POLITICS
10/01/2014 03:23 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2014

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns Amid White House Controversy

Julia Pierson has resigned as director of the Secret Service, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a Wednesday statement.

In the statement, Johnson said he would appoint Joseph Clancy as interim acting director.

During a White House briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama had called Pierson to "express his appreciation for her service to the agency and the country."

"The president concluded that new leadership of that agency was required,” Earnest said.

In an interview with Bloomberg News following her resignation, Pierson described the decision as "painful."

“I think it’s in the best interest of the Secret Service and the American public if I step down,” Pierson said. “Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency. The media has made it clear that this is what they expected. ... It’s painful to leave as the agency is reeling from a significant security breach."

Pierson came under fire after a number of Secret Service security breaches, including an armed man jumping over the White House fence and entering the executive mansion. According to reports in the Washington Post, the man dashed through the unlocked front door of the White House and into the East Room while armed with a knife. He reportedly overpowered a Secret Service agent near the main foyer before eventually being tackled by an off-duty agent who was leaving work for the day.

After the Sept. 19 incident, several other security blunders came to light. An armed, ex-convict was allowed in an elevator with Obama during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month. And officers fumbled their response to a 2011 incident where a gunman fired at the White House residence.

On Tuesday, Pierson was grilled by members of the House Oversight Committee over the lapses. She said the recent intrusion was "unacceptable" and acknowledged the agency's failures in following security protocol.

"I take full responsibility," she said. "It will never happen again.”

A number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called on Pierson to resign following the hearing.

Read Johnson's full statement below:

Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.

As an interim Acting Director of the Secret Service, I am appointing Joseph Clancy, formerly Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service. Mr. Clancy retired from the Secret Service in 2011. I appreciate his willingness to leave his position in the private sector on very short notice and return to public service for a period.

Today, I have also asked the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, aided by this Department’s General Counsel, to assume control and direction of the ongoing inquiry by the Secret Service of the fence jumping incident at the White House on September 19. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas should complete that review and submit findings to me by November 1, 2014.

Finally, I have also determined that scrutiny by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly. By December 15, 2014, this panel will submit to me its own assessment and recommendations concerning security of the White House compound. I will also invite the panel to submit to me recommendations for potential new directors of the Secret Service, to include recommendations of individuals who come from outside the Secret Service. I will also request that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service. The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority.

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. Last week, the Secret Service was responsible for the protection of the President as well as 140 visiting heads of state or government as they convened at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Likewise, in August the Secret Service handled the protection of 60 world leaders as they convened in Washington, D.C. for the African Summit. As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident. There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this.

This is a developing story and has been updated.

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