Trump commends Secret Service after intruder breaches White House grounds

March 13, 2017 in News by RBN Staff


White House fence scaled

Source: Washington Examiner | By SUSAN CRABTREE, DANIEL CHAITIN 

A man with a backpack breached the White House grounds and was arrested Friday evening, two Secret Service sources confirmed to the Washington Examiner.

The intruder made his way near the South Portico entrance on the back side of the White House at around 11:38 p.m., before the suspect was discovered by a Secret Service agent.

President Trump was in the White House residence at the time, and was made aware of the situation.

Speaking to a small pool of reporters during a visit to Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., where he was having a working lunch with Cabinet and White House officials, Trump commended the Secret Service for how it dealt with the breach.

The “Secret Service did a fantastic job last night,” Trump said, according to pool report. He added that the intruder was a “troubled person.”

“Secret service did a phenomenal job; they continue to provide phenomenal protection to the president and the first family and the president was very appreciative of their efforts,” White House press secretary Spicer, who was also at the golf course, told reporters.

Two knowledgeable sources in the Secret Service community told the Washington Examiner that the man carrying the backpack jumped the fence on the south grounds. There was no breach to the White House mansion itself.

When Secret Service officers discovered the man, they apprehended him and had a dog from the K-9 unit inspect the backpack for explosives. Secret Service officers involved were alarmed when the dog sat by the backpack — a signal that it had detected explosive materials, one source told the Washington Examiner.

A Secret Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or EOD, team, located in an office outside the White House complex, was then brought it to screen and clear the backpack, most likely using a robot to do so. After 3 hours of work, the team determined that it did not contain explosive material, the source said.

A Secret Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or EOD, team cleared the backpack within 3 hours. It did not contain explosive material.

“An individual scaled the outer perimeter fence by the Treasury Building and East Executive Avenue,” said a statement from the Secret Service. “Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers arrested the individual on the South Grounds without further incident,” said a statement from the Secret Service.

They confirmed that the backpack was screened and searched as a “precautionary measure” and was found to be “free of any hazardous materials.” The officers, following “established protocols,” then searched the south and north grounds of the White House complex and found “nothing of concern to security operations.”

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was fully briefed on the incident, the Secret Service added.

CNN reported that the suspect was handed over by the Secret Service to the Metropolitan Police Department to be processed.

According to the arrest report, CNN said the suspect told police: “I am a friend of the president. I have an appointment and I jumped the fence.” The suspect also reportedly had a California driver’s licence.

The Metropolitan Police Department has identified the suspect as 26-year-old Jonathan Tran.

According to NBC News, Tran was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court on Saturday where he was charged with entering or remaining in restricted grounds with a weapon. The judge determined Tran to be a flight risk and ordered him held until Monday, when he will see a magistrate in D.C. District Court. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The network reported that the security level at the White House was raised to level “orange,” but by Saturday morning, everything was back to normal.

The two sources who spoke to the Washington Examiner downplayed the significance of this particular breach compared to others, especially the most serious incident in recent years.

In 2014 a 42-year-old man, Omar Gonzales, jumped the fence and made it all the way into the ceremonial heart of the White House before being apprehended. He was carrying a three-and-a-half inch knife in his pants pocket. The man who was arrested for the Friday night incident had no criminal background and was not on the Secret Service’s radar screen for previous suspicious activity, one source said.

Far more intrusions to the White House complex grounds occur than are reported in the press.

Just a few months after the Gonzales incident in November of 2014, the Secret Service disclosed that 40 fence- and barrier-jumping incidents had occurred during the previous five years. It was twice as many incidents than the agency had previously disclosed to Congress, although the vast majority of them involved breaches of lower barriers than the main fence. The document chronicling the breaches highlights the difficulty of protecting the sprawling White House compound from mentally ill individuals determined to breach security. Former Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, who retired last weekend and left the agency responded to the spate of fence-jumping incidents by backing a plan raising the height of the fence surrounding the White House perimeter from six feet to 11 feet.

The National Capital Planning Commission approved a bigger and taller fence last year, and construction is slated to start in 2018.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to better explain the role of the K-9 unit’s inspection of the backpack.