Former Secret Service officials told Business Insider almost unanimously that they were “unexplored territories,” but that they were not called upon to do so. However, some scenarios have taken shape in private chat groups that include former officials of the Department of Homeland Security. Government experts, who also do not have an instruction manual, believe that the Secret Service will have to do so in the end.
Five former Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials told Business Insider anonymously that such a situation would certainly be uncomfortable to handle.
The scenario in which a former president would refuse to cede the seat of the president-elect on Inauguration Day would be really extreme: “Then we would reach a maximum critical point. I can’t imagine that it could get there, but in the current climate we have many premieres “.
The handover of the relay between the presidents takes place according to a well-established protocol – the outgoing president receives the one elected at the White House on the morning of January 20, and then leaves together for the Capitol for the inauguration ceremony. Finally, the former presidential couple moves away in a helicopter, while the White House staff proceeds to move the new presidential family.
It is unclear what Trump will do – whether he will attend the inauguration ceremony as former president or refuse to leave the White House. Another possibility would be to leave Washington before January 20, as former allies arguing with Trump say. On the other hand, Trump was elected president of the United States, and in this capacity he should hand over the baton to his successor at least at the last minute, on Inauguration Day. He probably won’t.
It would be quite complicated for the Secret Service, a DHS agency tasked with protecting the president, to have to evacuate a former president who must also be defended. Then the agency would not want to associate its image with a political challenge.
A former Secret Service official explained: “We are not there to evacuate people, but to protect them. I can’t think the Secret Service will come in and knock on the door: It’s time to go out, sir. Departure is until 11 am. What will they do, take him by the arm and take him out the door? ”
In his opinion, Trump’s entourage and Republicans will have to take on the task of convincing him that his term is over if he “barricades himself inside.”
Trump continued Monday before a hearing in a federal court in Pennsylvania, and after three lawyers asked to withdraw from the case, claiming that Democrats defrauded the votes and stole the ballot. On the other hand, when asked about Donald Trump’s refusal to resign, Joe Biden told a press conference that “he hopes that the president will find out a little better before January 20th. A White House spokesman told Business Insider, answering the same question, that the incumbent president “will accept the results of a free and fair election.”
Gray area for Secret Service
Secret Service officials are prepared for scenarios in which an attack would take place during a nationwide speech, but not for the eventuality that a former president would not want to leave the White House.
“I don’t think anyone has ever anticipated such a possibility,” said a former Secret Service official who was employed in Democratic and Republican administrations. Another said: it is “a gray area. It is completely unexplored territory. “
The Secret Service declined to comment.
James Murray, the current director of the Secret Service, appointed by Trump in May 2019, has 6,500 employees, including more than 3,000 special agents. More than 130 of them were forced into solitary confinement or quarantine – in part because they were on Donald Trump’s campaign marches.
Murray reports to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, an ally of Trump and a vocal supporter of his administration’s immigration policies. Last weekend, a federal judge ruled that Wolf was not legally in office because the order of succession in office had not been followed.
Wolf is one of those who remained loyal to Trump in the context of dismissals of those considered disloyal, including the secretary of defense, while others were forced to resign. Two Department of Homeland Security officials resigned last week, one in cybersecurity and one in international affairs. Meanwhile, Trump fired the head of computer security after he announced that they were some of the safest elections in the United States.
Former DHS officials and former Secret Service agents have speculated on how they might involve Secret Service agents if an escort of the incumbent president outside the White House is required.
An official who took part in transitions between administrations said that in such a situation the Secret Service should make it clear to the public that it is not the job of the agents to intervene: “This cannot be ignored.”
For their part, military leaders said from the beginning that they would not get involved in incidents related to electoral conflicts. General Mark Milley, the chief of staff, rejected the idea that the military could escort Trump out of the White House.
Recently, the procedure to shock Trump from the Oval Office has been the subject of intense debate in a private group that includes former officials of the mentioned institutions, said Douglas Smith, former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration.
A scenario has taken shape: The Secret Service agent in charge of guarding Trunp could “close his eyes”, while the President’s Secret Service team enters the office and accompanies Trump outside, he says.
Other speculation was that the FBI could be involved or that Trump’s escort could be handled by the US Marshal Service, a wing of the Justice Department. The institution declined to comment.
“It simply came to our notice then. But in the end, it could be like any other evacuation. If you rent an apartment in DC and do not pay your rent and continue like this, in the end you get an eviction order against you. It will not be the responsibility of the Secret Service to prevent him from being evacuated. It’s none of their business, “Smith said.