After fence-jumping incident, lawmakers are counting on Homeland Security chief to clean up Secret Service
House Oversight Committee leaders Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) on Monday expressed the utmost confidence in Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to clean up the Secret Service’s act, after a fence jumper moved around the White House grounds for 17 minutes before being caught.
“I’m thoroughly convinced that he will get it right,” Cummings said, echoing Chaffetz’s assertion that he was “confident in the changes that have already been made.”
Jonathan T. Tran, 26, was apprehended on the White House grounds earlier this month after clearing a fence, ground barriers, lingering on the south portico of the White House, moving through the south garden, peeking in several windows and nearing a door, Chaffetz said, describing a nearly 17-minute video the committee watched during a closed-door briefing Monday.
“There is not a single thing that went right,” Chaffetz said, complaining that “the response was pathetic at best.”
Cummings noted that “a culture of complacency” may have settled in with the officers on duty.
Tran was first picked up by the security cameras lingering near the White House about 4 p.m., Chaffetz noted, though he didn’t try to jump the fence until nearly 11:30 p.m. — a time lag and response Chaffetz said was “totally unacceptable.”
The leaders noted how Kelly walked the jumper’s route himself, and guessed that his military experience would inform his approach to righting the ship at the Secret Service, with new security protocols, among other measures.
The Secret Service will be “basically under a microscope,” Cummings said.
Chaffetz and Cummings speculated that new protocols might also be instituted to address another case in which a laptop containing sensitive security information was stolen from a Secret Service agent in New York City.
Chaffetz said he still has “very deep concerns” about that incident.
The two reports come at a time when the Secret Service is increasingly strained in trying to protect the president and his family at their residences in New York City’s Trump Tower, at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and at the White House. Trump was at the White House on March 10, the night the fence was jumped.
The Secret Service is understaffed by about 1,000 people. But Chaffetz said that on the night in question, staffing levels were adequate to handle the situation. The officers simply exhibited “complacency,” and the “response was just totally inadequate,” he said.