– Will Secret Service
agents be required to accompany a former president if he is imprisoned?
It's a question the agency has never had to face before, but one that investigators in New York state and Georgia
may have to address soon as they look into Donald Trump
's actions for possible criminal prosecution.
“This would be unprecedented,” said Jeffrey Robinson, co-author of "Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service."
“It'll present some very interesting circumstances,” he predicted.
“In order to maintain operational security, the United States
Secret Service does not comment on the means and methods used to conduct the agency's protective operations,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Trump political adviser Jason Miller did not respond to a Stardia question about whether Trump would waive his right to Secret Service protection if he was arrested by state or federal authorities.
One longtime Trump confidant, however, doubted that he would do so, and said he is more likely to request additional incarceration than he does now. “He would probably double up,” the adviser said on condition of anonymity.
The statute governing the protection of former presidents makes no mention of the possibility of one of them being imprisoned, merely stating that the Secret Service is “to protect” them for the duration of their lives. Since the Secret Service was assigned the task of protecting presidents in 1902, and former presidents in 1965, none has been the subject of a criminal investigation
, until Trump.
The New York attorney general
and the Manhattan district attorney
are investigating the 45th president's family business
's taxes and bank loans, while prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, are looking into his demand that Georgia election
officials "find" him 12,000 votes
and his threat of criminal prosecution if they don't.
The two-year investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller also detailed numerous instances of obstruction of justice, which Mueller testified Trump could be prosecuted for once he left office, though there is no indication that the Justice Department
under President Joe Biden
is pursuing that.
If Trump is charged and eventually convicted, a sentencing hearing would be many months, if not years, away. In the short term, if charges are filed, a hearing to set bail conditions would be held to determine whether Trump would have to await trial
According to legal experts, his advanced age and lack of criminal convictions work
in his favor, while his access to money
– potentially including the $76 million he raised under false pretenses from his supporters between the election and the Jan. 6 insurgency – and ownership of a jet, which makes him a flight risk, work against him.
Indeed, according to a top Trump campaign adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Trump was originally planning to be in Scotland
at his golf
resort near Glasgow for Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration, but that plan was scrapped when Scotland's first minister announced that Trump would be unable to attend due to the ongoing pandemic
Trump may also be viewed as a community danger because of his ability to incite his supporters to commit violence, as he did in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 with his constant lies that the election was being stolen from him, and his exhortations to his supporters at his rally that day.
However, either situation, pretrial incarceration or post-conviction imprisonment, would present the Secret Service with an entirely new challenge. Although the agency frequently collaborates with federal and state law enforcement, it has never had to deal
with one of its own "protectees" potentially being held in their custody.
“There is no precedent for this, so no one knows for certain the answer, and arguably President Biden gets final say over the extent of any USSS protection for his predecessor,” said Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer. “That said, it is likely former President Trump would maintain protection even if convicted and incarcerated due to his special status.”
“You're not going to put Secret Service agents in prison to protect a guy who's already being protected by the prison,” Robinson said.