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Republicans request Secret Service briefing on cocaine found at White House

Rep. James Comer, chairman of the Oversight Committee, is seeking a staff-level briefing from the Secret Service as the GOP-led panel conducts its own investigation.
A Secret Service agent watches as Marine One with President Joe Biden abroad lifts off from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 6, 2023, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md,. and then on to South Carolina.
A Secret Service agent watches as Marine One lifts off from the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday.Andrew Harnik / AP

WASHINGTON — House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is requesting a Secret Service briefing on the recent discovery of a bag of cocaine at the White House.

In a letter Friday to Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle, Comer, R-Ky., said he wanted a staff-level briefing by the end of next week as his committee seeks more details about the cocaine that was found in a highly trafficked part of the West Wing on Sunday, prompting a brief evacuation.

"This alarming development requires the Committee to assess White House security practices and determine whose failures led to an evacuation of the building and finding of the illegal substance," Comer wrote.

"The presence of illegal drugs in the White House is unacceptable and a shameful moment in the White House’s history," he added.

In an accompanying statement, Comer said the incident “and the eventual evacuation of staff now clearly raises concerns about the level of security maintained at the White House.”

Asked for comment, U.S. Secret Service spokesperson Steve Kopek said Friday that the agency has received the congressional inquiry.

"Since this is an open and active investigation, we are communicating with the Committees and working through appropriate channels to identify what may be responsive to the requests," Kopek said.

President Joe Biden and his family were at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, when the cocaine was discovered, the White House has said.

While earlier reports indicated the powder was found in the formal West Wing lobby, multiple officials involved in the inquiry said Thursday that it was uncovered in a cubby near the White House’s West Executive entrance.

Two sources familiar with the investigation said Thursday that the Secret Service is expected to complete its investigation by Monday, sooner than the initial timeline.

An official familiar with the investigation said Wednesday that the agency would consult cameras and entrance logs and review the small zippered bag containing the cocaine for DNA, fingerprints and a full chemical analysis at a federal laboratory. Officials have cautioned that it might not be possible to identify who left it there if no identifiable forensic material is found.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., made his own request Wednesday for Cheatle to release more details and respond to a series of questions about the White House's security procedures.

“If the White House complex is not secure, Congress needs to know the details, as well as your plan to correct any security flaws,” Cotton said in a letter, requesting answers by July 14.