Secret service agents threw President Donald Trump into a White House bunker on Friday evening as hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the executive mansion, some of them throwing stones and shooting at police barricades .
Trump spent almost an hour in the bunker, which was designed to be used in emergency situations such as terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not allowed to discuss issues publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
First Lady Melania Trump and young son Barron likely joined president in bunker, says CNN.
The story was confirmed by an administration official who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
The officers’ abrupt decision underscored the turbulent mood inside the White House, where the chants of the protesters at Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend and Secret Service agents and forces have struggled to contain the crowd.
Police take security measures near the White House during a demonstration against the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died on Monday after being trapped by a white policeman
President Trump and his family were transported to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, an underground bunker located under the east wing of the White House, while protests raged nearby Friday. The bunker was used by then Vice President Dick Cheney, then-first lady Laura Bush and then-second lady Lynne Cheney on September 11, 2001.
The PEOC was built during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the early 1940s. At the time, the United States was involved in the Second World War
Mass protests in Washington, DC, as well as dozens of other major cities in the country were seen last week after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, implicated by the police, in Minneapolis, last Monday.
What do we know about the underground installation under the east wing of the White House complex?
Officially known as Presidential Center for Emergency Operations, it was built in the early 1940s by the then president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
At the time, the United States was involved in the Second World War.
FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, enlarged the PEOC as part of a massive renovation of the White House complex which included complete demolition and expansion of the structures.
It was rarely – if ever – used by subsequent administrations until the events of September 11, 2001, forcing senior George W. Bush administration officials to enter the region for fear that a hijacked plane would fly to the White House.
The President was not in Washington, DC, the day four commercial airliners were hijacked and then flew to the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and a field in Pennsylvania.
In the late 1940s, when Harry Truman was president, the White House underwent a massive renovation that included large-scale demolitions and an overhaul of the complex. The image above shows the ground floor of the White House during its demolition in April 1950
The PEOC was enlarged as part of the renovation, although photos of the complex are not available. The above images show the demolition of the ground floor of the White House in April 1950
But Vice President Dick Cheney, First Lady Laura Bush and other senior officials were quickly taken to the area that morning.
In his memories of 2010 Spoken from the heart, Laura Bush recalled the experience of being rushed into the bunker.
“I was jostled inside and downstairs through a pair of large steel doors that closed behind me with a loud hiss, forming an airtight seal,” he said. she writes.
“I was now in one of the unfinished underground corridors under the White House, towards the PEOC, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, built for President Franklin Roosevelt during the Second World War.
“We walked along old tiled floors with pipes hanging from the ceiling and all kinds of mechanical equipment.
“The PEOC is designed to be a command center in the event of an emergency, with televisions, telephones and communication facilities.”
She then describes being transported to a small conference room with a large table.
Official White House photographers captured images of Cheney, the first lady, and other top aides such as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice speaking on that day.
It is believed to be the same room that Trump and his family were rushed to on Friday night.
Bush administration officials concluded that the PEOC as it stood at the time was not sufficient to allow the President and his staff to function effectively in an emergency.
Thus, the White House began a massive project to build another, larger bunker, which would have five floors under the North lawn.
“After this attack, national security officials recognized that it would not be enough,” said author Ronald Kessler, who wrote a book in 2018 on Trump’s White House. The Washington Post.
“It’s just not enough.”
Kessler went on: “The idea was, before that, if there was a nuclear attack or something – a biological and radiological attack – that the White House staff and the President’s people could be evacuated to a place distant in West Virginia or Pennsylvania.
“But they realized after the September 11 attack that they could never leave Washington, certainly by vehicle, because all the roads were blocked.
“It would take too long. And even by helicopter, it would take – it would be very risky, given that the country was under attack.
In 2010, massive construction was carried out near the west wing of the White House
The official explanation was that the existing infrastructure was being replaced, but reports indicate that $ 375 million was spent to build a five-story underground bunker under the northern lawn that can withstand the fallout. a nuclear attack
“So they imagined this project to create a completely separate installation, an underground bunker under the north lawn.”
In 2010, the General Services Administration undertook a massive construction project just outside the west wing.
The official explanation given by the GSA when journalists asked about the purpose of the construction was that it had been done to replace the existing infrastructure at the White House.
The construction project – officially a long-awaited upgrade from the White House utilities – began in September 2010 with the excavation of a huge, multi-story pit in front of the west wing, which encompasses West Executive Avenue, the street that separates the White House from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
A large green building fence stood up that blocked America’s most famous office complex from the public.
GSA endeavored to keep the work a secret, not only by installing the fence around the excavation site, but by ordering subcontractors not to speak to anyone and to record company information on incoming trucks in the doors of the White House.
“It consists of five floors buried deep in the ground with its own supply of air and food,” Kessler said, although he added that few details were known.
“It is isolated from the above ground area so that if there were, for example, a nuclear attack, radiation would not enter this bunker, which has very thick concrete walls and that sort of thing.”
The facility, which is supposed to serve as a command and accommodation center for the president and senior assistants, would be stored with enough food to last for months, while its air supply is self-contained.
In total, it cost more than $ 376 million to build.
Shortly after Trump’s arrival at the White House, he and some of his aides were able to tour the facility.
If ever the president were to flee the White House, he could go through at least two tunnels. One of them leads to the Trésor building and to an unmarked entrance on H. Street.
The other tunnel leads to the south lawn, where the President can quickly board the Marine One.