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White House military personnel removed amid probe into contacts with women during Asia trip

By CAROL D. LEONNIG, DAN LAMOTHE AND JULIE TATE | The Washington Post | Published: November 21, 2017

Three military personnel have been reassigned from their White House jobs amid allegations that they had improper contact with foreign women while traveling with President Donald Trump on his recent trip to Asia, according to officials familiar with the situation.

The service members all worked for the White House Communications Agency, a specialized military unit that helps provide the president, vice president, Secret Service and other officials with secure communications.

The military is scrutinizing three Army noncommissioned officers who allegedly broke curfew during Trump's trip to Vietnam this month, officials said.

Mark Wright, a spokesman for the Defense Department, confirmed that the Pentagon is examining the behavior of personnel during the visit to Vietnam.

"We are aware of the incident, and it is currently under investigation," Wright said.

Trump visited Vietnam as part of a 12-day swing through Asia.

The episode comes after four military personnel on the same White House team faced allegations related to their behavior during a trip to Panama in August with Vice President Mike Pence. Those men - two from the Army and two from the Air Force - stood accused of taking foreign women after hours into a secure area as they were preparing for Pence's arrival, officials said.

They were all flown home before Pence arrived and stripped of their White House assignments pending the findings of the investigation, officials said.

Army Col. Amanda Azubuike, a military spokeswoman, said an investigation into the Panama case has been closed and the findings forwarded to senior military officials for review. She said she was not aware of the final conclusions or any disciplinary action.

NBC previously reported that military members on the Panama trip had been removed from White House duty.

Service members with high-level security clearances are expected to report contacts with foreign individuals to ensure that their interactions do not compromise national security.

The mission of the White House Communications Agency is to prevent eavesdropping on presidential communications and to ensure that White House officials can be securely reached worldwide at a moment's notice.

If found guilty, the service members face the risk of losing their security clearances or could be subject to administrative discipline or courts-martial.

Spokesmen for Trump and Pence declined to comment and referred questions to the office of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

President Donald Trump speaks to U.S. and Japanese servicemembers at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017.
AARON KIDD/STARS AND STRIPES

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