Tuesday, June 26, 2012

User's Manual To House Contempt Resolutions.

By Chad Pergram

The House of Representatives formally launches its effort to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress Wednesday. While the vote won't come until Thursday, the mechanics begin Wednesday at 2 pm ET in the House Rules Committee.

Garden variety contempt of Congress resolutions are usually "privileged." That means they come to the House floor automatically and get an hour of debate. They can't be amended and then the House votes, yea or nay, to hold whomever in contempt.

However, on this occasion, the floor process will start in the Rules Committee.

Here's why: The House will actually consider two contempt resolutions against Holder.

First of all, the House has the actual "criminal" contempt resolution that was voted on last week by the House Oversight Committee. If the House votes for that contempt resolution, the citation is then sent to the Justice Department and subsequently to a U.S. Attorney who is asked to look at the case and try to get an indictment of Holder for not responding to Congress.

But, there's also a "civil" contempt resolution. This citation was not approved by the Oversight Committee. This second resolution is interesting because, if adopted, it grants the House to go to court and ask for an order that the Department of Justice be compelled to fork over the Fast and Furious documents in question.
The House will then have to vote on both resolutions. It is conceivable, but not likely, that the House could approve one contempt resolution and not the other.

Here's what this all means: There will be separate sets of debate on both resolutions, followed by separate votes.

Also, by going to the Rules Committee, the House is able to build into the "rule" (which manages how the body handles the resolutions on the floor) a provision which prevents the reading of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee report on Fast and Furious. This is a time-saver because doing so, according to one senior aide, "would take six-and-a-half hours."

Also, by going to the Rules Committee, the House crafts the guidelines for debate and if any amendments will be in order. They are unlikely and could be blocked in the Rules Committee tomorrow.

So what does Thursday look like?

It's doubtful that the House will start any of this until 12:30 pm ET at the earliest (at least two hours after the Supreme Court health care ruling...so there's a bit of a reprieve...but not necessarily by design).

The House will have to first debate the "rule." That takes an hour...and then the House votes on the rule.
If they don't adopt the rule, the entire process comes to a screeching halt and Eric Holder is the happiest person in Washington.

If they adopt the rule, debate then starts on the two resolutions. Again, these will be separate debates. Each debate could take up to two hours. But we won't know for sure until the Rules Committee crafts its rule tomorrow.

Then, the House will vote on the two resolutions.

If the House votes yea on either resolution, it is fair to say that Holder has been held in contempt.

Keep in mind that this is a similar process that House Democrats used when the House voted to hold Bush White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and White House Counsel Harriet Miers in contempt in 2008. There are slight differences. The Democrats velcroed the two resolutions together and there was only one debate and one vote. Here the Republicans have separated the two issues, which means there will probably be more debate time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Contempt: JW Sues ATF for Fast and Furious Records

This week marked some huge developments in the "Fast and Furious" scandal that involved the Obama administration's allowing guns to "walk" across the border into the hands of Mexican drug cartels directly resulting in the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  At least 150 Mexicans were murdered by Fast and Furious guns.  

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder was 
voted in contempt of Congress by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA).  The contempt relates to Holder's steadfast refusal to turn over key documents about the Fast and Furious operation.  Next week, assuming the full House votes as planned, Eric Holder is likely to find himself to be the first Attorney General of the United States in history to be found in contempt of Congress.  The contempt resolution is reproduced below:
Resolved, That Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, shall be found to be in contempt of Congress for failure to comply with a congressional subpoena. 

Resolved, That pursuant to 2 U.S.C. §§ 192 and 194, the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall certify the report of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, detailing the refusal of Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, to produce documents to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as directed by subpoena, to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, to the end that Mr. Holder be proceeded against in the manner and form provided by law. 

Resolved, That the Speaker of the House shall otherwise take all appropriate action to enforce the subpoena.
In an effort to derail the contempt vote, Holder asked the president on Tuesday to do what Obama does best, use the power of the Oval Office to try to shield documents from disclosure. (This despite Obama's previous statements as a presidential candidate indicating he believed executive privilege is not a good reason to withhold documents from Congress.)

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked some critical questions after the president intervened: "How can the president assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he's supposedly never seen?"

How indeed?

In fact, your Judicial Watch litigated a key relevant case on executive privilege against the Bush administration.  Judicial Watch 
sued the Bush Department of Justice (DOJ) to gain access to DOJ documents about the Clinton pardon scandal.  The Bush DOJ said that documents prepared by its Office of Pardon Attorney, which is supposed to advise the president on pardons/commutations, were subject to the presidential communication privilege.  A lower court agreed.  But in a key 2004 ruling against the Bush administration, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overruled the lower court and said that extending the presidential communications privilege to internal DOJ documents "would be both contrary to executive privilege precedent and considerably undermine the purposes of Freedom of Information (FOIA) to foster openness and accountability in government."  

Any internal DOJ documents on Fast and Furious would not seem, under this important precedent, to be covered by any executive privilege. 

It is unclear as to what categories of documents Obama is invoking executive privilege.  This gamesmanship suggests they know that internal DOJ documents that weren't solicited and received by the president won't be protected by executive privilege. 

The Obama administration's assertion of executive privilege seems at odds with court precedent in our pardon case and In re: Sealed (Espy), the two big cases describing the contours the limits of executive privilege.  (You will see the In re: Sealed opinion repeatedly cited by the appellate court in its opinion in our pardon case.)

Any attempt to assert deliberative process privilege also won't work because the courts don't routinely deny efforts to shield internal government "deliberations" that may shed light on government misconduct. 

The scandalous assertion of executive privilege necessarily draws President Obama into this scandal about the murder of a federal law enforcement agent and related Obama administration lies.  As Speaker Boehner, 
who stalled the contempt vote for political reasons, said: "The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that White House officials were involved in decisions that misled the Congress and have covered up the truth."

Of course, the question of the White House's potential involvement in Fast and Furious has been at the center of Judicial Watch's investigative efforts.

In fact, on June 6th, before these latest Fast and Furious developments, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 
lawsuit with the Obama Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) seeking access to "Operation Fast and Furious" records detailing communications between ATF officials and Kevin O'Reilly, former Obama White House Director of North American Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.

This is the third lawsuit filed against the Obama administration seeking records related to the Fast and Furious scandal. And here's what we're after this time pursuant to our original FOIA request submitted on July 22, 2011:
All records of communication between any official, officer or employee of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Kevin M. O'Reilly, a current or former employee of the U.S. Department of State currently or previously serving as Director of North American Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.

Why are we interested in this particular White House official?

As reported by 
CBS News, Fast and Furious documents released by the Obama White House in September 2011 "show extensive communications between then-ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell - who led Fast and Furious - and then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O'Reilly." 

These records included a flow-chart showing the ultimate destinations of the weapons released by the Obama administration. Newell had previously admitted during a congressional hearing that he had indeed 
shared information regarding the scandal with O'Reilly, but did not provide significant details regarding their discussions.
Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Grassley have repeatedly demanded that O'Reilly testify in the matter. Nevertheless, the White House has thus far refused to make O'Reilly, now reportedly stationed in Iraq in a new position with the Obama State Department, available for questioning.

The Obama administration has clammed up on Fast and Furious. We're having trouble getting almost anything out of them. And this week's contempt vote shows Congress is having no better luck. The American people deserve to know what White House officials knew and when they knew it. We will continue to fight to hold the Obama administration accountable to the rule of law.

Stay tuned...
Obama Openly Courts Illegal Alien Voters with Suspended Deportation Policy

Obama's concocting of a constitutional crisis over Eric Holder comes on the heels of another constitutional crisis that Obama began last week.  Last Friday, President Barack Obama once again exhibited the lawlessness that is the hallmark of his presidency. Politico had the story in an article appropriately entitled, "Obama's Policy Strategy: Ignore Laws:" 
Rather than pushing new laws through a divided Congress to enact his agenda, Obama is relying on federal agencies to ignore, or at least not defend, laws that some of his important supporters - like Hispanic voters and the gay community - don't like...

...As of Friday, the federal government won't deport undocumented immigrants under age 30 who came to the United States as children. It is a temporary, de facto implementation of a part of the stalled DREAM Act.

The result: a loud message to Hispanic voters to remember Obama in November.

So Obama couldn't get this illegal alien amnesty policy passed by Congress and the American people, but he found a way to send a gift to potential illegal alien "voters" just months before Election Day.

Of course, illegal alien amnesty is one key component of the Obama gang's comprehensive plot to steal the elections.  

Not only is the Obama administration allowing illegal aliens to stay in the country through the elections without fear of deportation, in violation of immigration law, he's also paving the way for them to cast illegal votes by fighting any attempt by state election officials to implement voter integrity provisions such as voter ID laws. (I covered this point in detail last week, and you can click
 here for the background.)

Now, this "suspended deportation scheme" was once known as "stealth amnesty" because the Obama administration at first tried to impose the policy without attracting the attention of the press and the public. "Nothing to see here," Obama administration officials repeatedly said, even as they were quietly instructing immigration officials behind the scenes to stop deportation proceedings against illegal aliens, even those convicted of 
violent crimes.

(Judicial Watch took a leading role in exposing the administration's stealth amnesty scheme. The Houston Chronicle should also receive a lot of credit for its outstanding reporting on the issue as well.)

The president, for his part, unequivocally denied that he would ever suspend illegal alien deportations by executive fiat. For example this is what Obama had to say in a 
March 28, 2011 speech at Bell Multicultural High School:
With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that's just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed - and I know that everybody here at Bell is studying hard so you know that we've got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch's job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws.

There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President."

I couldn't agree more. The proper role of Congress is to make the law. The proper role of the Executive branch is to enforce the law.  We saw a piece of our liberty stolen from us last week. The will of the American people, as enshrined in federal immigration law, was usurped by one man, our president. This is a blow to our republican form of government and an attack on the God-given right of self-government.

The Obama administration's attempt to get around Congress on the issue of illegal alien amnesty raises serious separation of powers concerns.  Our attorneys and investigators are fast at work exploring Judicial Watch's options.  (By the way, don't rely on Republican politician Mitt Romney to save the day.  He has yet to confirm that he would reverse Obama's brazen 
ultra vires act.)

In the meantime, I want to tell you about an important court victory that occurred last week on a related issue. Thanks to our hard-working and talented attorneys, voters will finally have an opportunity to preserve rule of the law and put an end to taxpayer funded discounted tuition for illegal aliens this November.

According to 
The Washington Post:
A day after advocates for undocumented immigrants made a last-ditch effort to keep Maryland's Dream Act from the November ballot, the state's Court of Appeals did the opposite Wednesday, clearing the way for Maryland's first referendum on a state law in 20 years...

...In essence, the order rejects a lawsuit filed by two unnamed illegal immigrants and other voters that contended that Maryland's Dream Act involved fiscal matters and therefore under state law should be exempt from second-guessing by voters in a referendum.

We are pleased that Maryland's highest court vindicated the people's right to have their say at the ballot box about the issue of in-state tuition for illegal aliens. The fate of the Maryland DREAM Act is now, as it should be, in the hands of the Maryland voters.

Arguments were presented to the Court of Appeals on June 12, 2012 (the Maryland court then ruled in our client's favor the next day!). Two illegal aliens, several Maryland voters, and the left-wing activist group Casa de Maryland sought to reverse an overwhelmingly successful petition drive to put the Maryland DREAM Act on the ballot in 2012.  Judicial Watch represented MDPetitions.com in our successful legal defense of its historic petition effort.
MDPetitions.com collected 132,071 signatures, nearly twice the amount required by law, in support of a petition to contest via referendum SB 167 (the Maryland DREAM Act), a law signed by Governor Martin O'Malley on May 10, 2011, that will enable certain illegal aliens to pay reduced tuition rates at Maryland community colleges and public higher education institutions.  

Open borders advocates are taking their cues from the top. When they see Obama flouting the law, it gives them the confidence to put forth their own radical policies, like taxpayer-funded tuition perks for illegal alien students.  Judicial Watch takes its cue from the U.S. Constitution and will continue to fight for the American people who want the rule of law on illegal immigration to be upheld.   
JW Sues CFPB for Records Detailing Obama's Unconstitutional "Recess" Appointment of Cordray

Moving onto Obama's constitutional crisis "number three," what is the president trying to hide regarding his controversial "recess" appointment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) radical left Director Richard Cordray? 

On June 7, 2012, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 
lawsuit against the agency to obtain records detailing the appointment.

Specifically, on January 12, 2012, Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to CFPB seeking access to all records of communications between the CFPB and the White House, the Executive Office of the President, the Treasury Department and Congress concerning President Obama's "recess appointment" of Cordray. The request also seeks access to records of communications between the CFPB and the White House concerning a January 6, 2012, visit by President Obama to the CFPB two days after the appointment was announced.

On January 25, 2012, Judicial Watch submitted a separate FOIA request to CFPB seeking communications concerning Cordray's appointment, as well as reimbursements, reservations, vouchers and any other documentation reflecting travel and lodging for Mr. Cordray, his family, any additional guests, and the Ohio judge who, in January 2012, administered Mr. Cordray's oath of office in Washington, D.C.

The agency has failed to fully respond to Judicial Watch's requests within the statutory allotted time-frame, prompting our lawsuit.

Now here's why I say this appointment was unconstitutional.

When President Barack Obama announced his decision to install Cordray as head of the CFPB, the president called the move a "recess" appointment. 

Republicans in the Senate previously filibustered the Cordray nomination. Cordray was considered a candidate unlikely to pass any vetting by the U.S. Senate owing to his radical, anti-free market views.  (In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, for example, Cordray compared employees of a financial services company to the "Nazis at Nuremberg" who said they were just following orders. This is not the kind of statement the president wanted subject to congressional scrutiny during a confirmation hearing.)

But here's the problem.

At the time of President Obama's "recess appointment," Congress was not in recess! Article I, Section 5, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution provides that: "Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days ...."  To prevent any recess appointment, the Republican-controlled House refused to consent to Senate adjournment (resulting in the Senate's coming into session every three days). Nonetheless, President Obama declared that Congress was in recess and made the Cordray appointment.

Judicial Watch has already obtained 
documents from the CFPB indicating Cordray recognized questions about the constitutionality of his own appointment.

In his February 6, 2012, "Weekly Message," to the CFPB staff, Richard Cordray acknowledged that his appointment as the agency's director without Senate approval was vulnerable to legal challenge: "There is a chance (a minor chance in my view, though everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion) that the appointment would be invalidated by a court."

Nonetheless, despite the controversial nature of the appointment, just two days after the Cordray appointment, President Obama made a visit to the CFPB. As reported by 
Politico: "Taking what amounted to a victory lap, President Barack Obama visited the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Friday morning to anoint Richard Cordray as its director after installing him in the job despite Republican opposition and threats of partisan warfare."

It shows how far we have fallen in terms of our respect for the rule of law when a politician runs a "victory lap" after stomping on the U.S. Constitution.

Given the Obama administration's penchant for secrecy, I am not at all surprised we must file a lawsuit to obtain these records on this scandalous appointment. I'm sure the president would rather all details regarding his unlawful decision be kept under lock and key, but we intend to hold the Obama administration accountable to the rule of law. 

The Cordray appointment is an abuse of office that disregards the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Senate's constitutional "advise and consent" role. 

In response to the Judicial Watch lawsuit, CFPB, in a classic Washington cover-up move, produced a dozen pages of documents, via emails sent to us at 9:59 p.m. and 10:19 p.m. on Friday, June 8.  (Another late Friday night document dump!)  It was a paltry document dump and our open records lawsuit will continue.

Unitl next week....

Tom Fitton
Tom Fitton
Make a Contribution
Visit JudicialWatch.org 
425 3rd St, SW Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20024 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Leak probe likely to include White House

(Reuters) - An investigation by two federal prosecutors into recent alleged leaks of classified information is likely to include scrutiny of White House officials, three people familiar with the probe said.

The sources said that when Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that the chief federal prosecutors in Washington and Maryland would pursue "all appropriate investigative leads within the executive and legislative branches of government," he signaled that examining the actions of White House officials would be within bounds.

In an appearance on Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder said: "Let me be very clear.

Our investigation will follow leads wherever they take us." The U.S. Attorneys on the case, he said, have "the ability, they independence, they have the moxie."

Holder, pushing back against Republican demands for an outside special counsel to investigate the national security leaks, said the two prosecutors would conduct a nonpartisan, independent investigation.

One of the people familiar with the investigation said that because some of the media reports containing alleged leaks included information attributed to Obama administration officials, no investigation by the prosecutors "would be taken seriously if it didn't include" scrutiny of White House officials' actions.
This individual and others requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak for the record.

Holder, facing sharp questioning by senators, said that both he and FBI director Robert Mueller had already been interviewed by investigators about their knowledge of an intelligence operation targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which some officials allege was disrupted as a result of leaks to the media.

He also said that the two prosecutors involved in leak investigations would each be investigating "separate matters."

While Holder declined to identify what these were, one avenue of inquiry is believed to be sensitive information about U.S. involvement in cyberwarfare against Iran's nuclear program, which was contained in a recent New York Times article.

The other probe apparently involves the joint U.S.-British-Saudi operation against AQAP, al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen.

Last month, a prominent Republican Senator explicitly asked the FBI to investigate a possible leak related to the AQAP operation involving John Brennan, chief counter-terrorism advisor at the White House.

In a letter to Mueller, Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Saxby Chambliss asked the FBI about a Reuters story last month which disclosed that a briefing by Brennan may have inadvertently tipped the media to sensitive information about an undercover informant who played a central role in the case.

The FBI wrote back that it shared Chambliss' concerns and would investigate all leads, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Still, it remains unclear how large a role Brennan's actions will play in the investigation into leaks regarding AQAP.

The briefing by Brennan, came after an Associated Press report disclosed that U.S. counter-terrorism officials had disrupted a plot by the al Qaeda affiliate to plant an underwear bomber on a U.S. flight.

In a subsequent conference call, Brennan told former counter-terrorism officials who appear as on-air TV analysts that the bomb plot was never a real threat because the U.S. had "inside control" over it. Within hours, one of the former officials who was on the call with Brennan speculated on the air that the U.S. "had somebody on the inside" of the plot.

By the next day, news outlets were reporting that the U.S. had planted a double-agent inside al Qaeda affiliate.

Because of the leaks, U.S. and allied officials said they were forced to prematurely end the operation.
White House officials and some of the former officials who participated in the call with Brennan all said that he did not disclose classified information.

Asked whether the White House had been contacted by the FBI or any other investigative authority in relation to leak inquiries, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said he had no comment beyond those on Friday in which President Barack Obama decried leaks.

The Democratic president brushed off Republican allegations that some of the leaks appeared calculated to boost his re-election prospects, calling such charges "offensive."

Chambliss joined a group of Republican senators led by John McCain and Lindsey Graham in sponsoring a Congressional resolution calling on Holder to replace the U.S. Attorneys he assigned to the leak investigations with an "outside special counsel" who could operate independently of Obama's Justice Department.

Graham noted that a special counsel had been appointed in the case of Valerie Plame, a undercover CIA operative whose identity was disclosed to a journalist. That leak eventually led to criminal charges against a senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

"Why wouldn't you need one here? Is this less serious? The allegations we are talking about here are breathtaking," Graham said.

However, a Republican motion to have the Senate pass their resolution by "unanimous consent" failed when a Democrat, Senator Ron Wyden, objected.

Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence committee, said she also opposed the Republican plan, and defended the independence and scrupulousness of U.S. Attorneys Rod Rosenstein of Maryland and Ronald Machen of the District of Columbia, whom Holder assigned to the leak probes.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Warren Strobel and Christopher Wilson)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why is the Department of Justice Protecting Illegal Voters?

A few years ago it would have seemed really strange to discover that our Department of Justice was protecting the ability of illegal aliens to vote in our elections. It might not have been surprising in Chicago, but it would have been surprising for most of the rest of us. According to the Saturday edition of The Miami Herald, The Justice Department told Florida election officials that they must stop their non-citizen voters purge. Florida argues it is not violating any law. The Justice Department ordered Florida’s elections division to halt a systematic effort to find and purge the state’s voter rolls of noncitizen voters. Florida’s effort appears to violate both the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities, and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act – which governs voter purges – T. Christian Herren Jr., the Justice Department’s lead civil rights lawyer, wrote in a detailed two-page letter sent late Thursday night. State officials said they were reviewing the letter. But they indicated they might fight DOJ over its interpretation of federal law and expressed frustration that President Barack Obama’s administration has stonewalled the state’s noncitizen voter hunt for nine months. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot,” said Chris Cate, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was ordered by Gov. Rick Scott to conduct the search for potentially ineligible voters. The key comment in the article is, Independent voters and Democrats are the most likely to face being purged from the rolls. Republicans and non-Hispanic whites are the least likely. It becomes a concern when the Department of Justice demands that ineligible voters, including those who are dead, cannot be removed from the rolls of registered eligible voters. Democrats do not want elections to be clean, fair, and honest. Florida’s laws appear to discriminate against no one and to break no laws. As The Miami Herald article continued, Florida elections officials have repeatedly said that their efforts comply with all federal laws, which aren’t clearly written. The[y] also say there’s nothing discriminatory or partisan about the effort. It’s simply trying to remove ineligible voters: felons, dead people and noncitizens. One would think Eric Holder and The United States Department of Justice would want the states to uphold the laws? It appears voting is an exception to the law during the time of the Obama Administration.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

White House defends Secret Service amid prostitution investigation

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Obama has confidence in his Secret Service director.

Washington (CNN) -- The White House defended the Secret Service and its director Tuesday amid an embarrassing investigation into whether several agents brought prostitutes back to their hotel in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit.

Eleven Secret Service members have been implicated in the investigation, which began Thursday after one of the women complained that she hadn't been paid. In addition, as many as 10 U.S. military personnel from all branches of the armed forces are being questioned about potential involvement in any misconduct, two military officials told CNN.

The Americans were in Cartagena to prepare for President Barack Obama's weekend visit to the Summit of the Americas, and Obama has said he expects a "rigorous" investigation.

The investigation is being led by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, who has been briefing members of Congress. A leading senator said Tuesday she had been told as many as 21 women had been involved, and questioned whether the incident could have endangered the president.

"Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons, or in any other (ways) jeopardized security of the president or our country?" asked Maine's Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Jay Carney said Obama "has confidence" in Sullivan, who he said "acted quickly in response to this incident," and in the agents around him.

"The work the Secret Service does, the men and women who protect him and his family and those who work with him, is exemplary as a rule," Carney said. "They put their lives on the line, and it is a very difficult job, and he acknowledges that and he appreciates it."

Collins said she believed Sullivan "will fully investigate" the allegations and take "appropriate action" if the allegations bear out. But she questioned whether there was any similar misconduct on previous missions, and whether the issue is a sign of a deeper problem within the agency.

The Secret Service agents and officers involved range in experience from relative newcomers to nearly 20-year veterans, and all have been interviewed at least once, two government officials with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Monday. Their security clearances have been pulled while the investigation is under way and could be reinstated if they are cleared, the officials said.

The agents were offered an opportunity to take a polygraph test, according to a U.S. official.

Some of the agents and military personnel maintain they didn't know the women were prostitutes, the official told CNN.

"Even if they weren't (prostitutes), it was totally wrong to take a foreign national back to a hotel when the president is about to arrive," Rep. Peter King, R-New York and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said he thinks the agents should take the polygraph tests, if they haven't already done so.

"For these individuals, if they want to have any career at all, they have to decide on telling the entire truth and seeing whether they have something going forward."

Issa said his level of confidence in Sullivan is "high."

The Homeland Security Committee's chairman, Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, said his staff is looking into the accusations and he may call hearings on the matter.

"History, unfortunately, is full of cases where people in positions of great responsibility, including security, have been compromised by, well, enemies or spies," Lieberman said. "I'm not saying that happened here, but once you conduct yourself in this way, you open that risk."

California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who leads the chamber's intelligence committee, said she was "profoundly disappointed" by the allegations.

"I've always respected the Secret Service as kind of numero uno of our law enforcement community," she said.

U.S. government sources have said there was a dispute between at least one Secret Service member and a woman demanding payment. At least one of the women brought to the hotel talked with police, and complaints were filed with the U.S. Embassy, the sources said.

While soliciting prostitution is legal in certain areas of Colombia, it is considered a breach of the agency's conduct code, the government sources said. Military law also bars service members from patronizing prostitutes, displaying conduct unbecoming an officer or, for enlisted personnel, conduct "prejudicial to good order and discipline."

The military personnel involved were sent to Colombia to support the Secret Service. A military official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation told CNN that two of those being questioned are Marines who handle military working dogs. Air Force and Navy personnel, some of whom are believed to be explosive disposal experts, also are being questioned, the official said.

The alleged misconduct occurred before Obama arrived in Cartagena, and the Secret Service said the personnel involved were relieved of duty and sent home before the president landed. But the news broke while he was there -- and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that the incident distracted attention "from what was a very important regional engagement for our president."

"So we let the boss down, because nobody's talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident," Dempsey said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, said he would consider holding hearings on the conduct of the members of the military involved in the scandal, but wants to learn more first. The committee's top Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, said he is sure "the guilty will be punished," but lamented that a few members of the military and Secret Service "have tarnished the reputations of many."

CNN's Barbara Starr, Jessica Yellin, Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

Expect Canceled Conferences In Near Future From GSA & Federal Agencies

Government Gone Wild -- GSA Wasting Your Money, OGR Investigates

What Did Oversight Cmte Find Out During Hearing On GSA Spending Spree?