Secret Service interrupted a White House briefing and evacuated members of the press Tuesday afternoon. Reporters were told to gather on the street and then were brought into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. ABC News reported that the briefing had been evacuated as a precaution after a bomb threat was received via a phone call. The Washington Post reported that Secret Service agents with bomb-sniffing dogs searched the room. A statement from the Secret Service read:
At approximately 1:53 p.m. today, a telephonic bomb threat concerning the White House Briefing Room was called into the Metropolitan Police Department. As a precaution, the White House Press Briefing Room has been evacuated. This evacuation is limited to the White House Press Briefing Room and does not affect any other sections of the White House. Sweeps are ongoing at this time.
Earlier Tuesday, reports of a bomb threat and suspicious packages led to an evacuation from the Dirksen building at the Capitol, but police found nothing hazardous there or in the Russell building, where an unattended lunch cooler had been reported as suspicious. The Dirksen and Russell buildings have offices for senators and their staff members. But with authorities declaring all was clear, the hearing taking place in one of the buildings was allowed to continue. So, are the two incidents related? No one knows.
Because the briefing was being televised, video was captured of the moment agents came in to evacuate the area. Earnest was answering a question when a man can be heard entering the room and stating that they needed to evacuate. A reporter says, "Oh, Jesus," and Earnest tells the room, "We'll come back."
Jonathan Karl, ABC News' chief White House correspondent who was in the briefing and live tweeted the situation, wrote that Press Secretary Josh Earnest seemed as surprised by the evacuation as the reporters were. Earnest later tweeted, "The @WhiteHouse daily briefing will resume shortly after the Brady Briefing Room has been cleared. Hopefully wont be long." But instead of providing answers, that statement left the evacuated reporters with even more questions.
Karl's camera was left behind in the briefing room still taping live, but the camera was apparently covered up, he reported, as the live shot it was recording went dark. As reporters were escorted back to the briefing room, Karl noticed that the outside cameras had been turned down as well.
Although the "all clear" was given after the phoned-in bomb threat, questions about the threat itself — whether it was directly solely at reporters, who it came from, and how credible it was — are still unanswered.