White House’s ‘Full Confidence’ in Secret Service Is Tested

President Barack Obama has “full confidence” in the U.S. Secret Service’s director and personnel despite security breaches at the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday — but that statement looks to be tested by new revelations that came to light later in the day.

The latest questions about the Secret Service follow an intruder’s run across the White House lawn and into the executive mansion alongside reports of earlier incidents suggesting poor responses to security threats.

“The president does have full confidence in Director [Julia] Pierson and other members of the Secret Service to do their very important work,” Mr. Earnest said on Monday.

Mr. Earnest’s comments came before the Washington Post on Monday reported the intruder made it much further into the House than the Secret Service has said, the second time the agency has apparently misrepresented the incident. (In the other flub, initially the Secret Service said the man was unarmed, though it later emerged he had a folding knife in his pocket.)

The White House declined to comment on the reports that the intruder made it much further into the building than initially reported. A spokesman said earlier remarks expressing confidence in Ms. Pierson and Secret Service staff remained valid.

Indeed, confidence doesn’t always translate into job tenure–especially when new facts emerge. While some officials have received steadfast support and outlasted firestorms, others have departed relatively soon after receiving the White House’s endorsement.

It’s that kind of steady accumulation of bad news that worked against Eric Shinseki, the former secretary at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Mr. Shinseki came under fire earlier this year after revelations of long wait times–and efforts to hide them–across the VA health system.
On May 5, the White House in a statement said: “The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the Department and to take appropriate action based on the [inspector general’s] findings.” Then-spokesman Jay Carney echoed those words the next day.

As more information about VA mismanagement surfaced, though, that language shifted and by the end of May, Mr. Shinseki had resigned.

Other officials have left while still under fire but apparently more on their own terms.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius received a vote of confidence while under scrutiny for the government’s troubled rollout of the 2010 health-care law. In November 2013, lawmakers were calling for her to go.

Mr. Carney on Nov. 8, 2013, said: “The President has full confidence in Secretary Sebelius.”

While Republican criticism remained intense, healthcare enrollments settled into a more solid trajectory. She stepped down five months later, in April 2014.

Ms. Pierson’s predecessor at the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, received a full measure of White support in April 2012 as details of a prostitution scandal continued to emerge and lawmakers questioned whether he should stay on the job.

“The President has confidence in the director of the Secret Service,” Mr. Carney said at the time.

Mr. Sullivan announced his resignation in February of the following year as Mr. Obama thanked him for nearly 30 years of service.

Among Mr. Obama’s top advisers, Attorney General Eric Holder has perhaps come under the most intense pressure from Capitol Hill. The White House has never wavered.

In 2012, Republicans were calling for his resignation amid fallout from the botched Fast and Furious gun trafficking operation.

“The President has full confidence in the Attorney General,” Mr. Carney said in June 2012.

Mr. Obama last week announced Mr. Holder’s resignation, calling him a great friend and thanking him “for everything that you’ve done not just for me and the administration, but for our country.”

Ms. Pierson is due to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Tuesday to discuss lawmakers’ concerns about White House security.

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