President Donald Trump sought to explain his presence in an underground White House bunker during clashes outside the residence on Friday as an “inspection,” rather than a retreat for his own safety, telling a radio interviewer Wednesday he was only in the safe room for a “tiny” amount of time.
“They said it would be a good time to go down and take a look because maybe sometime you’re going to need it,” Trump said, casting the episode as an appraisal of his security logistics rather than an emergency.
Multiple people familiar with the matter described a different scenario to CNN. They said Trump was rushed to the bunker for nearly an hour amid intense protests on Friday evening. A law enforcement source and another source familiar with the matter tell CNN that first lady Melania Trump and their son, Barron, were also taken to the bunker.
The second source told CNN that “if the condition at the White House is elevated to RED and the President is moved” to the Emergency Operations Center “Melania Trump, Barron Trump and any other first family members would be moved as well.”
Trump, who was enraged when reports emerged he was rushed to the secure location, told Brian Kilmeade on Fox News Radio that in fact he went during the day and not when protests were raging outside his front door.
“I was there for a tiny, short little period of time,” he said, adding it was “more for an inspection.”
After the initial reports emerged, Trump fumed that he looked weak and insisted he be photographed outside the White House gates, a demand that ultimately led to his visit Monday to St. John’s Church across Lafayette Square.
In his interview, Trump said he’d visited the bunker previously. He said he’d been there “two and a half times.”
And he added those, too, were more to get a sense of the space rather than to protect himself from harm.