The Secret Service agent, who was driving Harris in a sports car, hit the curb of a downtown tunnel hard enough that the vehicle’s tires needed to be replaced, bringing the motorcade to a halt near the bottom of the fog around 10 p.m. 10:20 a.m., said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share internal discussions.
Harris had to be transferred to another vehicle in the motorcade so agents could safely bring her to the White House. The routine nature of the trip and the high level of training required for agents driving the president and vice president led many in the Secret Service, as well as Harris, to question how such an accident could happen.
The Secret Service also failed to note key details of the incident in an electronic message that formally alerted senior management to the motorcade’s delay. The agency’s protective intelligence division reported that “a mechanical failure” in the lead car had forced agents to transfer Harris to another vehicle during a planned move to the White House, according to details of the alert shared with The Washington Post.
On Monday afternoon, Secret Service Director Kim Cheatle received information from other agents that the alert did not accurately convey what happened, one of the people said. In fact, many other Secret Service agents on Harris’ detail and in the White House, as well as Harris, knew that her driver had indeed hit the siding of a tunnel.
A spokeswoman for the vice president said Harris is grateful for everything the Secret Service is doing to keep her safe.
“The Vice President sustained no injuries and appreciates the quick response of her USSS detail to get her safely to the White House,” Kirsten Allen said in an emailed statement.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the driver overcorrected while steering, leading to the crash. He said Harris was unharmed and delivered safely to the White House.
“During a protective move on Monday, a vehicle in a motorcade had a minor overcorrection and hit a kerb,” he said. “The victim was transferred to a secondary vehicle and the motorcade continued to its destination. No one was injured.”
He said agents initially did not share full details of what caused the problem in the vice president’s motorcade in the formal written alert, but later briefed their superiors in person.
“Initial radio traffic indicated this was a mechanical failure and that was communicated to agency management by personnel supporting the motorcade movement,” he said. “After the protective movement was completed, management was verbally updated with additional relevant facts that the vehicle struck a curb.”
Harris was not in danger because she was quickly moved to another vehicle and medical staff examined her at the White House to make sure she had no injuries, Guglielmi said.
Monday evening, video footage of Harris’ motorcade blocking the tunnel — and agents climbing out of escort cars to reach Harris — appeared on TikTok. The video appeared to be taken via phone from someone in a building overlooking Virginia Avenue.
The alert, which initially chalked up the delay to a “mechanical error,” was sent as part of standard protocol for sharing information about security developments or concerns related to the White House or any of the officials or family members the Secret Service protects. These alerts are official documents that the agency’s protective intelligence division sends to the phones of top officials and have been used in the past to alert them, for example, when someone tries to jump the White House or when agents make a change in security plans because of a new concern or a threat.
Cheatle, who is the second woman to lead the Secret Service, has been in the job for a month after President Biden named her the new director in late August. She has confided in allies that she was disturbed by the inaccuracy of the warning related to the Harris crash, according to a Secret Service official who spoke on condition of anonymity to share internal discussions, and she was relieved to have the full report later the same day. A spokesman declined to comment on what information Cheatle received or her reaction.
The Secret Service has had a long, troubled history of covering up its own mistakes and misdeeds, with its most senior managers and leaders often relying on the shroud of secrecy that covers the president’s security to cover up the agency’s weaknesses and failures.
The Secret Service misled the public and the first family about a 2011 White House shooting, claiming it was a group of gang members who shot at each other when they had information that the shooter was trying to kill President Obama. In 2014, the service gave incorrect information about a mentally disturbed veteran who was able to jump the White House fence, reporting that he was not armed when he was and that he was stopped at the door when he actually came deep inside the White House. mansion. After a night of drinking at an agent’s retirement party in 2015, the top agent in charge of White House security, along with another senior supervisor, drove onto White House grounds and through an area closed due to an ongoing investigation into a possible bomb. Despite the fact that dozens of Secret Service personnel were aware of the incident, no one reported it to the director at the time. Then-director Joseph Clancy learned of the security breach from a former agent and friend.