FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—The Secret Service has refused to turn over the list of individuals who may have accessed the area of the White House where authorities discovered cocaine over the Fourth of July weekend, saying that the record of such a list does not fall under the Freedom of Information Act. This suggests that the Secret Service never created such a list in the first place.
“As your request seeks records reflecting visitors or related information concerning the Office of the President, please be advised that these records are not Secret Service agency records subject to the FOIA,” Kevin Tyrrell, a Freedom of Information Act officer at the Department of Homeland Security, wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Signal. “Rather, these records are governed by the Presidential Records Act, and remain under the exclusive legal custody and control of the White House.”
The White House Office of General Counsel did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment by press time.
The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project demanded that the Secret Service turn over the list shortly after the agency announced that it had closed the investigation. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)
“Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I respectfully request the following records from the United States Secret Service regarding the White House cocaine investigation,” the Oversight Project’s director, Mike Howell, wrote in a letter to the Secret Service.
“Specifically, I am requesting a copy of the index of several hundred individuals who may have accessed the area where the substance was found,” added Howell, who is also an investigative columnist for The Daily Signal.
Yet Secret Service rejected the Heritage request. The Oversight Project is planning to appeal the rejection.
Steve Bradbury, a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation who served as the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation from 2017 to 2021 and led the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department from 2005 to 2009, broke down the legal distinction between an agency record and a presidential record.
The distinction “usually turns on who generates the record and whose business the record reflects,” Bradbury told The Daily Signal. “If it’s an agency record, it’s subject to FOIA. If it’s a White House record, it’s covered by the Presidential Records Act.”
Bradbury said the pertinent question should be whether the Secret Service created its own new record using information from the White House visitor and staff logs.
If the White House produced a list of all the people who visited, but “the Secret Service took that information and created a new document on its systems, which was its own list of suspects that it generated, that new document should” fall under the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, he said.
The Secret Service and the Secret Service FOIA office did not respond to requests for comment by publication time. The Freedom of Information Act Office did not clarify whether Secret Service had created a new document for the investigation.
If the Secret Service did not create a new document, that may suggest that the agency did not take the investigation seriously.
On July 2, a Sunday, Secret Service officers found a suspicious white substance inside a vestibule leading to the lobby area of the West Executive Avenue entrance to the White House. Officers found the substance, later identified as cocaine, inside a receptacle used to temporarily store electronic and personal devices prior to entering the West Wing.
Authorities tested the cocaine for threats and found none. The FBI’s crime lab analyzed the cocaine for fingerprint and DNA analysis, handing over its results Wednesday.
The FBI “did not develop latent fingerprints and insufficient DNA was present for investigative comparisons,” so the Secret Service concluded that it “is not able to compare evidence against the known pool of individuals,” according to a Secret Service press release.
“There was no surveillance video footage found that provided investigative leads or any other means for investigators to identify who may have deposited the found substance in this area,” the Secret Service said in the press release. “Without physical evidence, the investigation will not be able to single out a person of interest from the hundreds of individuals who passed through the vestibule where the cocaine was discovered. At this time, the Secret Service’s investigation is closed due to a lack of physical evidence.”
Heritage’s Oversight Project seeks the list that the Secret Service referred to as “the known pool of individuals.”
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at Heritage’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, explained what visitors have to do when they enter the White House.
“One of the things you have to do when you go through the security checkpoints—and keep in mind, every staff member, every visitor, has to go through a background investigation to get into the White House—they not only check you for weapons,” von Spakovsky said. “You have to go through an area where they blow air through you and they have dogs sniffing, to try to detect any kind of illegal substances, bombs, or anything else.”
“And yet they missed someone bringing cocaine into the White House? That is hard to excuse,” von Spakovsky added.
Neither the president nor his son Hunter Biden—known for his past cocaine abuse—had been in the White House on the day of the discovery, officials said.
The first family left for Camp David on Friday, June 30, and returned for Independence Day festivities Tuesday, July 4. The substance that turned out to be cocaine was found in the West Wing on Sunday, July 2.
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