WASHINGTON (CN) — An incident involving gunfire unfolded outside the White House during a press briefing by President Donald Trump on Monday evening, leading the Secret Service to escort the president out of the room for a time.
The president was only minutes into a regular White House coronavirus press conference and lamenting the use of mail-in ballots and reports of possible interference in the 2020 election by “Russia or China or Iran or others” when a member of the Secret Service approached the podium and asked the president to leave.
Just a few moments later, Trump returned to podium and thanked the service for their “always quick and very effective work.”
“But there was an actual shooting, and somebody’s been taken to the hospital,” Trump told reporters still gathered in the locked-down briefing room. “I don’t know the condition of the person and that person was shot by Secret Service, so we’ll see what happens.”
According to initial reports, the shooting occurred on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 17th Street. In a statement on Twitter late Monday, the U.S. Secret Service said an investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
“A male subject and a USSS officer were both transported to a local hospital. At no time during this incident was the White House complex breached or were any protectees in danger,” the agency said.
Once returning to the briefing room, Trump deflected a question on whether the interruption shook him.
“I don’t know, do I seem rattled?” Trump asked before saying he felt safe with the “fantastic people” of the Secret Service.
“They just wanted me to step aside for a little while just to make sure that everything was clear outside,” Trump said after the incident.
Moments before the shooting, the president claimed half a million incorrect ballot applications for the November election were sent to people in Virginia, calling it a “disaster” and that the White House did not “want to have a rigged election.”
In truth, last week incorrect mailers — not ballots — were sent to half a million voters in Fairfax City and Fairfax County, Virginia, by the nonprofit Center for Voter Information.
The reply envelopes were misprinted with the wrong mailing address for jurisdictions.
“In a recent mailing for CVI in Virginia we made a major error in our printing. We sent voters in eight Virginia jurisdictions a vote by mail applications with a reply envelope that was addressed to the wrong jurisdiction. The mistake occurred because we incorrectly aligned a spreadsheet that matched the voter with their local election office,” Smith Edwards Dunlap Company, the nonprofit’s hired printer, said in a statement last week.
Trump also fielded questions on Monday night after the dust settled about when Americans hamstrung by the Covid-19 pandemic could expect to see unemployment insurance benefits re-issued after they ran out last week.
Relief negotiations in Congress stalled at the end of last week and lawmakers have yet to strike a deal despite moratoriums on evictions expiring and unemployment insurance allotted from the Cares Act has also run out.
Trump issued a series of executive actions Saturday, one to waive student loan payments, another to defer payroll taxes and another still that approved unemployment benefits at a rate of $400 per week through the creation of another program. That program could take weeks to be formed and approved by Congress.
Additionally, the $400 per week benefit under the Saturday order also asks states to subsidize 25% of the cost, a challenge for a host of states scrambling now for months to fill in revenue shortfalls triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The action Trump signed Saturday from his golf club in New Jersey was one he said would allow him to begin “protecting people from eviction.”
That order however, does not outline any specific terms of renewal on the actual moratorium approved by Congress this spring under the Cares Act and that expired at the end of July.
Trump’s directive instead only recommends the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, review existing funding that could be used to shore up struggling renters and homeowners.
Much criticism has been heaped on the orders since they were issued, including from inside the president’s own party.
““The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop,” Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said this weekend.
Sasse and other critics of the executive actions — Democrat and Republican alike — took issue with the president because the orders were seen as an attempt to side-step Congress.
For example, lawmakers balked over Trump’s attempt to defer payroll taxes since only Congress can delay or levy taxes, not the executive branch.
Trump responded to Sasse’s recent criticism on Monday, tweeting about the lawmaker and calling him a “RINO” or ‘Republican in Name Only.’
Sasse, Trump said, had “gone rogue.”
“This foolishness plays right into the hands of Radical Left Dems!” Trump tweeted. [Emphasis original]
Over 5 million Americans are infected with the novel coronavirus and the death toll is approaching 165,000 while more than 30 million are unemployed and waiting for Congress to act.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, announced Monday that the House would not hold any votes until Sept. 14. If a deal is brokered lawmakers from both bodies will be expected to return for a vote within 24 hours.