Romney pins GSA scandal on Obama but gives him a pass on Secret Service

Steven Senne/AP

Mitt Romney tried on Wednesday to pin a federal agency's Las Vegas spending spree on the Obama administration, but gave the president a pass on the widening scandal involving members of the Secret Service and military who allegedly hired prostitutes while on assignment in Colombia.

“The president has confidence in the head of the Secret Service as do I, and I believe the right corrective action will be taken there,” Romney said on WTVN in Columbus, Ohio. “Obviously everyone is very, very disappointed in these stories, very uncharacteristic of the service, and I think it will be dealt with in as aggressive a way as is possible given the requirements of law.”

The marks were a contrast to Romney’s assertion that the administration “obviously is embarrassed” by the revelation that the General Services Administration hosted an $823,000 conference near Las Vegas in 2010. He said top GSA official Jeff Neely was pleading his Fifth Amendment rights as an “excuse” to not have to testify in the case.

Speaking more generally about government corruption including the GSA scandal, the Secret Service scandal, and the Justice Department's botched "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation, Romney said he would “clean house” if he were president.

“The right thing to do is to remove people who have violated the public trust and have put their playtime and their personal interest ahead of the nation,” Romney said in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. “You’ve got to make an assessment of those individuals, and where people have failed and where you think they have not got the level of care and caution that is necessary, you replace them.”

On WTVN, Romney also fielded questions about his vice presidential pick. He declined to provide a short list, but did talk about a “debt of gratitude” for help he had received in the Ohio primary from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who is widely perceived as a top possibility.

“I think his strength and his endorsement and his campaigning with me across the state really made a difference. That kind of a victory in Ohio was one of the things that propelled me to become the presumptive nominee. So I’m in a great debate of gratitude to Rob Portman and recognize that yeah, he makes a difference in Ohio but he would make a difference on a national ticket as well. He’s a great guy and a very capable person,” Romney said.

Matthew Shelley contributed to this report.

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