Donald Trump was abruptly brought out of a press conference by an intelligence agent on Monday after an armed suspect was shot dead outside the White House.
The president was just minutes after his briefing on the coronavirus when an intelligence agent ordered Trump to step off the podium and quickly leave the room along with other administrative officials.
Reporters were temporarily banned when members of the president’s security service encircled the west wing. A Fox News correspondent said they heard two shots just before Trump was rushed out.
Trump returned on stage about 10 minutes later to confirm someone had been hospitalized after a shooting outside the White House fence.
“There was an actual shooting and someone was taken to the hospital,” Trump said. The president said the shots were fired by law enforcement agencies.
The suspect is armed, Trump said, but gave few additional details. “I want to thank the Secret Service. You are fantastic.
“It appears that the person was shot by the Secret Service, so we’ll see what happens,” said Trump, calling the episode “unhappy”.
“It was outside the White House,” he said. “It appears that the shooting was carried out by law enforcement on the suspect. It was the suspect who was shot, ”he continued.
Police officers tried to determine the suspect’s motive. The Secret Service soon confirmed the shooting, describing it as an “officer firing on 17th Street and Pennsylvania Ave.”
A Secret Service statement said: “Around 5:53 p.m. today, a 51-year-old man approached a uniformed US Secret Service director who was at his post on 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW near the complex of the White House stood. The suspect approached the officer and told the officer he had a gun. The suspect then turned around, ran aggressively towards the officer and pulled an object from his clothing in a gesture.
Then he ducked into the stance of a rifleman, as if about to fire a gun. The intelligence officer released his gun and hit the person in the upper body. The officers immediately provided first aid to the suspect, and DC Fire and EMS were called on-site. Both the suspect and the officer were taken to local hospitals.
“The White House complex was not injured in the incident, and no security guards were ever in danger. The Secret Service’s Professional Responsibility Bureau is conducting an internal review of the officer’s actions. Metropolitan Police were contacted to conduct an investigation. “
Trump said he was not taken to the secure underground bunker but to an area near the Oval Office. He later told reporters that he was not afraid for his safety.
When asked if he was shocked by the incident, Trump asked reporters, “I don’t know. Do I seem insecure? “
After asking questions about the incident outside the White House, Trump returned to his written remarks on the nation’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, promoting his administration’s achievements, and using the political news platform – warned the Democratic President candidate Joe Biden wins the November election, Iran, China and North Korea will “own this country”.
Trump was often criticized for lack of federal governance during the pandemic. More than 163,000 people have died from Covid-19-related diseases, and more than 5 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States to date.
During the briefing, David Smith of the Guardian asked the President, “If 160,000 people had died on President Obama’s watch, would you have asked for his resignation?”
Trump replied, “No, I wouldn’t have done that. I think it’s amazing what we could do. If we didn’t close our country, 1.5 to 2 million people would already be dead. We got it right. Now we don’t have to close it … If I had been listening to a lot of people we would have kept it open. “
The president insisted that the US had done an “extraordinary job”.
However, the US government’s public health expert has admitted that more lives would have been saved had the US introduced social distancing restrictions earlier. During the pandemic, Trump has strongly opposed efforts to put federal restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus, urged states to reopen, and expressed sympathy for right-wing protests against lockdowns.
In addition, the US is the only wealthy nation to have had a sustained and severe outbreak for more than four months, the New York Times recently noted.
Sam Levin contributed to this report