Feb 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Missing Marine sparks White House questions

A Marine sentry is seen standing post outside the entrance to the West Wing.
Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The absence of a Marine sentry outside the West Wing on Monday raised questions about whether President Biden was keeping the schedule publicly outlined by his aides.

Why it matters: A sure way to tell if the president is inside the Oval Office is if the spit-shined Marine is at the post, opening the door to the West Wing. A pool reporter questioning whether there had been a change in policy received a simpler, circa-2021 response: the Marine was getting a COVID test.

  • "The president was in the Oval Office this morning working, receiving the PDB and all the things that you're aware of from the schedule. There hasn't been a change of policy," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during the daily briefing. 

The backstory: Biden's schedule said he would be in the Oval receiving the Presidential Daily Briefing at 9: 45 a.m. The sentry was absent at that time.

  • Pooler Debra Saunders, White House correspondent for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, told her off-campus colleagues at 9:58 a.m.: "There is no Marine standing outside the front door. ... Apparently, the Marine no longer is an indicator that POTUS is in the Oval."
  • Psaki and other aides later clarified.

Bottom line: The White House says it's a "misnomer" a Marine must be present when the president is inside the Oval.

  • The sentries may leave their post for a variety of reasons, including an event elsewhere on White House grounds or to support other world leaders or VIP guests.
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