TIME Congress

Pelosi Says Secret Service Director Should Resign

Secret Service Congressional Hearing
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson is sworn in before testifying during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on "White House Perimeter Breach: New Concerns about the Secret Service" on Sept. 30, 2014. Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call

After White House fence-jumper incident

Updated at 2:38 p.m.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Secret Service Director Julia Pierson should resign, a sharp rebuke from one of the top Democrats in Congress after a White House fence jumper made it inside the President’s home last month.

“If Mr. Cummings thinks that she should go, I subscribe to his recommendation,” Pelosi said, referring to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on a House committee investigating the security breach. “I am subscribing to his superior judgment and knowledge on the subject. But I’m also further saying that this is more than one person because there were problems before she went there.”

“Her leaving doesn’t end the need for us to know a lot more about what is happening,” Pelosi added. “There has to be an independent investigation.”

Pelosi’s office later clarified that she stopped short of calling outright for Pierson’s resignation.

Following a brutal congressional hearing on Tuesday, Pierson held a closed-door session with members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss the Sept. 19 incident, in which officials say Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez made it all the way to the East Room before his arrest. The confidential meeting did little to assuage Cummings’ doubts in Pierson’s leadership abilities, however, and he told radio and television broadcasters on Wednesday morning that Pierson should go.

“I have 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,” Cummings said on MSNBC.

“I think this lady has to go,” he reportedly said during a radio interview on NewsOneNow. “The president is not well-served.”

A Cummings aide later added to those comments, saying that the Congressman believes Pierson should go if she can’t “restore the public’s trust” and address the cultural issues within the Secret Service agency. Pelosi’s office said the Minority Leader agrees with that sentiment.

Pierson said Tuesday that she takes full responsibility for the White House breach and that it won’t happen again. She also pledged a “complete and thorough” internal investigation and policy review.

TIME technology

Holder Says Apple’s iPhone Encryption Will Thwart Child Abuse Investigations

"It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy"

Attorney General Eric Holder ripped technology companies Tuesday that he said are “thwarting” the federal government’s ability to stop child abuse, just days after Apple and Google announced new security measures that would prevent the companies from giving authorities data on users.

“We would hope that technology companies would be willing to work with us to ensure that law enforcement retains the ability, with court-authorization, to lawfully obtain information in the course of an investigation, such as catching kidnappers and sexual predators,” Holder said at a Washington conference of the Global Alliance Conference Against Child Abuse Online. “It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy. When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

Apple has recently drawn the ire of some law enforcement figures, including FBI Director James Comey, for making it harder for the federal government to access users’ personal information—including emails, photos and contacts—on its new iOS 8 mobile operating system. Apple says it’s “not technically feasible” for the company to respond to government warrants, as it now can’t bypass users’ passcode to access data (though experts say the NSA can still get around this). Earlier this month, Google announced that its next generation Android operating system will have encryption on by default for the first time.

Read Holder’s remarks here.

TIME White House

Secret Service Chief Pledges ‘Complete’ Probe After White House Fence Jumper

"What happened is unacceptable and it will never happen again"

The head of the Secret Service promised lawmakers a “complete and thorough” investigation and policy review Tuesday, on the heels of a new report that revealed the man who jumped the White House fence on Sept. 19 got further into the President’s home than previously thought.

“I take full responsibility; what happened is unacceptable and it will never happen again,” Secret Service Director Julia Pierson said in prepared remarks to a House oversight panel. “It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that Omar Gonzalez made it further into the White House than previously disclosed, getting all the way to the East Room before being subdued.

“There is no such thing as ‘business as usual’ in our line of work; we have to be successful 100 percent of the time, and we are constantly making changes and doing everything possible to ensure that we are,” Pierson said, noting that the Secret Service has apprehended 16 White House fence jumpers over the past five years, including six in 2014.

“I intend over the coming months to redouble my efforts, not only in response to this incident, but in general to bring the Secret Service to a level of performance that lives up to the vital mission we perform, the important individuals we protect, and the American people we serve.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who called Tuesday’s hearing while Congress is in recess, said the most recent security lapse called for greater scrutiny on the agency. Calling an internal Secret Service investigation “not sufficient,” Issa requested that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson conduct a “far greater and more independent” probe of the agency.

“Whether deficient procedures, insufficient training, personnel shortages, or low morale contributed to the incident, this can never happen again,” he said in his opening statement. “We simply cannot allow it.”

Issa said Pierson, who was appointed in 2013, had some “tough questions to answer” following the Gonzalez incident, including why the front door was left unlocked and why neither security dogs nor guards could stop the man from hurling himself over the fence, running 70 yards and into the White House.

The White House invasion is the latest in a string of high-profile embarrassments for the agency —including the 2009 state dinner crashers, the 2011 White House shooting and the 2012 Cartagena prostitution incident—but the first to occur on Pierson’s watch.

“The appointment of Director Pierson brought the hope that the agency would reclaim its noble image—but recent events show the troubles facing the agency are far from over,” Issa said. “The United States Secret Service was an elite law enforcement agency.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the incident “unfortunately causes many people to ask whether there is a much broader problem with the Secret Service.”

“I think my major concern goes to the culture,” Cummings said. “It is very disturbing to know that Secret Service agents in the most elite protective agency in the world feel more comfortable apparently—from what I’m hearing—coming to members of this committee and telling things than coming to you and members in the agency. That I’m telling you, when I boil all of this down, that to me is dangerous.”

Cummings added that the “jury is still out” on whether or not Pierson can “correct this situation.”

TIME Congress

Secret Service Director to Face Congress in Wake of Scathing Report

Two Congressmen talked to TIME about issues with the Secret Service, hours before a report surfaced that an intruder got further into the White House than thought

A report revealed Monday that the knife-wielding White House fence jumper 11 days ago got further into the President’s home than previously thought, on the eve of a congressional hearing about White House security and Secret Service procedure.

On Sept. 19, after 42-year-old Iraq veteran Omar Gonzalez jumped over the White House fence, he managed to run through “much of the main floor” of the presidential mansion and past an alarm box that did not properly warn officers of the intruder, the Washington Post said, citing anonymous sources.

The report put Secret Service Director Julia Pierson even deeper into hot water on Tuesday. Before the Post broke the story about Gonzalez, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a top member on the House Oversight Committee, was already questioning whether or not Pierson should keep her job.

“I’m not out for her scalp, but we’ll see where we’re at at the end of the hearing,” Chaffetz, a top member on the House Oversight Committee, told TIME. Chaffetz sees the latest incident, in addition to an event in 2011 in which a man fired at least eight rounds at the White House, as major national security violations. “When you look at those in their totality, you wonder if she is up to the job,” says Chaffetz.

Pierson served as Chief of Staff of the Secret Service from 2008 to 2013, and was appointed last year to be the agency’s first female director.

Hours before the Post story came out, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight committee, told TIME that he is unsure whether the most recent incident should force a change at the top. “This is a transformational moment for the Secret Service,” he said. “They’ve got to get this right, and they’ve got to get this right, right now because it can only get worse if we don’t take advantage of this moment. This is a major wake up call—major.”

“I wonder whether our guard has been lowered a bit,” Cummings added. “And if it has been, then we’ve got to make sure that we have a top to bottom evaluation of what we’re doing—looking at culture, personnel, procedures, equipment being used and every aspect of security—so that not only are we the most elite protection agency in the world, but also that people perceive us to be just that.”

Neither Cummings nor Chaffetz suggested that the incident would necessarily require a legislative fix, instead arguing that there must be a change in “attitude” or “culture” at the agency. “I would think that this is more of a culture situation, possibly leadership,” Cummings said.

TIME 2014 Election

A Conservative Group Sent Voter Registration Information to a Cat

And hundreds of the other forms weren’t purr-fect either

Oh, for the coveted feline vote.

In a bid to register conservative North Carolinians to vote, the political group Americans For Prosperity mistakenly sent voter registration forms with incorrect information to hundreds of men, women—and at least one cat.

The faulty forms went out along with hundreds of thousands of normal voter registration mailers, AFP said. Some of those forms, numbering in the hundreds, included inaccurate information, like the wrong date of the deadline to register or the wrong location for where to send the completed form, the News & Observer reports. And at least one such form was addressed to a woman’s cat.

“AFP Foundation has registered thousands of North Carolinians to vote through this registration drive, which is a great thing for the democratic process and getting more people involved,” AFP spokesman Levi Russell said. “While there were non-substantive errors in our mailers, the program has been highly successful so far. Any large mailing even with 99.9% accuracy is always going to have a few inaccurate recipients, but we’ll always be striving to make it better. Ultimately our forms are working as intended—when a resident fills out our form and sends it in, they will be registered to vote, period.”

The liberal group American Bridge nonetheless jumped on the blunder to needle the Koch brother-funded conservative group in an email to journalists and supporters.

Unknown

AFP has spent $25 million on ads this year but has recently focused its energy on voter registration initiatives in North Carolina, where Democratic groups have outspent Republicans two-to-one in booked ads, according to the Associated Press. North Carolina’s contest between incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis is one of the year’s most competitive races.

Inviting a cat to register to vote may have been an even bigger mistake than AFP realizes. What little data science has gathered on the political tendencies of felines suggests they may not be the kind of voters AFP is looking for anyway.

TIME justice

President Obama Announces Eric Holder Will Step Down

President Obama Announces Resignation Of Eric Holder
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. who announced his resignation today, Sept. 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee—Getty Images

Pays tribute to "one of the longest-serving attorney generals in American history"

President Barack Obama paid tribute to Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday, as he announced the resignation of the country’s top law enforcement official.

Standing alongside Holder at a White House press conference, the president confirmed the “bittersweet” news that America’s first black attorney general’s would step down from his position as soon as a successor was confirmed by the Senate.

“Bobby Kennedy once said, ‘on this generation of Americans falls the full burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created free and equal before the law,'” said Obama. “As one of the longest-serving attorney generals in American history, Eric Holder has borne that burden.”

Obama credited Holder—who has a portrait of Kennedy on his office wall—as a civil rights defender who spent his career atop the Justice Department reforming the criminal justice code, defending voting rights and supporting the legal rights of same-sex marriage advocates.

The president also pushed back against criticism that the Justice Department had not done enough in the aftermath of the 2008 recession. “He’s helped safeguard our markets from manipulation and consumers from financial fraud. Since 2009, the Justice Department has brought more than 60 cases against financial institutions and won some of the largest settlements in history for practices related to the financial crisis, recovering $85 billion, much of it returned to ordinary Americans who were badly hurt.”

But Obama said that the AG’s “proudest achievement” might be his “reinvigorating and restoring the core mission” of the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division. “He has been relentless against attacks on the Voting Rights Act because no citizen, including our servicemembers, should have to jump through hoops to exercise their most fundamental right,” said Obama. “He’s challenged discriminatory state immigration laws that not only risked harassment of citizens and legal immigrants, but actually made it harder for law enforcement to do its job.”

Holder said he came to the end of six years leading the Justice Department “with very mixed emotions,” occasionally fighting back tears as he spoke. “I’m proud of what the men and women of the Justice Department have accomplished,” he added, but said he was “very sad” that he would serve alongside them no longer.

Addressing Obama, he said: “I hope that I have done honor to the faith that you have placed in me, Mr. President, and the legacy of all those who have served before me.”

TIME justice

Congress Divided on Eric Holder’s Legacy

Democrats and Republicans quickly split on a divisive figure

Lawmakers were divided Thursday in their reaction to Attorney General Eric Holder’s impending resignation, underscoring his divisive tenure as the country’s top law enforcement official.

On TV, on Twitter and in public statements, Democrats were as quick to praise the nation’s outgoing top cop as Republicans were to vilify him.

“I hate to see Eric Holder leave,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee chairman, told NBC. “I remember the day he was sworn in and the huge cheers that echoed throughout the Department of Justice—throughout the building—because they were finally getting somebody who actually knew how the Justice Department worked, who cared about law enforcement, cared about the rule of law.”

“I’ve been here through a lot of attorneys general and nobody has done it better than he has,” added Leahy, who was elected to the Senate in 1974.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Holder has “led the fight to protect the right to vote for all citizens.”

And Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights hero who gave a glowing tribute to Holder for the TIME 100 this year, was taken aback when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced the news at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event.

“Oh wow,” said Lewis. “Why? That is so bad. … That is so sad.”

“His resignation is a great loss for any American seeking justice in our society,” Lewis said in a statement later. “He became the symbol of fairness, an embodiment of the best in the federal government. He has been a persistent and consistent leader in the struggle for civil and human rights. That legacy is in his bones. It is written on his heart, and his intelligence and committed leadership will be hard to replace.”

Republicans didn’t share in the Democrats’ grief.

Rep. Darrell Isssa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee and perhaps Capitol Hill’s most vocal Holder antagonist, cheered the news, tweeting that Holder has the “dubious distinction” of being the first Attorney General held in contempt of Congress. Issa led the drive for that 2012 House vote after Holder declined to hand over documents related to the so-called Fast and Furious scandal, in which federal law enforcement agents allowed the sale of weapons so they could track the flow of them to Mexican drug cartels. One of the weapons was found at the scene of the shooting death of an American border patrol agent in 2010.

“Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history,” Issa tweeted. “By needlessly injecting politics into law enforcement, Holder’s legacy has eroded more confidence in our legal system than any AG before him.”

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said in a statement that Holder had “repeatedly refused” to enforce U.S. law and that his resignation is “great news” and long overdue. Brady said his record includes the following: “Ignoring the clearly unlawful behavior of IRS employee Lois Lerner, illegal gun-running to Mexican drug cartels and being held in contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said in a statement no other Attorneys General had “attacked Louisiana more than Holder.”

“He’s tried to defund a Louisiana youth program because students prayed, sued to block voucher scholarships going to poor kids in failing schools, and threatened the release of Louisiana voters’ personal information,” Vitter said. “I’m proud to have voted against this Senate confirmation.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Obama Urges UN to Act Faster on Ebola Outbreak

“We are not moving fast enough”

President Barack Obama said Thursday that every country needs to do more to confront the urgent threat of Ebola, warning that the United Nations’ response could determine the difference between tens of thousands of deaths and up to a million.

“The outbreak is such that at this point more people will die,” Obama said during a UN meeting in New York. “But the slope of the curve, how fast we can arrest the spread of this disease, how quickly we can contain it, is within our control.”

“If we move fast, even if imperfectly, than that could mean the difference between 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 deaths versus hundreds of thousands or even a million deaths,” Obama added.

Obama said the United States could provide the infrastructure to aid the countries in West Africa where the outbreak has already killed more than 2,900 people. But the U.S. cannot by itself send enough health workers in fight the crisis, Obama said.

“We are not moving fast enough,” Obama said. “We are not doing enough. Right now everybody has the best of intentions but people are not putting in the kinds of resources that are necessary to put a stop in to this epidemic.”

“It’s a marathon but you have to run it like a sprint,” he added.

TIME Congress

Congress Won’t Debate War on ISIS Until Next Year

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 11, 2014.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 11, 2014. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

Congress’ lame duck period is not the appropriate time to debate authorization for war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), House Speaker John Boehner said in an interview published Thursday. Boehner’s announcement pushes the contentious issue of explicitly authorizing the Administration’s plan to fight Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq until after November’s midterm elections and into January.

“I would suggest to you that early next year, assuming that we continue in this effort, there may be that discussion and there may be that request from the president,” Boehner told The New York Times. “Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this.”

President Barack Obama believes he already has the legal authority to strike ISIS, under a 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al-Qaeda and associated forces. Many Congressmen, wary of approving Obama’s multiyear plan to take on ISIS, disagree with that assessment, particularly given that ISIS officially split from al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria earlier this year. Congress did, however, vote last week to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting ISIS as well as Bashar Assad’s government.

TIME 2014 Election

A Republican Wants You to Know That Republicans Are People, Too

Amusing new online ad campaign

A former member of Mitt Romney’s ad team wants you to know something: Republicans are people, too.

An amusing new online ad campaign created by political strategist Vinny Minchillo fights back against GOP critics by showing Republicans doing what some Democrats might pride themselves on: driving Priuses, recycling, using Macs, putting together Ikea furniture and reading the New York Times in public. It also states the obvious: Yes, there are black, Hispanic and Asian people who are Republicans.

“Republicans have feelings,” says the ad’s narrator.

“The goal of the campaign is to let people know that the common misperceptions and stereotypes of Republicans are inaccurate and there is a vast range of everyday Republicans among us,” Minchillo said in a statement.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser