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From White House cocaine to J6 pipe bomb, Secret Service drawing intense scrutiny during Biden era

Lawmakers and a former Secret Service agent wonder why a pipe bomb suspect still hasn't been identified

Published: July 21, 2023 11:33pm

Updated: July 21, 2023 11:34pm

Long the gold standard for security, the Secret Service is facing some unflattering scrutiny and skepticism during the Biden era after it was unable to solve who brought cocaine into the White House or recognize a potential danger in the path of one of its most famous protectees.

The latest questions surfaced Friday when Just the News unveiled never-before-seen U.S. Capitol complex security footage showing that the Secret Service brought Vice President-elect Kamala Harris into a garage at the DNC headquarters on Jan. 6, 2021 only a few yards from where a pipe bomb had been planted the night before by an unidentified suspect.

The video footage has raised concerns with experts on presidential security and top lawmakers in Congress on how the explosive device was overlooked during standard security protocol. Just the News reviewed the several angles of security footage the FBI collected showing the planting of the bomb the evening before the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, security sweeps the next morning, and then the arrival of the Harris motorcade late that morning, about three hours before the Capitol was breached.

The suspect sat at a park bench near the DNC's garage entrance the night before, taking out the explosive device and planting it between the bench and a bush about 10 yards from the driveway before walking off. The park benches have since been removed from that area.

"When you look at the video, and you see the still pictures from the FBI, that pipe bomb was placed to be found," said Georgia GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk, chairman of the House administration subcommittee on oversight. "It wasn't placed to be in an area to do damage. You would put it inside the bush all the way under the bush. This thing was left so it would be found. How in the world was it not found before they brought the future vice president into the Democrat club there?"

The footage, which you can watch in the player above, was made available by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's office and Loudermilk's committee. It was reported in 2021 that Harris had to be evacuated from the DNC when the bomb was found but the footage of the motorcade was never before publicly released.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told Just the News that FBI officials recently informed Congress that phone data that would typically help in such an investigation was corrupted. "They weren't able to use phone data to find out who the suspect was that they think may have planted it on Jan. 5. So it's like the Keystone Cops or they're not trying," Massie said Friday.

Charles Marino, a security expert who worked with the Secret Service for more than 20 years, said the video footage is "concerning" given that agents normally sweep the area before the president or vice president arrives.

"It's obviously concerning, to be sure, because if the sweep was conducted of the area, how was it missed or was it not there? And if it wasn't there, then how was it missed while the vice president-elect was there?" Marino said during an interview with Just the News. "It was in very close proximity, as you can see from the video, to where the vice president-elect was."

Marino said it "would have been a bad day" had the pipe bomb gone off while the vice president-elect was on-site at the DNC.

He also said he's surprised that a pipe bomb suspect has still not been identified. 

"Even more disturbing is that we still don't have an identified suspect for this going on now well over 2 years," he said.

According to Marino, one has to wonder why the pipe bomb suspect is still unknown considering the "overall net that's been cast" and the vast efforts federal authorities have taken to identify Jan. 6 riot suspects, including reviewing video footage and social media activity.

"Why isn't the same true for this person?" he said. "I mean, we're talking about the same types of technologies that are in play for this type of person and caught on video, right? And, you know, we've got a time frame of this individual in the area, and still nothing."

Marino and the lawmakers also are skeptical about why the Secret Service folded up tent in just eight days and declared earlier this month it can figure out who brought a bag of cocaine into the Biden White House, one of the most secure facilities in the world.

"I'm surprised because, you know, we're talking about agents that are extremely intelligent, dedicated, and exceptional criminal investigators. If you tell them to go out and get to the end of something, that's exactly what they're going to do," said Marino, a former supervisory special agent. "You've got a designated timeframe, you've got the holiday, Fourth of July holiday weekend in which this occurred. We're fairly certain that this item did not linger for a long period of time in the West Wing, based on the security measures that we know are in place in terms of checking on that area and conducting sweeps.

 "So my question is, why is this being treated as if this dime bag or eight ball of cocaine was found on a street corner in a major city?" he added. "And why isn't it being treated that this was found in the White House? And also, if you didn't think it was a threat, or could be a threat, why was the hazmat team called?"


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