Cocaine found in cubby where White House visitors place cell phones, source says

The small bag of powder was found near the West Executive entrance.

July 6, 2023, 10:01 AM

Lab testing has confirmed it was cocaine found in the White House West Wing Sunday evening, a U.S. Secret Service spokesman said Wednesday.

The investigation into how it got there is ongoing.

The white powder was found during a routine search, a source said, and a preliminary field test had showed the substance tested positive for cocaine.

PHOTO: A view of the White House and the West Wing in Washington, D.C, July 4, 2023.
A view of the White House and the West Wing in Washington, D.C, July 4, 2023.
Julia Nikhinson/Reuters

The cocaine was found on the ground floor of the White House, near the West Executive entrance where visitors are instructed to typically drop off their cell phones and other electronics, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The powder was found in a small bag inside a cubby, a source said, and the Secret Service was said to be checking for fingerprints and reviewing visitor logs.

Some visitors, but not members of the general public, are able to tour parts of the West Wing, and tours typically take place on the weekends.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed Wednesday there had been tours this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

President Joe Biden and family members were at Camp David at the time.

Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday "the president thinks is incredibly important to get to the bottom" of how the cocaine came to be at the White House, but she deferred almost all questions to the Secret Service as it continues its investigation.

"Where this was discovered is a heavily traveled area where many White House -- West Wing, I should be even more specific, West Wing visitors come through this particular area. I just don't have anything more to share," she said.

"It is under investigation by the Secret Service. This is in their purview. And so we're gonna, going to allow, certainly the investigation to continue and we have confidence that the Secret Service will get to the bottom of this," she said, emphasizing that the president and his family were not at the White House this past weekend.

"From Friday night to Sunday, West Wing tours usually occur, led by staff, members of Congress and others who have that privilege," according to former U.S. Secret Service agent Don Mihalek. "The discovery allegedly took place in an area widely accessible to anyone visiting the White House."

Mihalek, now an ABC News contributor, said Secret Service screening occurs "prior to entry on West Executive Place, which is where West Wing tours meet up."

"That screening includes a magnetometer and X-ray of bags," he said. "The person leading the tour is ultimately responsible for their tour group."

Mihalek said the incident further reinforces the need for the White House to have the Secret Service take an "enhanced role" in vetting all individuals visiting the White House "to keep the White House safe."

The Republican-led House Oversight committee plans to request a briefing from Secret Service on the cocaine found at the White House, a committee official told ABC News.

"The U.S. Secret Service allowed the substance in the White House through their extensive screening process that Congress funds. The Oversight Committee will request a briefing from Secret Service," the committee aide said.

ABC News' Rachel Scott and Will Steakin contributed to this report.