Breaking: Pierson resigns

Breaking: This post was written before Zeke Miller just tweeted this:

Worth noting — Josh Earnest was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe defending Pierson this morning. Here he was yesterday:

CBS has the first report up from my Twitter feeds:

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson offered her resignation Wednesday after several security breaches affecting the White House and President Obama became public, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Wednesday.

“Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation,” Johnson said in a statement. “As an interim Acting Director of the Secret Service, I am appointing Joseph Clancy, formerly Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service. Mr. Clancy retired from the Secret Service in 2011. I appreciate his willingness to leave his position in the private sector on very short notice and return to public service for a period.”

It’s interesting that they’re bringing back someone from the Sullivan era.  Presumably that is a very temporary assignment, and it probably helps that Barack Obama would know him well from the work he did on the presidential detail.

Update: The Obama administration has agreed to the demand from the House Oversight Committee for an independent investigation into the White House breach.

Original post follows …


Earlier today, I half-joked that Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski should start a betting pool to guess when Secret Service Director Julia Pierson would suddenly declare a desire to spend more time with her family and resign her position. I reserved the 4 pm ET slot on Friday, figuring that this would be a good move for a post-news cycle document dump. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will put in his bid for an earlier slot, according to New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman:

Schumer would be the first Senate Democrat to call for her resignation, but not the first one on Capitol Hill. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has been on a slow burn ever since yesterday’s hearings, and at one point today demanded Pierson’s resignation as well:

“I’ve come to the conclusion that my confidence and my trust in this director, Ms. Pierson, has eroded. And I do not feel comfortable with her in that position,” he said on MSNBC.

That is a swing from just a day earlier, when he told reporters the “jury’s still out” on her tenure.

His comments were even more blunt during a radio interview with Roland Martin on Wednesday.

“I think this lady has to go,” Cummings reportedly said, referring to Pierson.

Later, an aide to Cummings backtracked, but not by much:

An aide to Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said after the call that Pierson must restore trust with the public and within her agency or leave the top job.

Cummings “believes that, if she can’t restore the public’s trust in the agency — and in particular address the cultural issues so agents feel comfortable raising security concerns to their higher-ups — then, of course, she should not be in that position,” the aide said.

“After yesterday’s hearing, and after new revelations last night, the congressman’s trust is eroding, and he believes there needs to be an independent review of the agency.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went on record asking for a resignation earlier today:

To underscore the erosion of Pierson’s position, John Boehner announced that the House would form a “blue ribbon commission” chaired by Homeland Security Committee chair Mike McCaul (R-TX) that will conduct “a full, top to bottom review of the agency.” This is beginning to snowball on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers. Obama has been extremely reluctant to fire anyone on his team no matter how incompetent, but if Schumer and other Democrats start making this a public issue, Obama may not have any choice in the matter.

Ron Fournier rightly prescribes this as the first step to reform the Secret Service. The second step is to restore its status as an independent organization rather than keep it in DHS:

At the Treasury Department, the Secret Service’s leadership had autonomy, and its agents were encouraged to consider themselves elite. The Secret Service was not just the leading law-enforcement agency at Treasury, it was at the apex of the entire profession. Only the best cops became agents.

The Secret Service leadership could draw on the agency’s reputation and relative independence to defend its budget, its professionalism, and its mission from political encroachment. Before 2003, the director of the Secret Service was a player—somebody even the president and members of Congress had to think twice about crossing.

By contrast, Pierson—and, I would argue, any Secret Service director inside the DHS labyrinth—is just another bureaucrat fighting for turf, money, and autonomy in one of the largest, least-efficient agencies in Washington. As we see at the Internal Revenue Service, the National Football League, and the many other acronymed entities, it’s easy to lose sight of your calling from inside an ossified institution.

Secret Service personnel, particularly those in uniform, are often paid less today than law-enforcement officials in other agencies. More than the money, the agency’s declining reputation in the law-enforcement community—a trend that goes back to 2003—has hurt morale and recruitment. Also diminished are efforts to develop the agency’s “brand,” the little-known marketing efforts that supported books and movies and other pop-culture references to the Secret Service, which in turn made the presidential detail an iconic, aspirational profession.

Fournier called the reorganization in 2003 a “Bush-era mistake,” which made some conservatives bristle, but that’s accurate. George W. Bush could have, and should have, resisted the creation of DHS entirely. Many conservatives, myself among them, opposed the creation of even more bureaucratic overhead in this consolidation as well as the later consolidation of intelligence agencies into the DNI. The kind of streamlining done with the DNI should have been done in a merger rather than adding new layers of managers onto existing organizational structures, and the DHS consolidation should have been avoided altogether.

Even with that said, the failings of the OSSS can’t just be blamed on organizational confusion. These were repeated and sustained failures of competence, and that reflects directly on leadership. It’s time to find better leadership at the Secret Service, and the sooner the better.