The US secret service arrested a person who climbed the White House perimeter fence and breached the mansion’s south grounds on Friday night, claiming to be “a friend of the president”.
The breach happened at about 11.38pm Friday night, the agency said, while Donald Trump was at the White House. The person “scaled the outer perimeter fence by the Treasury Building and East Executive Avenue”, the agency said in a statement.
The person, whom the agency did not identify, was arrested without incident. No hazardous materials were found during a search of a backpack the person carried, nor on the north or south grounds.
Metropolitan police named the suspect as a 26-year-old of Milpitas, California. According to a police report obtained by the Guardian, the suspect was approached by a secret service agent on the grounds and asked whether he had permission to be there. He replied: “No, I am a friend of the president. I have an appointment.”
The agent then asked how he had entered the restricted area. “I jumped the fence,” the suspect said, according to the report, and security footage corroborated that he had scaled the barrier.
Twelve hours later, the presidential motorcade departed the White House grounds, taking the president to the golf club he owns in Potomac Falls, Virginia.
Speaking to reporters at the clubhouse, Trump said he had been briefed about the incident. “It was a troubled person,” he said. “It’s very sad, actually.”
“Secret Service did a fantastic job last night,” he added.
The homeland security secretary, John Kelly, was also briefed on the incident, press secretary Sean Spicer said. The agency didn’t provide an update on the individual’s status. Standard practice is to hand intruders over to the local police department.
Two years ago, the Secret Service’s leadership was overhauled after a series of security breaches, the most serious of which took place in September 2014, when a former army sniper, Omar Gonzalez, climbed the fence and sprinted down the length of the White House’s East Room.
Gonzalez carried a knife, and he had entered farther into the executive mansion than the agency had originally said. Barack Obama was not at the residence at the time of the incursion, which followed a series of other embarrassments. Eventually, its chief at the time, Julia Pierson, resigned.
Then in November 2015, a man wearing an American flag jumped the White House fence late on a Sunday night, carrying a package that was found to be harmless. In April last year, another fence climber was arrested, and in May a person was shot by the Secret Service after he approached White House security with a gun.
The official appointed by Obama to replace Pierson, Joseph Clancy, said in February he intended to resign in March so that Trump could name his own security chief.