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Trump's Ride May Flip a Secret Service Question

Critics say agents now must be protected from the president
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2020 11:44 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Trump's decision to take a weekend ride around Walter Reed to thank his supporters is still generating headlines, and a story rounding up criticism in the New York Times suggests the incident raises an unprecedented question for Secret Service agents: "Who will protect them from Trump?" At least two agents accompanied Trump in the hermetically sealed Chevy Suburban, and there's been a steady stream of criticism that the president jeopardized their health for a photo op. Trump's defenders have a different take. Coverage:

  • In defense: Trump campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski says the agents volunteered for the duty and the president's medical team cleared it, reports Forbes. He also says plexiglass separated Trump from the agents, who wore medical-grade protective gear. Trump, for his part, lashed back at the media over criticism. "If I didn't do it, Media would say RUDE!!!" he tweeted on Monday. A spokesperson for the Secret Service says the agency does not comment on missions, and nor will it disclose information on whether any agents have tested positive.

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  • Big topic: "It's on everybody's mind," former Secret Service Director W. Ralph Basham tells the Times. "The ones no longer there are happy they're not there. These are tough decisions to have to make." The story notes that agents also had to accompany Trump back to the White House Monday evening in a helicopter.
  • How else? Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley calls news coverage focusing on concerns about agents' safety "absolutely stupid and foolish," per the AP. "How do they think he’s going to leave? Is someone gonna toss him the keys to a Buick and let him drive home by himself? They’re always around him because that’s their job," Gidley said on Fox.
  • A difference: In an op-ed at CNN, former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow says agents won't say no to a presidential request and are ready to put themselves in front of a bullet. Still, he writes that he is "stunned" about the ride because the coronavirus is such a unique threat, one that jeopardizes not just the agents but their families. Another former agent, Bill Pickle, tells Business Insider he was "shocked" for similar reasons. "It's hard to believe that someone who's that contagious would get into a vehicle with nothing more than a fabric mask," he says of Trump.
  • The physician: Dr. James Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed, has been one of the most vocal critics of the president's decision, in tweets calling it "insanity" and in interviews. "The only way that somebody can volunteer for something like this and do it safely is through real, informed consent," he told Today. "They have to know the real risks of getting into that vehicle. And my concern is that they didn't."
  • Show of strength: A story at the Washington Post suggests one big reason for Trump's ride is that the president was angry over the weekend after chief of staff Mark Meadows gave reporters a more sobering view of Trump's prognosis than the president's doctors.
(Read more President Trump stories.)

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