DECEMBER 20, 2016 --President-elect Donald Trump is breaking with tradition yet again, this time by retaining his own private security force.
In what security experts are calling an unprecedented move, Mr. Trump has continued to employ a private security and intelligence team at his post-election "thank you" rallies around the country and is expected to keep at least some members of the team after his inauguration, according to Politico. He's said to be the first president or president-elect in modern history to do so, as all others have relied solely on the Secret Service for personal security and local law enforcement for event security.
The decision has come under fire from some security experts who say that using private security personnel may be a risky move that could hurt both the president-elect and his team as well as protesters. Over the course of Trump's campaign, dozens of protesters have accused his private security personnel at rallies of racial profiling, undue force, or aggression, with three lawsuits currently pending against Trump, his campaign, or its security. Meanwhile, some Trump supporters have applauded the move as a sign of Trump's loyalty and commitment to shaking things up in Washington.
"It's playing with fire," Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent who worked on President Obama's protective detail during his 2012 reelection campaign, told Politico. Having a private security team working events with Secret Service, he continued, "increases the Service's liability, it creates greater confusion and it creates greater risk."
A libertarian friend on Facebook commented as follows:
Shades of imperial* Rome, and what that entailed: being surrounded by armed men who are pledged, *not* to defend the United States Constitution (and only secondarily charged with keeping the president safe), but who are pledged to and take orders from the specific person of the president, is frightening. (I am all for "private security" for private persons, but not for the president. It inaugurates a distinction between his interests and the Constitution and backs it with armed force.) *Not republican.
I'm not so sure. I'm not completely tied to one side or the other, but I lean to private security.
Here's how I think about it.
I generally believe in private solutions to problems rather than government subsidies. The payments to the Secret Service are a huge subsidy. If Trump wants to pick up the tab for even part of this, and if that saves hiring, or replacing, even one or two Secret Service employees, good for him--and good for us.
Moreover, I can understand, and sympathize with, why Trump would want to do this. He wants people who are protecting him to be loyal to him, to have his well-being as their primary goal. I would bet that Secret Service employees are pretty much the same--their main goal is to protect the President--but there could be some slim margins on which the Trump people would do better. Recall the Colombian scandal. It's not clear that this threatened presidential security--it probably didn't--but one could imagine plausible situations in which it would.
My Facebook friend argues above that Trump would be "surrounded by armed men who are pledged, *not* to defend the United States Constitution (and only secondarily charged with keeping the president safe), but who are pledged to and take orders from the specific person of the president." That's true about the U.S. Constitution. I would bet, though, that keeping the President safe, given that he's paying them out of pocket, would be primary, not secondary.
Moreover, when the Secret Service forcibly removed some protestors away from the Oregon hotel where George W. Bush was dining during the 2004 campaign, they did not have protecting the U.S. Constitution on their mind. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court, 10 years later, affirmed this restriction on their freedom of speech.
Kauffman writes above:
Over the course of Trump's campaign, dozens of protesters have accused his private security personnel at rallies of racial profiling, undue force, or aggression, with three lawsuits currently pending against Trump, his campaign, or its security.
In which case are you more likely to win for a given amount of undue force: a case against a Secret Service agent or a case against a private bodyguard? I would think it's the latter. So this argues for, not against, private guards hired by Trump.