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DHS investigates potential Secret Service leak about Utah Congressman

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

CBS News

With tensions between the Secret Service and the House Oversight Committee running high, the agency is coming under scrutiny for reportedly leaking information about House Oversight Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Following reports that agency members circulated a 2003 job rejection of Chaffetz, R-Utah, by the elite protection squad, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service, is launching an inquiry into the claims.

Chaffetz confirmed to the Washington Post that he had been turned down for a position as a Secret Service Agent and said he wasn't granted an interview. He told the Post he believes he was too old - in his mid-30s at the time.

"Secretary Johnson has called for an investigation, and if the allegations in the report are true, those responsible should be held accountable," DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement to CBS News.

Homeland Security officials have also tried to make amends for what's being seen as a tactic to embarrass the committee head.

"Last night, Secretary Johnson also called Chairman Chaffetz to personally apologize to him for being put in the situation that he had to acknowledge a matter that should have been kept confidential," Catron added. "[Secret Service] Director Clancy also called Chairman Chaffetz to apologize."

Members across the aisle have also criticized the behavior of the agency towards the Utah Republican, taking it as yet another sign of Secret Service corruption.

"If these claims are true, I find them extremely problematic and disturbing," Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight panel and an outspoken critic of the agency, said. "It continues to erode the credibility of one of our most important agencies."

Chaffetz has been leading the charge in trying to root out the Secret Service's dysfunction. Earlier this week, the Utah Republican issued a subpoena to two Secret Service agents, following last month's allegations that two agency employees had crashed a vehicle into White House barriers while driving under the influence. The collision, only the latest in a string of scandals involving drunk driving, foreign prostitutes, and failures to protect the White House from trespassers, occurred in early March, while a bomb threat investigation was taking place in front of the executive mansion.

"As part of our investigation, we have requested interviews with Secret Service agents who can shed light not only on the March 4 incident involving a potential bomb just outside the White House when the President was in residence, but also on why the Secret Service appears to be systemically broken and in desperate need of both leadership and reform," Chaffetz said in a statement announcing the subpoena.

The subpoena request has only created more friction between Homeland Security and the House panel in charge of its oversight. Department head Jeh Johnson even lambasted the move, calling it "unnecessary and unprecedented."

Though the DHS chief proposed that the committee conduct private, transcribed interviews with his staff regarding the incident, Johnson said that "for reasons that are unclear to me, Chairman Chaffetz and his staff rejected this offer."

Speaking with the Daily Beast, who first reported on Chaffetz's rejection, the Utah congressman dismissed suspicions that it was reason for any ill will towards the Secret Service.

"I haven't looked at that in more than a decade. It's not something that's entered my mind," Chaffetz said. "Seriously, this was like 10 minutes, 12 years ago."