Officials: White House fence jumper made it farther than originally thought
WASHINGTON — The man who jumped the White House fence earlier this month and breached the mansion’s doors actually made it farther than originally thought, officials said Monday.
Omar Gonzalez, a 42-year-old Iraq war veteran who had a knife in his pocket, overcame one Secret Service officer and ran into the East Room of the White House, where he was then subdued, a federal law enforcement said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who was provided the information by whistleblowers during his congressional investigation into the incident, also confirmed the details of what now appears to be a wild chase through the main floor of the White House, first reported by the Washington Post.
The Secret Service had previously stated that Gonzalez was stopped after entering the front door of the North Portico.
Gonzalez ran through much of the main floor, past a stairway that leads up to the first family’s residence, and was ultimately stopped at the far southern end of the East Room. He also reached the doorway to the Green Room, an area that looks out on the South Lawn.
No shots were fired inside the White House, the federal law official said.
The Secret Service has not yet commented on the new details.
“I could not be more proud of the individual agents, but I worry that Director (Julia) Pierson and the leadership there at the Secret Service is failing them,” Chaffetz said Monday on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
Pierson will face tough questions at an already-scheduled hearing on Tuesday before the House Oversight Committee.
A Republican from Utah who sits on the committee, said he wants to know why an audible alarm in the White House had been muted after ushers said it was making too many noises.
And shortly after the incident earlier this month, the Secret Service issued a statement saying officers “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” Gonzalez.
Chaffetz said he has a problem with that, too.
“I don’t want tremendous restraint,” he said. “I want to see overwhelming force to deter somebody. When you have the situation where you have the apparent lax security, you’re unfortunately going to invite more attacks. And that’s the concern.”
Pierson sent a letter to committee chairman Darrell Issa last Friday raising concerns about an holding open discussion on security issues and urged the chairman to allow some of her testimony to take place in a classified setting.
“Simply put, publicly airing the very security measures employed by the Secret Service and the various challenges we confront at the White House complex will arm those who desire to cause injury – or worse – to the President and First Family with critical information, and doing so would be beyond reckless,” Pierson wrote.
CNN has learned from a Democratic source on the Oversight Committee that Issa has agreed to Pierson’s request, and will hold a separate, classified session on Tuesday.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, praised the decision to protect the agency’s mission.
“This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but an American issue, and the last thing we should do is give people like Gonzalez a road map for how to attack the President or other officials,” Cummings said in a written statement to CNN.