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Issa: Fate of Secret Services agents hinges on whether they paid for sex

A dozen agents have been implicated in the scandal, and six have already been pushed out of the agency, with others expected to follow.

But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Sunday that at least one of the 12 will likely keep his job because he abstained from sex after discovering the woman he brought back to his hotel room was a prostitute.

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"You do have one individual who clearly made a decision that he wasn't going to participate once he knew the woman was a prostitute, and that person will be disciplined for his poor judgment, going down a road of drinking and taking a woman back to his hotel room," Issa said during an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press." 

"But possibly that one, and others like it, could be handled administratively [rather than fired]."

The exception seems to undermine the argument that the prostitution angle is merely a lewd distraction from the more important question of whether the agents compromised President Obama's security by drinking heavily in a public bar and taking foreign nationals back to their hotel.

Indeed, just moments before, Issa had emphasized that the heart of the scandal is not the prostitution angle, but the dangers inherent when Secret Service agents become entangled with foreign nationals in ways that could undermine the security of the officials they're protecting.

"Yes, these were prostitutes, which is awful and salacious, but they were also foreign nationals," Issa said. "Every one of these Secret Service people who had a contact with any foreign national of any sort would have had an obligation to report this potential problem." 

Issa was joined Sunday by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who delivered a similar message regarding the agents' solicitation of prostitutes.

"The key thing here is not that they were prostitutes," King said. "That makes it good, you know, for the tabloids. But the fact that foreign nationals were brought back into a security area on the eve of the trip of the president of the United States goes against everything the Secret Service stands for." 

King also referred to the agent who is set to keep his job. 

"One of the [12] has been partially exonerated and he will probably not be terminated," King said, without offering details. "He will face administrative action."

Almost two dozen American security personnel have been implicated in the Colombia scandal, in which 12 Secret Service agents, along with at least 11 members of the military, drank heavily and solicited prostitutes as they set up security in Cartagena ahead of President Obama's recent visit there.

The Secret Service launched an immediate probe, which is ongoing, and six of the 12 Secret Service agents have either been dismissed or are on their way out the door.

King on Sunday said more agents are poised to fall.

"I do expect … in the next day or so, we're going to see more Secret Service agents leaving," King said.

Appearing later on "Meet the Press," White House senior advisor David Axelrod said the administration is committed to discovering how the "very disturbing" incident could have happened. He said Obama has confidence in Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, and believes he should keep his job.

"My experience has been they're quite professional – I always felt that way," Axelrod said of the Secret Service. "But this is really disturbing. And we have to get to the bottom of it. And I'm sure that we will."

Issa said the sheer number of agents involved in the Colombia incident is likely evidence that the episode was not an isolated or spontaneous event. He said carousing among Secret Service agents has almost certainly happened before, but policymakers need to use the recent scandal to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"Obviously, nobody believes that something with 11 or 12 people involved couldn't have happened before," Issa said." "The real point is, 'Will we have confidence that it will never happen again?'"

In a rare show of trust for the Obama administration, both Issa and King expressed full faith in Sullivan to find and fix any problems plaguing the agency.

"We have confidence that it will be fixed," Issa said.

King applauded Sullivan for the agency's "full-speed-ahead" investigation, but also warned that Congress will have to play a greater role to prevent such lapses in the future.

"There will have to be more oversight," King said. "I think the Secret Service realizes that."

Issa echoed that message.

"We're looking over the shoulder of Mark Sullivan, asking the director to do an exhaustive search, first of all on this incident, but also to make sure … that whatever in the culture allowed people to think this was OK … will be gone and gone forever," Issa said. 

"I have great confidence he's doing it."