A series of security threats closed portions of the White House and Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
In the middle of White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s daily briefing, officials told all reporters to evacuate the briefing room. The North Lawn of the White House was also cleared.
The Secret Service said a bomb threat had been called in at 1:53 p.m. to the DC Metropolitan Police Department targeting the briefing room specifically. The evacuation at the White House came just hours after U.S. Capitol Police received a bomb threat that forced the evacuation of a hearing on the TSA in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Secret Service officers covered up the press cameras in the briefing room during the evacuation to protect methods and practices used by the agency to investigate bomb threats, a U.S. official said early Tuesday evening.
Secret Service officials said they couldn’t discuss any potential connection between the White House and Capitol Hill threats.
A Senate aide who was briefed by police confirmed to CNN that the first bomb threat was made targeting a specific location, which is what caused the USCP to take the threat more seriously. The aide said the caller described a device that had been placed in the Homeland Security Committee offices on the third floor of the Dirksen building. Authorities say it is still unclear if this call was related to the evacuation that occurred later in the afternoon at the White House.
Earnest said President Barack Obama, who was in the Oval Office at the time, was not moved during the evacuation. First lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, who were in the residence at the time, also were not moved.
“I have complete confidence in the professionalism of the men and women of the secret service to make judgments about what’s necessary to keep all of us safe,” Earnest told reporters during the briefing after it resumed, though it remained unclear why only part of the complex had been evacuated.
The Senate building was later given the all-clear and there’s no sign of whether the two events were connected. Reporters were allowed back into the White House briefing room roughly a half hour after the evacuation began, and Earnest’s briefing resumed shortly there after.
The TSA hearing was called by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in response to a report that was leaked revealing significant flaws in the agency’s terror-vetting process. According to a CNN report, cracks in the system included TSA failing to identify 73 active workers who had links to terrorism.
CNN’s Evan Perez and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.