TIME

Sen. Gillibrand Speaks Out on Secret Service Director

Kirsten Gillibrand and Nancy Gibbs speak at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City.
Kirsten Gillibrand and Nancy Gibbs speak at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City. Larry Busacca—Getty Images for Time Inc.

'If someone resigns, it's always the woman'

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she wasn’t surprised by the resignation of Julia Pierson, the first woman to head the Secret Service, who stepped down Wednesday after the public learned of a number of potential threats that slipped past the President’s security detail.

“Obviously there was a massive failure that needed to be taken responsibility for,” Gillibrand said Wednesday during an interview with TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs at the Women and Success event hosted by TIME and Real Simple. “But I do find that women are often eager to take responsibility for things… inevitably, if someone resigns, it’s always the woman.”

The junior Senator from New York has been speaking candidly about issues women face in the workplace and beyond since the release of her book, Off the Sidelines.

“I think for a lot of us, we feel deeply responsible for how our teams are run, how our businesses are run,” Gillibrand said.

Additional reporting by Eliana Dockterman and Charlotte Alter.

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 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 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 Afghanistan

Senior Democrat: We Should Be Proud of Afghanistan Progress

Levin Briefs On Investigation Into Private Security Contractors In Afghanistan
Carl Levin, retiring chairman of the armed services committee, thinks Americans have a "distorted" view of what the U.S. has accomplished in Afghanistan. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D—Mich), chairman of the armed services committee, says things are getting better all the time in Afghanistan

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the armed services committee, is leaving the Senate after 36 years. He spent Wednesday’s breakfast with a bunch of defense reporters responding to their questions on the U.S.-led attacks against Islamic militants and the Pentagon’s budget crunch.

Levin is no bomb-thrower or partisan hack. When we offered him the chance to say a final word at the end of his final breakfast with us, we listened:

Thank you for the years that we’ve been having breakfast together. I guess my one request, which I have feelings about, is our view of Afghanistan. I’ve been there a dozen times…they’ve made some amazing progress…The people of Afghanistan, by al measure, are glad we came. Eight million kids in school now, versus 800,000 kids under the Taliban; 40% girls, 40% women teachers. Universities now have formed.

Kabul, you can move in. Yea, there’s bombings and they’re covered all the time, and I understand it. But is it a glass half full? I think at least half full and I think, more importantly, it’s getting fuller…

I feel so strongly that the American public view of Afghanistan is distorted—it’s highly negative, they feel we failed. They have a right to feel some real satisfaction because we didn’t fail—quite the opposite. They haven’t succeeded yet, but with our help they have made some real strides, and it doesn’t come through.

So my plea would be, since this may be my last opportunity, would be to somehow or other cover the positives that have occurred in Afghanistan…

I just quote these public opinion polls: Americans, 70% or 65% think we have not achieved anything. In Afghanistan it’s 70 or 80% think we have. How does that happen that the people who are in the middle of that war think we’ve really done some good, and the people who are 10,000 or 15,000 miles away think we haven’t?

Particularly our troops and their families, they’ve got a right to feel they’ve accomplished something, ‘cause they have.

The American people, taxpayers, have a right to feel they’ve accomplished something, ‘cause they have…

I’m just going to hope that somehow or other [ex-defense secretary Robert] Gates’ point, his statement, will no longer prove to be true after a couple of more years. The statement that he made was that Afghanistan is the only war he’s ever seen that the closer you get to it, the better it looks.

I believe that that’s true, and I hope a couple of years from now, when I find a way to visit Afghanistan, that we’ll not only see more progress, but the American people finally realize that `Hey, it was worth it.’

 

 

U.S. Congressional Delegation Visits Afghanistan
Carl Levin, center, on a 2011 visit to Afghanistan. U.S. Navy / Getty Images
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.

TIME 2014 Election

Midterm Elections See a Surge in Ads About Energy and Environment

Projected to hit highest level ever

Political ads about energy and the environment will likely reach their highest number ever this election cycle, according to the Cook Political Report.

While these issues usually don’t rule the national polls of top midterm election priorities, there are several competitive races this cycle with energy at the forefront, especially in the Senate. There is also new outside money being spent on environmental issues, particularly from billionaire Tom Steyer, who has spent a reported $26.6 million of his own money this cycle to raise the profile of climate change through his super-PAC NextGen Climate Action.

“We’ve already seen more spots in U.S. Senate general elections alone (87,000 as of September 12) than we saw by this point in both Senate and House races in 2008 (56,000),” writes Elizabeth Wilner, a Senior Vice President of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence and contributing editor of the Cook Political Report. “If you add in 2014 House spots, we’ve nearly doubled the 2008 number (102,000). And with overall trends in advertising being what they are, with spot counts increasing over time, logic points to 2014 being the biggest cycle for energy/environment-related advertising, ever.”

Many of the “toss-up” Senate races this year have candidates bashing each other over energy industries that are economically or culturally important to the state. The prospect of the Keystone XL pipeline has ignited races from Michigan down to Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is trying to prove how her chairmanship on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will help the state increase its offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has campaigned on his commitment to fight the “War on Coal” while his Democratic rival, Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, hit the airwaves to put distance between herself and President Barack Obama on the issue. In Colorado, the support for the green energy industry has thrust Republican Rep. Cory Gardner’s and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s campaigns to cut ads with their candidates in front of wind turbines. And in Alaska, Democratic Sen. Mark Beigch has aired an ad of him driving a snowmobile over the ice of the Arctic Ocean to tout his efforts to expand drilling there. In a response ad for Republican opponent Dan Sullivan—a former commissioner of the Alaska’s Department of Natural Resourcesan X Games medalist criticized Begich’s “lame tricks,” driving skills and voting record.

Some energy industries appear to have a have a greater hold than others on donors’ wallets. While Democrats and Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure out who is more pro-coal in Rep. Nick Rahall’s southern West Virginia district, NextGen Climate Action has yet to receive much support, receiving four donations of $250, $500, $300 and $2,500 in August, according to Bloomberg.

TIME

Iowa Absentee Ballots Have Nearly Doubled Since 2010

Enthusiasm is building ahead of November's election to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin

Absentee ballot requests have nearly doubled in the state of Iowa since 2010, according to government statistics released Monday, reflecting higher voter engagement ahead of November’s election to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

With 43 days to go until the state votes, Iowa Democrats have a sizable advantage over Republicans in early voting numbers. Almost 58,000 Democrats have requested an absentee ballot this year, up from around 34,318 four years ago, said Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz in a statement. Republican absentee ballot requests are at 31,099, up from 12,710, and the number of independent or “no party” requests have increased from 9,664 to 23,043. Overall there have been 112,178 requests this year compared to 56,725 in 2010.

Dr. Kedron Bardwell, a political scientist at Simpson College, says it’s too soon to tell if the numbers indicated an “enthusiasm gap” in the race between Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican state senator Joni Ernst. Bardwell notes that the Iowa Republican Party has placed more of an emphasis on voting in-person over absentee ballots in the past, but that recently-elected party chairman Jeff Kaufmann had vowed to close the early voting gap.

“This shows they have a long way to go in that respect,” says Bardwell. “If we see the Republican absentee and early voting numbers continue to lag the Democrats well into October, we will know it is a symptom of a larger problem, with Republicans increasingly playing ‘catch up.'”

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