WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday released photos of the refurbished Situation Room — giving a glimpse into the highly secure area near where a small amount of cocaine was found over the summer.
The photos show the complex of specially wired rooms on the ground floor of the West Wing both upon their completion on Aug. 16 and during a subsequent presidential ribbon-cutting Sept. 5.
The main conference room’s drab beige walls and unremarkable wooden board room table were replaced with dramatic dark wood wall panels and an ornate chevron-patterned board table with light and dark bands.
The reworked conference room — where presidents have monitored world crises and daring missions such as the 2011 assassination of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — also features new black leather seats with matching table placemats and TV screens on the walls.
A dimly lit operations center adjacent to the main room is shown with two rows of desks with computers and phones. Dramatic deep-blue ceiling lighting and backlit images of the nation’s Great Seal on walls resemble the staging of command centers in homeland-security-themed TV shows.
Biden was pictured cutting a ribbon following a one-year total renovation of the roughly 5,500-square-foot area created in 1961 on the orders of John F. Kennedy following the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
In one photo, Biden holds a wooden presidential seal with Situation Room director Marc Gustafson.
The Situation Room is located beneath the White House chief of staff’s office in the southwest corner of the West Wing. The Oval Office is one floor above the Situation Room on the southeast corner of the West Wing.
The grand reopening of the Situation Room follows an embarrassing controversy involving the white powder found on July 2 in a cubby outside the secure area.
The Secret Service closed its investigation of the matter on July 13 without conducting any interviews with potential culprits, saying there were “hundreds of individuals who passed through the vestibule.”
Both of the president’s adult children have allegedly used cocaine in the past.
A friend attempted to sell a video of first daughter Ashley Biden allegedly snorting the drug in 2009 and first son Hunter’s abandoned laptop contains photos of him with crack cocaine paraphernalia.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in July blasted as “irresponsible” speculation that a member of the first family may have been involved in leaving the cocaine in one of the most secure areas in the world — even though the president’s relatives were visiting the executive mansion on the Friday preceding the drug’s Sunday discovery.
The White House released the images as the president arrived in India to attend the annual G-20 summit this weekend.