The Secret Service is trying to find out who brought in a bag of cocaine that was discovered Sunday night in the West Wing guest lobby of the White House, an agency spokesman said Wednesday.
The spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, also said that the agency had confirmed that the white powdery substance found by an officer was cocaine, confirming the results of an initial test by the Washington Fire Department.
The small plastic bag was found in an area of the West Wing that visitors and staff members frequently pass through during the day. When staff members want to take family or friends on tours to the West Wing, they usually do so at night and on weekends.
A person familiar with the investigation said the bag was found near an area where guests are checked for security reasons and leave their phones in small closets. Secret Service would not say where exactly the substance was found in the lobby or whether the agency was working with the White House to examine guest records. People familiar with the investigation say the area is so frequently visited by so many groups of people that it could be difficult to find the person who left the bag.
President Biden and his family were at Camp David on Sunday when the envelope was found and officials briefly shut down parts of the compound to assess whether the substance was dangerous. That evening, a test of the substance by hazmat crew officials returned one result: « We have a yellow bar that says cocaine hydrochloride, » an official said on a dispatch sent at 20:49 and recorded by a website that collects radio communications.
Mr. Biden returned with his family on Tuesday. He met with the Swedish prime minister in the Oval Office on Wednesday and did not answer a question a reporter shouted about the incident.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, did not respond to questions about whether the White House or the Secret Service would revise security protocols after the episode and directed the questions to the Secret Service.
« They will go over all the stuff from what happened over the weekend, » Ms. Jean-Pierre said. « I just don’t want to go on. »
He said tours of the White House have been conducted several days over the past week, including Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“When it comes to West Wing visitors, they come for many reasons,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. « Obviously we have West Wing tours happening here on campus. »
Several Republicans in Congress said Wednesday that the Secret Service should release information related to the investigation, including specific details about where the cocaine was found in the West Wing.
Senator Tom Cotton, Republican from Arkansas, published a copy of a letter he sent to the agency Wednesday, asking for more information about how visitors are screened before entering the White House and whether there are different levels of screening.
« Congress and the American people deserve to know how cocaine got into the White House, » Cotton said.