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Why the Secret Service closed its investigation of cocaine found at the White House without conducting interviews

Without physical evidence, the agency couldn't narrow the list of possible suspects beyond 500 staffers and visitors and determined that interviewing all 500 wasn't worth it.
The West Wing and Rose Garden of the White House today.
The West Wing and Rose Garden of the White House today. Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

The Secret Service on Thursday announced it had closed its investigation into who left a small packet of cocaine in the White House without finding the culprit, and a spokesman for the agency told NBC News it did so without conducting interviews. 

The agency, along with the FBI, tested the packet to determine it was cocaine and looked for any fingerprints or DNA evidence. But the tests yielded no usable forensic evidence. Video footage of the area where the baggie was found also provided no evidence to narrow the possible suspects beyond a list of roughly 500 staff members and visitors who passed through during a weekend earlier this month. 

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Gugliemi said the agency determined that interviewing all 500 people could be a strain on resources, might infringe upon civil liberties and would likely be fruitless without corresponding physical evidence tying any person to the drugs.

“Yes, you could have a consensual interview,” he said, meaning the interviews would be voluntary. “But we have no evidence to approach them.”

Gugliemi said the small amount of cocaine, 208 milligrams or about .007 ounce, would only result in a misdemeanor charge in the District of Columbia and the agency determined that did not warrant the expenditure of resources it would take to interview 500 people. 

The incident drew much public attention in recent days, including criticism from Republicans who accused the Biden administration of not doing enough to find the culprit. 

Former President Donald Trump posted on Truth Social on Thursday, “Despite all of the cameras pointing directly at the ‘scene of the crime,’ and the greatest forensics anywhere in the World, they just can’t figure it out? They know the answer, and so does everyone else!”

Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration under then-President Barack Obama, said law enforcement agencies need to consider their resources when making decisions about who and what to investigate. 

“They could have done the interviews, but at the end of the day it’s a long walk through dry sand,” said Rosenberg, an NBC News contributor. “They have finite resources and it’s OK for them to decide some things are worth their time and some things are not worth their time.”