Inside Donald Trump’s underground bunker at the White House where president hid as George Floyd protesters took to the streets in Washington, DC
- Presidential Emergency Operations Center is under East Wing of White House
- Trump and his family were rushed into underground facility on Friday night
- Hundreds of protesters were clashing with police across the street
- Nation’s capital, dozens of cities roiled by protests over George Floyd’s death
- PEOC was built in the early 1940s under then-President Franklin Roosevelt
- It was expanded in late 1940s-early 1950s as part of renovations under Truman
- Facility wasn’t used much until September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
- On that day, top aides of President George W. Bush were rushed to the bunker
- Laura Bush, the ex-first lady, described ‘large steel doors’ and an ‘airtight seal’
- Ten years later, $375million was spent to create five-story self-sufficient bunker
- Facility under North Lawn ‘has enough food stockpiled for months’
- Was built so president, staff can sleep there in case of nuclear, biological attack
Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades.
Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to publicly discuss private matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.
First Lady Melania Trump and their young son, Barron, likely joined the president in the bunker, according to CNN.
The account was confirmed by an administration official who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
The abrupt decision by the agents underscored the rattled mood inside the White House, where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds.
Police take security measures near White House during a protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer, on Monday
President Trump and his family were rushed to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, an underground bunker below the East Wing of the White House, while protests were raging nearby on 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 first built during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the early 1940s. At the time, the United States was involved in World War Two
Massive demonstrations in Washington, DC, as well as dozens of other major cities across the country have been seen this past week after the police-involved death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis last Monday.
What do we know about the subterranean facility underneath the East Wing of the White House complex?
Officially known as the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, it was built in the early 1940s by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
At the time, the United States was involved in World War Two.
FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, expanded the PEOC as part of a massive renovation of the White House complex that included a complete demolition and expansion of the structures.
It was rarely – if ever – used by subsequent administrations until the events of September 11, 2001, forced senior officials of the George W. Bush administration into the area for fear that a hijacked airplane was headed for the White House.
The president was not in Washington, DC, on the day four commercial airliners were hijacked and then flown into the Pentagon, 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 above image shows the ground floor of the White House as it was being demolished in April 1950
The PEOC was expanded as part of the renovation, though photos of the complex are not available. The above images shows 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 aides were quickly whisked to the area that morning.
In her 2010 memoir Spoken from the Heart, Laura Bush recalled the experience of being rushed into the bunker.
‘I was hustled inside and downstairs through a pair of big steel doors that closed behind me with a loud hiss, forming an airtight seal,’ she wrote.
‘I was now in one of the unfinished subterranean hallways underneath the White House, heading for the PEOC, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, built for President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II.
‘We walked along old tile floors with pipes hanging from the ceiling and all kinds of mechanical equipment.
‘The PEOC is designed to be a command center during emergencies, with televisions, phones, and communications facilities.’
She then describes being hauled into a small conference room with a large table.
Official White House photographers captured images of Cheney, the first lady, and other top aides like National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice conferring with each other on that day.
It is believed that this is the same room that Trump and his family were rushed to on Friday night.
Bush administration officials came to the conclusion that the PEOC as it was constituted at that time was not sufficient to allow the president and his aides to function efficiently during an emergency.
So the White House began a massive project to build another, larger bunker believed to be five stories high under the North Lawn.
‘After that attack, the national security people recognized that that just is not going to cut it,’ author Ronald Kessler, who wrote a book in 2018 about the Trump White House, told The Washington Post.
‘That’s just not sufficient.’
Kessler continued: ‘The idea was, before that, that if there were a nuclear attack or something – biological, radiological attack – that the White House staff and the president’s people could be evacuated to some remote location at West Virginia or Pennsylvania.
‘But then they realized after the 9/11 attack that they could never leave Washington, certainly by vehicle, because all the roads were clogged.
‘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 done near the West Wing of the White House
The official explanation given was that existing infrastructure was being replaced, but reports indicate that $375million was spent building a five-story underground bunker below the North Lawn that can sustain the fallout from a nuclear attack
‘So they came up with this scheme to create a totally separate facility, an underground bunker under the North Lawn.’
In 2010, the General Services Administration undertook a massive construction project just outside of the West Wing.
The official explanation given by the GSA when reporters asked about the purpose of the construction was that it was done to replace existing infrastructure at the White House.
The construction project – officially a long overdue upgrade of White House utilities – began in September 2010 with the excavation of a huge, multistory pit in front of the West Wing, wrapping around to include West Executive Avenue, the street that separates the White House from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
A tall, green construction fence sprang up that blocked America’s most famous office complex from public view.
The GSA went to great lengths to keep the work secret, not only putting up the fence around the excavation site but ordering subcontractors not to talk to anyone and to tape over company info on trucks pulling into the White House gates.
‘What it consists of is five stories deep into the ground with its own air supply and food supply,’ Kessler said, though he added that few details are known.
‘It is sealed off from the aboveground area so that if there were, for example, a nuclear attack, the radiation would not penetrate into this bunker, which has very thick concrete walls and that sort of thing.’
The facility, which is meant to serve as a command center and living quarters for the president and senior aides, is said to be stocked with enough food to last for months, while its air supply is self-contained.
In total, it cost more than $376million to build.
Shortly after Trump’s arrival at the White House, he and a select few of his aides were given a tour of the facility.
If the president ever needed to flee the White House, he could go through at least two of them. One of them leads to the Treasury Building and an unmarked entrance on H Street.
The other tunnel leads to the South Lawn, where the president can quickly board Marine One.
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