Shifting stories about where law enforcement officials discovered a substance identified as cocaine at the White House this week are raising questions about how it ended up inside the building.
A Washington, D.C., fire department dispatch call on Sunday said the white powder, identified as "cocaine hydrochloride," was discovered in the "library" of the executive mansion. But a Secret Service spokesman later said it was found in the West Wing.
While the West Wing houses the daily work offices for President Joe Biden and White House staffers, the library is located in the White House living quarters below, where access is more restricted.
The location of the substance could provide clues to whether it was brought into the building by a White House staffer, a visitor, or a Biden family member. Hunter Biden, who pleaded guilty to tax and gun charges in June, has publicly struggled with cocaine addiction for years and was booted from the U.S. Navy in 2014 after testing positive for cocaine.
The discovery of cocaine at the White House is politically inconvenient for Biden, who has faced questions about his son’s rampant drug use and foreign business dealings. During Biden’s time in the Senate, he drafted a 1986 law that instituted significantly harsher prison sentences for crack cocaine possession as compared to powder cocaine. Critics have slammed the law as racist, arguing that it disproportionately targeted the black community.
The White House was briefly evacuated on Sunday after Secret Service agents discovered the suspicious substance during a sweep of the building. President Biden and his immediate family, including son Hunter, were not at the White House at the time.
The D.C. fire department was called in to test the substance. "We have a yellow bar saying cocaine hydrochloride," said a responder in a dispatch call published by the Daily Mail, adding that it was discovered in the library. Cocaine hydrochloride refers to the powder version of cocaine.
Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Secret Service, later said the substance was found in the "work area of the West Wing," according to the New York Times. Two law enforcement officials also told the Associated Press that the cocaine was found in an "area accessible to tour groups." A subsequent CBS report said the drug was found "near an entrance where visitors taking tours are directed to leave their phones."
But West Wing tours are not typically available on Sundays, according to the White House's website. Those tours are also expected to end at 12:30 PM.
A White House spokeswoman said it is "not accurate" to say tours are not given on Sundays. While the spokeswoman initially declined to answer a question on whether any outside guests or tour groups were invited into the White House the same evening the Secret Service discovered the bag of cocaine, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later said during a Wednesday briefing that there was a White House tour on Sunday. Jean-Pierre refused to disclose what time the tour occurred.
It is not uncommon for senior White House staff to invite friends for unofficial visits to the West Wing. Former president Donald Trump instituted a crackdown on outside devices allowed into the premises in an attempt to stop leaks to the press. Two individuals who visited the White House during that time told the Washington Free Beacon they were instructed to leave their phones in a small cubbie outside of the West Wing for the duration of their trip.
Hunter Biden was rumored to be living at the executive mansion earlier this spring, but this has not been confirmed by the White House.
President Biden has publicly embraced his son since his guilty plea in June. Hunter Biden attended a state dinner with the Indian prime minister last month, and he joined the president and First Lady to watch July 4th fireworks from the White House balcony this week after the white substance was discovered. On Friday, shortly before the substance's discovery, White House pool reporters saw Hunter Biden depart the White House with his father to travel to Camp David.
While Biden has defended his scandal-plagued son, other presidents have moved to distance themselves from drug users. Former president Dwight Eisenhower, for example, was "so anti-pot" that he barred actor Robert Mitchum from the White House movie theater because the celebrity had been convicted of a marijuana charge, presidential historian Tevi Troy told the Free Beacon.
Update 2:55 p.m.: This piece has been updated to include additional information.