By Naveen Athrappully
The U.S. Secret Service has refused to provide The Heritage Foundation with a list of individuals who may have been involved in the White House cocaine incident, claiming such records are outside its authority.
After the Secret Service closed the investigation into the cocaine issue in mid-July, the Heritage Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the list of hundreds of individuals who may have accessed the area where the substance was found. In a July 25 letter (pdf) from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the agency denied the request.
“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.”
“Rather, these records are governed by the Presidential Records Act … and remain under the exclusive legal custody and control of the White House,” the letter argued.
The DHS’ response to the FOIA request made The Daily Signal, a news outlet of the Heritage Foundation, suggest that the Secret Service may have “never created such a list in the first place.”
Steve Bradbury, a distinguished fellow at the thinktank, dismissed the DHS arguments for not turning over the visitor list, pointing to the legal difference between an agency record and presidential record.
The distinction is usually based on “who generates the record and whose business the record reflects,” he told the outlet. “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.”
Mr. Bradbury said that the key question is whether the Secret Service used the White House logs to create its own new record.
If the Secret Service did use the White House records to create a “new document on its systems, which was its own list of suspects that it generated, that new document should” come under FOIA, he said.
However if the Secret Service did not create a new document, it would suggest that the agency did not take the investigation seriously, Mr. Bradbury suggested. The Heritage Foundation intends to appeal the rejection.
This isn’t the first time that the Secret Service has turned down a FOIA request on the White House cocaine issue.
Jason Leopold, an investigative reporter at Bloomberg, had earlier asked for information like emails, text messages, suspicious activity reporting, intelligence bulletins, letters, directives, and other such material referencing the cocaine found at the White House.
On July 11, the DHS notified Mr. Leopold that his request was denied, saying there were “no records or documents available to you at this time.”
Ending the Investigation
The cocaine was found in the White House on Sunday evening, July 3, with the Secret Service confirming the discovery and proposing that it was brought in by someone who works there or had the authorization to enter the place.
The news triggered speculation of Hunter Biden’s involvement since the president’s son is known to have used drugs. In his memoir “Beautiful Things,” Hunter admits that he was addicted to crack cocaine for several years.
In a July 13 press release, the Secret Service said that it was ending the investigation into the cocaine matter “due to a lack of physical evidence.”
An FBI analysis of the cocaine packaging “did not develop latent fingerprints.” The DNA evidence was also “insufficient” for investigative comparisons. “Therefore, the Secret Service is not able to compare evidence against the known pool of individuals.”
“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.”
“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,” the Secret Service said.
Criticism of Case Closure, Marijuana in White House
The Secret Service’s closure of the case without a resolution had triggered criticism. In an interview with Fox, former president Donald Trump said that it was “very disappointing” that the cocaine investigation ended in just a few days.
“That’s a big deal. Cocaine. Now, the cocaine, as they say, could have been worse,” Mr. Trump said. “They could have had bioweapons … If somebody is taking cocaine and making decisions—what if there is fentanyl? What if it was anthrax?”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called out the duplicity of closing the cocaine case while Jan. 6, 2021, protestors were still being pursued by authorities.
“With all the drug testing tools available, a list of approx 500 people, surveillance cameras, fingerprints, and more, the Secret Service is ending their investigation on who brought cocaine into the White House with ZERO suspects! But the DOJ is still arresting and prosecuting more people for J6,” she said in a July 13 post on Twitter.
In addition to cocaine, the Secret Service has also found marijuana at the White House under the Biden administration.
Last year, “small amounts of marijuana” were discovered at the White House on two separate occasions in July and September, a Secret Service spokesperson said to Fox in mid-July. The quantity of marijuana came to “less than 0.2 ounces of marijuana in both instances.”
“No one was arrested in these incidents because the weight of the marijuana confiscated did not meet the legal threshold for federal charges or D.C. misdemeanor criminal charges, as the District of Columbia had decriminalized possession … The marijuana was collected by officers and destroyed,” the spokesperson said.