POTOMAC FALLS, Va. — President Donald Trump said Saturday that the U.S. Secret Service did a “phenomenal job” apprehending a “troubled person” who got onto the White House grounds after climbing a fence on the east side of the property while Trump was inside the executive mansion.
It was the first known security breach at the White House since Trump took office nearly two months ago.
The Secret Service said in a statement that the individual, whom it did not identify, was arrested on the south grounds without further incident after climbing an outer perimeter fence near the Treasury Department and East Executive Avenue at about 11:38 p.m. Friday.
No hazardous materials were found during a search of a backpack the individual carried over the fence, the agency said.
“Secret Service did a fantastic job last night,” Trump said Saturday from his golf club in Northern Virginia. Trump described the intruder as a “troubled person” and “very sad.” He was briefed on the matter Friday night.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also was briefed on the incident, the Secret Service said. Kelly was among several Cabinet secretaries and senior White House staff members who attended a working lunch with the president at the Trump National Golf Club.
The Secret Service also said a search of the north and south White House grounds found “nothing of concern to security operations.”
The agency didn’t provide an update Saturday on the individual’s status. Standard practice is to turn intruders over to the local police department.
The intrusion, the first under Trump, follows a series of security lapses during the eight years that Barack Obama was president.
An especially embarrassing breach came in September 2014 when an Army veteran with mental health issues scaled a fence on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House and made it as far into the building as the East Room before the Secret Service could apprehend him.
The Obamas were not at home at the time. The incident was one of several breakdowns by the Secret Service that ultimately led to the resignation of the agency’s then-director, Julia Pierson, the following month.
Trump said he brought the Cabinet secretaries, White House staff and some of their spouses to the club for a working lunch to discuss the military, the economy, health care and other issues.
Besides Kelly, joining Trump were Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was notably absent.
“We’re having some great discussions,” Trump said. “The economy is doing very, very well. Generally speaking we’re doing very well.” He talked about inheriting “a mess” when he took office, but said everything would be straightened out.
“It’s going to be straightened out fast,” Trump said.
By Darlene Superville for the Associated Press