An unidentified man posing as a member of Congress made it into a secure area backstage at President Barack Obama’s appearance at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner in Washington Sept. 27, according to a White House official.
The man entered the backstage area during or just after Obama’s speech at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center as members of Congress gathered there to have their pictures taken with the president, said the official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the incident, which has not previously been made public.
It followed presidential security breaches that included a fence-jumper bursting into the White House on Sept. 19 and an armed ex-convict riding in an elevator with Obama in Atlanta a few days before that. Julia Pierson resigned Oct. 1 as director of the Secret Service amid pressure from members of Congress who had lost faith in her ability to protect the president.
The unidentified man said he was Representative Donald Payne Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, the official said. One member of the White House staff determined that the man wasn’t Payne, and another asked him to leave, the official said. He did so without incident and wasn’t detained.
The Secret Service did its job by screening everyone who attended the dinner, including the man, said Brian Leary, an agency spokesman.
“This guy went through security, fully screened,” he said.
Neither the White House official, nor another administration official aware of the incident, could say how close the man got to the president or First Lady Michelle Obama, who was also in the vicinity. Payne’s chief of staff, LaVerne Alexander, said yesterday that she had not been informed of the incident.