Teen who crashed U-Haul near WH had Nazi flag and made "threatening comments" about Biden: reports

Former top FBI official immediately linked the incident to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published May 23, 2023 12:52PM (EDT)

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The driver of a U-haul truck that crashed across the street from the White House Monday night reportedly had a Nazi swastika flag.

Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, of Chesterfield, Missouri, will be charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and threatening harm to the president, vice president or family members, per authorities. 

Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi tweeted a statement on Monday evening to notify the public that "a box truck" had "collided with security barrier on the north side of Lafayette Square at 16th Street."

"There were no injuries to any Secret Service or White House personnel and the cause and manner of the crash remain under investigation," the statement continued. 

Guglielmi shared a follow-up post early Tuesday morning stating that "the driver may have intentionally struck the security barriers at Lafayette Square. Charges will be filed by the United State Park Police with investigative support from the #SecretService."

A law enforcement source told CBS that, after driving onto Lafayette Square, the man made "threatening statements" toward President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The source added that background checks on the man turned up clean and he was not named on any watch lists. 

A bomb squad that searched the truck found no evidence of explosives or incendiary devices, per a source that spoke to CNN. 

Troy Pope of WUSA tweeted an image of a Nazi flag from the scene of the crash, writing, investigators "have pulled what appears to be a Nazi flag out of the U-haul, but they haven't provided further details."

CNN law enforcement analyst Andrew McCabe, a former assistant FBI director, drew a parallel between the driver of the U-haul's alleged Nazi flag and MAGA supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6.

Speaking with CNN anchors Poppy Harlow and Sarah Sidner, McCabe argued that "the charges alone speak to the intentionality of the act."

"So prosecutors have to have a factual basis to be able to charge this person with those, with trying to, attempting to kill or maim the president. They've got to have probable cause to be able to do that. So they have some information or evidence that indicates very clearly that this was an intentional act," McCabe said.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

"That's coming not just from obviously the physical things that we see, the video of the truck ramming the barricade, but likely even from material they collected from within the truck," he explained. "We've heard that there's been a notebook. There may be writings or statements or maybe postings online, things like that, that are telling them that this person's intent was, in fact, to target the president or someone in the White House, which is, you know, particularly, particularly concerning."

McCabe also addressed Sidner's observation that "white supremacism, far right wing extremists are the biggest threat to this country and its safety."

"This is certainly the number one terrorist threat that they're tracking right now, that is domestic violent extremists, and particularly domestic violent extremists who are motivated by anti-Black racial sentiments. Right. So this fits very neatly within that warning that we've heard again and again," he said.

"And I think you have to draw a line from this apparent attack on the White House by someone bearing a Nazi flag to at least some of the people, it's hard to say how many, but some of the people involved in the January 6th attack on the Capitol," McCabe continued. "How do we know that? Because some of those folks were carrying the same sort of symbols, Nazi flags, Confederate flags, things like that, that show you a commonality of ideology."

"It doesn't mean that they all know each other and they were all planning those two events together," he clarified. "But it shows you there is a thread of extremism, and particularly racially-motivated extremism in this country that is also now directed at institutions of government. So these are things that our security professionals are very focused on right now. And as we saw last night, for good reason."

"It's terrifying," Harlow agreed. 

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

MORE FROM Gabriella Ferrigine

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Joe Biden Kamala Harris Politics