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Lab tests confirm the powder found in the West Wing lobby is cocaine

Police are seen outside the White House grounds, Sunday night, July 2, 2023 in Washington.
Anthony Peltier
/
AP
Police are seen outside the White House grounds, Sunday night, July 2, 2023 in Washington.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has been briefed on the investigation into the discovery of cocaine on the lobby floor of the White House West Wing, and thinks it is "incredibly important" for the Secret Service to determine how it got there, officials said Wednesday.

U.S. Secret Service agents found the powder during a routine White House sweep on Sunday, in a small, clear plastic bag on the ground in a heavily trafficked area, according to three people, who were not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the White House had confidence in the Secret Service. "The president think it's incredibly important to get to the bottom of this," she said.

Biden was at Camp David with members of his family for the holiday weekend when the powder was discovered and the complex was briefly evacuated as a precaution. The fire department was called in to test the substance to determine it was not hazardous, and the initial test came back positive for cocaine. A secondary, more sensitive lab analysis confirmed the results.

Investigators have not yet identified who brought the drugs into the White House. The Secret Service, which is responsible for securing the White House, was combing through visitor logs and security footage.

The lobby where the drugs were found is where many official visitors and staffers enter. It is also open to staff-led tours of the West Wing, which are scheduled for nonworking hours on the weekends and evenings. Those tours are invitation-only and led by White House staff for friends, family and other guests. Most staffers who work on the complex can request an evening or weekend tour slot, but there is often a long wait list.

If a White House employee brought in the drugs, it would be easier to determine, because staff are fingerprinted and subjected to drug tests. A visitor would be harder to pin down; there were tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday last week.

The District of Columbia fire department was called in Sunday to test the substance to determine whether it was hazardous, though officials immediately suspected illicit drugs because of how it was packaged, two of the people said. It's routine to follow up with a more sensitive lab tests later. That test was returned Wednesday.

The Secret Service said in a statement Tuesday that the White House was closed as a precaution as emergency crews investigated.

"The item was sent for further evaluation and an investigation into the cause and manner of how it entered the White House is pending," the Secret Service said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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