Losing Cummings Set Off Chain Reaction for Secret Service Director
As CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted Wednesday afternoon, when a White House appointee loses the backing of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Elijah E. Cummings, you know you’re in trouble.
That’s where embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, appointed to the job less than two years ago by President Barack Obama, found herself Thursday as a growing chorus of lawmakers — including Democrats Cummings and Pelosi — demanded answers and accountability for an embarrassing series of security lapses involving the agency.
Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was the first, most senior Democrat to suggest that maybe it was time for new leadership at the Secret Service. Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after Pierson’s problematic testimony at a rare, mid-recess hearing on Capitol Hill, Cummings told MSNBC that his “confidence and trust” in Pierson “had eroded,” and that he did “not feel comfortable with her” in charge of the agency.
Those comments seemed to have set off a chain reaction among lawmakers in both parties struggling with their positions on whether Pierson should stay or go.
Soon after, Pelosi announced at a press conference that if Cummings was bothered by Pierson’s record at the Secret Service, then so was she.
“I support his suggestion ,” Pelosi told reporters. “I am subscribing to his superior judgment and knowledge on the subject.”
On the other side of the aisle, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy cited Cummings, too.
“When Elijah Cummings says that he has lost confidence in someone, the White House better pay attention,” Gowdy told Fox News.
“He’s hardly a tea party Republican,” said Gowdy, the chairman to Cummings’ ranking member on the special Benghazi investigative committee. “He does not criticize the administration unless it’s warranted. And, he has lost confidence in Director Pierson’s leadership.”
And Cummings’ comments were an indication of how little support Pierson could expect from Democrats on Capitol Hill. This was, after all, a lawmaker who, in February, had been described by a spokesman for Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa as an “errand runner for the Obama White House .”
In an interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday evening, Cummings said he hadn’t heard about Gowdy’s comments from earlier in the day, but that he was gratified by them.
“I think it is — I hope, I hope — it’s about integrity,” he said. “But also always putting the country first.”
“Put country before party,” he added, giving a shout-out to the late Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, who used the phrase often.
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