It was hard enough for the Obama administration to defend a series of embarrassing security breaches at the Secret Service. Now, there are new questions about a pre-election White House cover-up.
The Washington Post, which has dominated coverage of the embattled agency, reported Wednesday night that the White House knew more than it let on about the involvement of a member of the president's advance team in the prostitution scandal that led to punishment or firing of 12 Secret Service officials in 2012.
The paper's investigation found that the Secret Service repeatedly told senior Obama aides that a young White House volunteer, Jonathan Dach, also took a prostitute back to his hotel on the now-infamous trip to Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of an economic summit in April 2012.
White House officials had said at the time that it was only Secret Service and military personnel who engaged with prostitutes on the trip.
In potentially the most damaging fresh detail, the lead investigator with an administration inspector general's office said he was directed to delay a report on the Colombia incident "until after the 2012 election."
And in another odd twist, Dach, then a Yale law student, is now working as a policy adviser in the Office of Global Women's Issues at the State Department. His father, Leslie Dach, is a top Democratic donor and a former Walmart lobbyist who now also works for the Obama administration. The younger Dach denied hiring a prostitute but declined to comment in The Post report.
The entire article amounts to a new headache for a White House that had hoped to push the Secret Service lapses out of the headlines by naming a new director and backing an independent review of the agency. The issue is expected to dominate the daily briefing by deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz on Thursday afternoon, less than three weeks before voters cast ballots in the midterm congressional elections.
Obama spokesmen immediately pushed back on The Post report Wednesday night, suggesting it was old news and pointing out that a White House review back in 2012 had found no "inappropriate behavior" by its advance team in Cartagena.
But a two-year-old internal review is unlikely to quell the furor in the short term, particularly as Republicans accuse the White House of incompetence and political cover-ups across a range of issues in the frenzied last weeks of the midterm campaign.
Among the questions Schultz likely will have to answer:
Why did the White House say no one on its advance team was involved with prostitutes when two different investigations found evidence to the contrary?
Why did an investigator for the Department of Homeland Security feel pressure to delay his report on Cartagena until after the 2012 presidential election?
What evidence led the White House to absolve Dach of wrongdoing, and why did the Secret Service come to a different conclusion?
Did Dach's family ties to an Obama donor play a role in his exoneration by the White House after several Secret Service officials lost their jobs?
It should make for an interesting White House press briefing, to say the least.