WASHINGTON — Julia Pierson, the first female director of the Secret Service, resigned her post Wednesday after a fence jumper gained access to the White House Sept. 19 and a subsequent congressional inquiry uncovered other security lapses.
Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson announced the resignation in a statement. He also announced that the DHS would take over an internal inquiry of the Secret Service and that he would appointment of a new panel to review security at the White House.
Calls for Pierson to leave her post grew after a poor performance during her testimony on Capitol Hill and another bombshell revelation that the an armed contractor was allowed to get into an elevator with the president during a recent trip to the Centers for Disease Control.
Even some high ranking Democrats have turned against Pierson, who has been in the job for less than two years. In an interview on Wednesday Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, where the hearing took place, said he thinks Pierson- who he referred to as “this lady” “has to go.” Cummings reiterated this stance in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I want her to go if she cannot restore trust in the agency and if she cannot get the culture back in order,” he said.
And Chuck Schumer, the third ranking Democrat in the Senate announced he will call for Pierson’s resignation on Wednesday as well.
Republicans had also called for Pierson to step down.
“It’s clear to me that the only way to solve the problem the Secret Service has is with new leadership,” Graham said. “What Julia Pierson describes as mistakes are major security failures on multiple fronts.”
He said light security around Obama is “the worst possible signal to send to terrorists and our enemies around the world.”
News of Pierson’s resignation came as new information about the fence jumper came to light.
Omar Gonzalez, 42, pleaded not guilty to federal and D.C. charges in federal court in Washington on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the inquiry into how the Army veteran launched over the fence and was able to sprint up to the front door, burst into the White House and run into the ornate East Room continues.
Neither President Obama nor the first family were at home at the time of the incident.
But a Secret Service source tells CNN there is an elaborate closed circuit video system and that video is being dissected to establish new protocols.
When Gonzalez burst through the White House door, he pushed a female officer to the side.
But the source said, “Gender was not a factor, she got one door secured but was pushed over while trying to get second door shut.”
An alarm box had been turned down near the front door, for instance, after complaints by the White House usher’s office that it was too loud.
A canine unit was not released to chase Gonzalez, said the source, because there were “too many friendlies around.”
Julia Pierson was named the director of the U.S. Secret Service in March 2013, tapped by President Barack Obama to change the culture of an agency that was then marred by a Colombian prostitution scandal.
Pierson became the Secret Service’s chief of staff in 2008. Before that, she served on the protective details of presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. She had been the assistant director of the Office of Human Resources and Training, and held the title of deputy assistant director in the Office of Protective Operations and the Office of Administration.
Pierson started her career in law enforcement as a police officer in Orlando. She joined the Secret Service in 1984, working in the Miami and Orlando field offices.
Johnson made sure to praise the overall work of the Secret Service when he announced Pierson’s resignation.
“It is worth repeating that the Secret Service is one of the finest official protection services in the world, consisting of men and women who are highly trained and skilled professionals prepared to put their own lives on the line in a second’s notice for the people they protect.”