As the world came to grips on Friday with Donald Trump’s coronavirus infection, attention soon shifted to those who are required to remain in close proximity to the president: Secret Service agents.
The Washington Post reported late last week that agents “expressed their anger and frustration to colleagues and friends,” explaining that Trump’s actions had repeatedly put them at risk. “He’s never cared about us,” one agent told a confidant.
The report added that former Secret Service agents said it was unheard of for agents to openly complain about a sitting president, “but that some currently in the ranks had become convinced during the pandemic that Trump was willing to put his protectors in harm’s way.”
Two days later, Trump thought it’d be a good idea to go for a little joy ride, waving at his fans despite his ailment, seemingly putting agents in his hermetically-sealed vehicle at greater risk. As the Post added, the Secret Service was, once again, not impressed.
A growing number of Secret Service agents have been concerned about the president’s seeming indifference to the health risks they face when traveling with him in public. A few reacted with outrage to his Sunday night drive outside the hospital where he is being treated for the novel coronavirus, asking how Trump’s desire to be seen outside of his hospital suite justified the jeopardy to agents protecting the president.
One agent said after the trip, in refence to Trump, “He’s not even pretending to care now.”
CNN had a related report, quoting a current Secret Service agent who works on the presidential and first family detail. “That should never have happened,” the agent said, referring to yesterday’s drive-by outside Walter Reed. The unnamed agent added, “We’re not disposable.”
I’m trying to think of the last time active Secret Service personnel made comments like these about a sitting president to a journalist. Nothing comes to mind.
To be sure, the relationship between Donald Trump and the Secret Service has long been strained. In late May, for example, during a period of unrest outside the White House, the president published tweets about the security situation, only to have the Secret Service soon after issue a written statement contradicting Trump’s claims.
It wasn’t the first time. As regular readers may recall, in 2017, a leading member of Trump’s legal team tried to blame the Secret Service for the infamous 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked attorney, prompting the Secret Service to make a rare entry into a political debate in order to defend the agents’ actions.
More recently, in April 2020, White House officials tried to force a CNN reporter to the back of the press briefing room, and when CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins resisted, she was told the matter would be resolved by the Secret Service.
Soon after, the Secret Service told the White House Correspondents’ Association that the agency was “not involved whatsoever in this effort.”
But those incidents appeared to merely annoy the Secret Service. Trump putting agents at risk is qualitatively worse, and appears to be sparking far more frustration from the agency.