Service probe
The bipartisan leaders of a key Senate panel have taken the rare step of calling for the resignation of the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, saying they have documented through whistleblowers several allegations of inappropriate behavior, including accusations he soft-pedaled an internal probe of the Secret Service prostitution scandal.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on contracting oversight, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, the panel’s ranking Republican, called Tuesday for Inspector General Charles Edwards to resign, claiming he withheld information related to allegations he misused agency resources and abused his authority.
“This summer we began investigating allegations of misconduct by Charles Edwards,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. “Since then, dozens of whistleblowers have come forward. It is clear to us at this point that Charles Edwards should resign.”
Mr. Edwards “needs to resign,” Mrs. McCaskill told The Federal Times, which first reported the story, on Tuesday. “We have a number of documented cases of inappropriate behavior for somebody who’s in that role,” including allowing report findings to be changed based on “inappropriate influence.”
She was referring to whistleblower allegations that Mr. Edwards gave in to political pressure in examining the Secret Service’s 2012 scandal involving a dozen agents who took prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, in advance of a visit by President Obama.
A spokesman for the inspector general told reporters that Mr. Edwards has no intention of stepping aside. Officials with his office said that it has turned over thousands of pages of documents and intends to continue to cooperate with the probe. Mr. Edwards has maintained the allegations against him are without merit.
In September, The Washington Times reported that the Senate panel was investigating whether former Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano’s close allies, former chief of staff Noah Kroloff and former general counsel John Sandweg, pushed Mr. Edwards to tread lightly in issuing a report that validated the Secret Service’s own internal probe of the scandal. Sources privy to both a public and nonpublic version of the inspector general’s report say that the two versions don’t match.
Soon after the public report was released, Mr. Kroloff formed a private consulting firm with Mark Sullivan, who retired in March as head of the Secret Service. A number of other former Homeland Security officials also have joined the firm.
Mr. Edwards is expected to issue a “culture report” regarding the Secret Service in the coming weeks.
Mrs. McCaskill’s office did not respond to calls and emails. Mr. Johnson’s office would not comment on the panel’s work.
Andrew P. Howell, a specialist in homeland security with the Monument Policy Group, said he is unfamiliar with the details of the inspector general and Senate panel inquiries. But in general, he said that bipartisan congressional committees need to be fair and balanced and staffed with competent and capable people, “otherwise it threatens to undermine the credibility of the process and begins to look like what the subject of the investigation is being accused of.”
Mr. Johnson and Mrs. McCaskill are not the first to ask Mr. Edwards to step aside, according to government sources. On Tuesday, they said they are working together to find a replacement candidate to recommend to President Obama.
Clark Ervin, a lawyer at Patton Boggs and the first inspector general in Homeland Security’s brief history, said the only person who can fire an inspector general is the president, and even then he has to give Congress his reasons in writing. Although inspectors general also report to Congress, lawmakers cannot fire them, though the rare step of calling for a resignation will have a chilling effect on their relationship. “Congressional appropriators could cut off his funds,” Mr. Ervin said, “but that’s a draconian step that damages the mission of the office.”
Cause of Action, a government accountability group, also called for Mr. Edwards to resign, pointing to their own efforts in July to urge Mr. Obama to remove him.
“Inspectors general are required to act as internal agency watchdogs to save taxpayers’ money, investigate corruption and punish wrongdoing,” said Executive Director Dan Epstein in a statement. “Unfortunately, [Mr.] Edwards has failed to do his job on all fronts.”