Will the Secret Service Do Time With Trump?

The jailer is another kind of captive-is the jailer envious of this prisoner’s dreams?

– Gerard Labrunie, Fragments de Faust

It was, of course,  inevitable that the question would present itself given the trump’s current involvement with matters criminal.  Nonetheless,  the headline in the Washington Post brought it sharply into focus.

On March 31 the Post announced that “Secret Service tours N.Y. courthouse to prepare for Trump arraignment.”  It is not, of course, that the New York courthouse is unaccustomed to hosting defendants charged with an assortment of crimes.  The security of personnel there, as well as the defendants who are, as it were, invitees, is always of great concern.  But when the invitee is the former president of the United States the security concerns are considerably higher than when the invitee is your run-of-the mill murderer or pick pocket.

According to the Post,  when the trump is brought to the courthouse he will be finger printed, photographed and brought to the courtroom of the New York judge who is handling the case.  The trump’s secret service agents are the ones responsible for his entry into and exit from the courthouse, but once inside, according to the report, the court’s own security officers will be responsible for his safety and his movements.  At the conclusion of the preliminary proceedings the trump will once again be restored to the protection of the Secret Service.

The description of the New York proceedings and the actions of the Secret Service immediately brought to mind the “Former Presidents Act” (FPA) that, in one form or another, has been the law of the land since 1958.  One part of that Act as it is now in place, provides that former presidents are entitled to life time Secret Service protection. The life time protection for former presidents was put in place by President Obama when he signed the “Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012” that reinstated life time protection for all living former presidents that had been provided in earlier versions of the Act.

Upon reading of preparations being made for the appearance of the trump in a New York court room the first question that came to many minds was not how the trump’s coming to a New York courtroom on the fairly trivial charge of having lied about a payment he made to a woman for sexual activities they had engaged in some years earlier, but how the FPA will be applied if the trump is convicted of more serious felonies that may come from the Georgia District Attorney  election interference investigation or the United States Department of Justice investigations into possible criminal actions by the trump. Convictions under either of those two criminal investigations could result in prison sentences for the trump.

The possibility of prison sentences raises the question of how the FPA applies to a former president who takes up residence in a state or federal penitentiary instead of, for example, Mar a Lago where the trump now enjoys around the clock protection and the secret service agents who are charged with protecting him live at Mar a Lago.   Among the questions are will the Secret Service have to tour the prison to which the trump is to be sent to insure that it is safe for him just as it did before his appearance in the New York court room.  Furthermore, although prisons are secure facilities there are occasionally acts of violence that take place in them and that being the case it is obvious that the Act will require that the trump be accompanied at all times during his incarceration by members of the Secret Service as required by the FPA. A related question is whether the secret service agent can continue to carry the arms normally carried by an agent when protecting a former president since notwithstanding their apparent security, violence in prisons is not unheard of.

Another question the trump’s  incarceration would present is will the Secret Service agents have to share a cell with the trump to insure he is secure or would a cell adjacent to the one occupied by the trump fulfill the Secret Service’s obligations to protect him so long as an agent in an adjacent cell accompanied him whenever he went outside his cell.

A related but slightly different question is would members of the Secret Service be willing continue their employment as members of the Secret Service if, as part of their duties, they find themselves living in a prison cell alongside the trump in order to guarantee his safety. Confinement in a prison cell is different from being forced to live at or near Mar a Lago in Florida as all members of the Secret Service would readily agree.

If the trump is convicted of any of the criminal conduct now being investigated by the Georgia DA or the Department of Justice it would not be surprising to see a headline in the Post announcing that members of the Secret Service are touring a federal prison or a Georgia state prison in order to prepare for the trump’s arrival.  Stay tuned.

Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com