Secret Service officers detained at least four protesters, who were charged with unlawful entry at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, according to arrest records. The incident took place near the border between the White House lawn and Treasury Department, about 350 feet from the East Wing, and close to a Treasury fence line that has been at the center of past security failures.
The breach occurred around the time that the Secret Service alert level on the White House complex was elevated from “yellow” to “red,” according to a law enforcement official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal safety maneuvers. Officials familiar with the incident told colleagues that the president, the first lady and their son Barron were rushed to the bunker because of the episode, according to two people familiar with their accounts.
The events contradict the president’s claim Wednesday that he went to the bunker simply to inspect the secure location.
Two of the people who were arrested said they were stunned by the idea that their actions prompted the abrupt relocation of the president.
“I didn’t even realize what I did was illegal,” said one of the protesters, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the pending charges. “I stepped over a barricade. I never got onto the Treasury grounds or White House grounds.”
The White House and Secret Service declined to comment on what precipitated Trump’s move to the bunker, part of a classified security system for safeguarding the president.
“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” spokesman Judd Deere said in an emailed statement.
“For operational security reasons, the U.S. Secret Service does not discuss our protectees or our protective means and methods relative to all U.S. Secret Service protected facilities inclusive of the White House,” an agency spokesperson said.
Trump, who has been angered by reports that he was moved to the secure underground facility and the impression that he was in hiding, on Wednesday disputed that he was rushed to safety.
“It was a false report. I wasn’t down,” Trump told Fox Radio host Brian Kilmeade. “I went down during the day, and I was there for a tiny, little short period of time, and it was much more for an inspection. There was no problem during the day.”
Pressed by Kilmeade on whether Trump was “inspecting” the bunker because the Secret Service expressed concern for his safety, the president insisted that wasn’t the case.
“Nope, they didn’t tell me that at all,” Trump said. “They said it would be a good time to go down, take a look, because maybe some time you’re going to need it.”
Former Secret Service agents said Trump’s explanation did not make sense, noting that all presidents and their families are routinely given a security briefing in their first days in office. They are briefed on steps the Secret Service will take in an emergency and also shown secure locations where they will be taken in case of danger.
Relocation to the underground bunker is part of various security steps the Secret Service may use in the case of potential threats to the…