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Friday, June 14, 2024

WATCH: Have you misplaced your cocaine stash in the White House's West Wing? The Secret Service is coming for you…

By Tyler Pager and Peter Hermann

Washington – Officials are investigating how a small bag of cocaine ended up in the White House on Sunday, when it was found on the ground floor of the West Wing near where visitors taking tours are instructed to leave their cellphones, according to three people familiar with the investigation.

The discovery of a powdery white substance on Sunday evening prompted a brief evacuation of the premises. Subsequent testing confirmed it was cocaine, said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Secret Service.

Guglielmi said “an investigation into the cause and manner” of how the substance entered the White House is ongoing. There is no indication that the cocaine’s discovery disrupted White House operations.

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President Biden was at Camp David over the weekend and did not return to the White House until Tuesday morning for a series of events celebrating Independence Day. The president, who met with the Swedish prime minister in the Oval Office on Wednesday, did not respond to questions from reporters about the discovery.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, also declined to discuss the incident on Wednesday, referring questions to the Secret Service, which is overseeing the investigation.

“It is under investigation by the Secret Service,” she said. “This is in their purview, and so we’re going to allow certainly the investigation to continue.”

She said the White House has confidence the Secret Service “will get to the bottom of this.”

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Jean-Pierre added that Biden was briefed on the matter, and she stressed that many outsiders set foot in the area where the cocaine was found.

“This is a heavily travelled area of the campus of the White House,” she said. “It is where visitors to the West Wing come through.”

Law enforcement officials cautioned that because the area where the cocaine was discovered is so highly trafficked, it may be difficult to determine who was responsible for bringing the drug into the White House.

Authorities are analysing visitor logs from Sunday as well as looking for any surveillance video that may be available. All White House visitors must submit personal information to the Secret Service, including their Social Security number and date of birth.

The Biden White House has reinstated a policy, suspended during the Trump years, of publicly releasing the names of all visitors – but the names are only released months after the visit. The most recent disclosures are for visitors from March 2023.

White House staffers are authorised to give guests tours of the West Wing, which often occur at night or on weekends. Guests are required to go through security screening before entering the White House complex and then are asked to leave their phones in small boxes just before entering the West Wing. Officials said the substance was found near these boxes.

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On the tours, guests are shown the ground floor and the first floor of the West Wing. They are able to peek inside the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room and the Roosevelt Room, areas that tend to be a source of great interest for many visitors. Jean-Pierre said such tours were conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to the director of the Secret Service on Wednesday asking for more information about the incident and for details about the agency’s security protocols for the White House.

“I urge you to release that information quickly, as the American people deserve to know whether illicit drugs were found in an area where confidential information is exchanged,” Cotton wrote. “If the White House complex is not secure, Congress needs to know the details, as well as your plan to correct any security flaws.”

The Washington Post


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