Secret Service protection would follow Donald Trump to the slammer if he ever ended up there, ex-agents say | Today Headlines

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Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally August 05, 2022 in Waukesha, Wisconsin.Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • As Trump’s legal troubles grow, former Secret Service agents wonder who would protect him in prison.

  • Trump would likely retain a Secret Service detail if in state or federal custody.

  • Officers probably wouldn’t share a cell with a convicted ex-president, but they could be nearby.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump would almost certainly have Secret Service agents tasked with protecting him even if he ends up in jail, former agency officials told Insider.

There’s a big reason these law enforcement veterans say that, too.

Trump is facing a tsunami of legal troubles, with an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago residence on August 8 providing another flashpoint in a summer full of them – notably, the investigation into United States House Select Committee class on January 6. Trump — even as he openly flirts with a 2024 presidential comeback bid — could be mired in federal, state and local investigations and lawsuits for years, and he lost his presidential immunity when he quit. his functions on January 20.

Trump’s legal troubles have ex-Secret Service agents and former Obama administration officials wondering how exactly the agents would protect a president who has been convicted of a crime and is serving a prison sentence. .

“If Donald Trump is sent to prison, what is the role of the secret services in this case?” said Douglas Smith, former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.

Prior to Trump’s presidency, “I don’t think anyone ever considered having a president in prison and what impact that would have on the Secret Service,” a former Secret Service official told Insider.

The Secret Service has repeatedly made headlines when it comes to Trump, with records showing nearly 900 agents contracted COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic. Trump’s critics have accused him of flouting public health recommendations and putting officers at risk during his final year in office. More recently, the Secret Service itself has come under scrutiny for suppressing agent text messages requested by the Jan. 6 select committee.

Federal law gives Trump and all other ex-presidents lifetime Secret Service protection, though that’s not always the case. So unless Congress acts to change that, Trump or any other president who lands in jail would have some degree of security provided by the agency, former law enforcement officials told Insider. federal laws and legal experts.

What exactly that would look like is a topic that has captured attention as Trump’s legal troubles pile up, especially given the revelations about Trump’s role before and during the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. American who killed five people.

Trump is not likely to be imprisoned or imprisoned anytime soon — or ever. More than a year and a half after leaving the White House, no federal, state or local charges of any kind are publicly pending against the president, even as pressure on Trump mounts. And even if Trump were charged with a crime, there’s a good chance he’ll be processed and released on bail pending trial. Only with conviction would this become a tense issue, even though those tasked with protecting former presidents say they are actively considering now.

‘Is an agent going to be with him in a cell? No,’ said the former Secret Service official, who guessed Trump would end up in a ‘country club type place’ if convicted . But there would likely be at least one officer on the property to protect the president, even if that person doesn’t “step on his shoulder in the yard.”

Such a job is unlikely to be a coveted assignment for a Secret Service agent, this person said, unless he is also studying for his master’s degree. “I think you would have plenty of time to do some reading.”

Secret Service agents could theoretically protect Trump within the confines of a prison, either physically near him or by maintaining a presence in a prison — in an administrative office, for example, said Michele Deitch, a prison surveillance expert at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Former US President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 9, 2021 in New York City.  (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

Former US presidents are entitled to lifetime Secret Service protection.James Devaney/GC Images

“He would have a target on his back”

Security experts do not expect Trump to be thrown into the fray with other prisoners.

“He certainly wouldn’t be part of the general population,” said Ken Gray, a retired FBI special agent who served 24 years in the bureau.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, and the Secret Service, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, should almost certainly work together to coordinate Trump’s protection, Gray said.

Exactly where a federally convicted president would land would be at the discretion of a judge, with input from the Bureau of Prisons, another former Secret Service agent told Insider.

The Otisville security camp outside of New York is an example where some high profile convicts are asking to serve their time. He made a Forbes list of “America’s 10 Coziest Prisons” in 2009. Notorious Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff asked to be sent there, but was assigned by the North Carolina Bureau of Prisons to the square. Michael Cohen also began serving his 3-year prison sentence in Otisville, but Trump’s former lawyer was released on home release last spring due to concerns about the coronavirus.

A little closer to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club is a minimum-security federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida. This prison also made Forbes’ list of the most comfortable places.

If Trump went to jail for a state crime, his placement would be determined by the state in which he was convicted, multiple experts said. New York, where Trump faces investigations into his business practices and taxes, and Georgia, where Trump pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the results of the US presidential election. State, are two states in which Trump faces the most immediate legal peril.

Trump could eventually serve time in a minimum-security facility and be separated from other prisoners, the former officer said. “You could almost put him in a separate little hut.

But other legal experts expect authorities to choose to house an imprisoned Trump in a much safer facility, both for his own protection and for the protection of the prison.

Trump’s “martyrdom status” would be of particular concern among some of his most loyal — and potentially dangerous — supporters who could act on big ideas to attack a prison and free Trump, said criminal justice professor Mike Lawlor. at the University of New Haven. and former Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning for the State of Connecticut.

Tons of pre-planning would go into Trump’s security before he entered any sort of prison, according to law enforcement experts. Ensuring the safety of an ex-president in jail would be a major concern, and it’s not something security officials have had to plan for before.

“Damn, the fact that we thought he was going to jail kinda freaks me out,” the former Secret Service official said. “It’s just horrible to think about.”

Prisons are, in general, very safe places, but authorities would find it particularly difficult to keep someone of Trump’s stature safe, said Deitch, who also served as a court-appointed overseer of prison conditions.

“Trump – he would have a target on his back,” Deitch said.

Trump would unquestionably be placed in what’s called “preventive custody,” an extremely secure — and extremely restrictive — situation that “doesn’t look much different from solitary confinement,” she added. “It’s not a setting you would wish on your worst enemy.”

Richard Nixon resigns from the helicopter

President Richard Nixon refused Secret Service protection after resigning from office.Bettmann/Getty Images

Congress could strip Trump’s security

Former government officials have landed in prisons in the past, though none have been as high profile as a US president.

Critics of President Richard Nixon had hoped to see him behind bars following the Watergate scandal, but his successor Gerald Ford granted Nixon a blanket pardon a month after Nixon resigned in 1974.

Before leaving office, Trump pardoned some of his former associates who were convicted in connection with the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

During the George W. Bush administration, then-Deputy Interior Secretary James Steven Griles was sentenced to prison for obstructing a US Senate investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He served in a low-security federal correctional facility in Petersburg, Virginia.

President Bush’s 19-year-old twins, Jenna and Barbara, were convicted of liquor violations in Texas during Bush’s first year in office. Jenna Bush could have faced jail time for trying to use a fake ID to buy booze, The Washington Post reported in 2001, but was instead ordered to get counseling and to carry out works of general interest.

While former presidents are entitled to Secret Service protection, they can choose to refuse it, just as Nixon did after leaving office. Experts believe Trump would want to keep the extra level of protection if he is actually sentenced to prison.

Congress could also act to remove protections for former presidents. They did under the Clinton administration, when a law was passed that would grant ex-presidents 10 years of Secret Service security, rather than lifetime protections. This law was changed under the Obama administration to give former presidents and their wives lifetime protection.

As for Trump’s legal future, experts say everyone is guessing.

“This,” Gray said, “is uncharted territory.”

This article was originally published on March 12, 2021 and has since been updated to reflect new developments.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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