By federal law, ex-presidents, including Donald Trump, are entitled to Secret Service protection for life – even if they go to prison. This means that should any of the multiple criminal investigations lead to jail time for the former President, he would most likely retain a federal security detail.
Former agency officials confirmed to Business Insider that the protection would follow Trump to jail.
“Secret Service protection would follow Donald Trump to the slammer if he ever ended up there, former agents say”
Good. They belong there. https://t.co/jtq6C3xq57
— I’m Jesus, Absolutely Not American🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦 (@SweetJesus3000) August 12, 2022
With former President Richard Nixon avoiding legal accountability for the Watergate scandal, this is the first time the agency has faced the real possibility of having to protect its former commander-in-chief from behind bars.
“If Donald Trump gets sent to prison, what’s the role of the Secret Service in that case?” said Douglas Smith, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.
Before Trump’s presidency, “I don’t think anybody every contemplated having a president in jail and what impact that would have on the Secret Service,” a former Secret Service official told Business Insider.
It’s now a real possibility, considering that Donald Trump is the subject of multiple state and federal investigations.
Georgia, where the ex-President is being investigated for trying to overturn the 2020 election results, and New York — where Trump is accused of manipulating the financial records of his hotels and properties to get bank loans and avoid taxes – have accelerated their investigations.
Former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, just reached a plea deal with New York Attorney General Letitia James, with a commitment to testify in the October trial against his former boss.
If Trump was convicted and sent to state prison, it would be up to the state where he’s incarcerated. If federally convicted, it’s at the judge’s discretion.
Trump would not likely be surrounded by other inmates. “He would certainly not be part of the general population,” said Ken Gray, a retired FBI special agent who served 24 years in the bureau.
“Is an agent going to be with him inside a cell? No,” said the former Secret Service official, who guessed that Trump would wind up in a “country-club-type place” if he’s convicted. But there would likely be at least one agent on the property to protect the president, even if that person isn’t “walking on his shoulder out in the yard.”
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is part of the Department of Justice, while the Secret Service is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
Michele Deitch, an expert on prison oversight, told Business Insider that Trump “would have a target on his back,” and that the Secret Service would face a “challenge” protecting someone with the former president’s profile.
“Trump would unquestionably be placed in what’s known as ‘protective custody,’ an extremely secure – and extremely restrictive – situation that ‘doesn’t look a whole lot different from a solitary confinement setting,’ she added. ‘It’s not a setting you would wish on your worst enemy.'”
A former president can decline the protection, as Nixon did after his resignation. Congress also has the power to either remove or limit that protection– like the law they passed during the Clinton administration limiting secret service protections to 10 years.
Whether that action is taken in regards to Donald Trump remains to be seen, but, for the time being, the same government that Donald Trump tried to overthrow will pay to protect him – even if he’s convicted of it. But with recent investigations into the Secret Service’s deleted text messages and the recent release of internal emails showing the agency deliberately delayed informing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of threats to her life – they may be following Trump to an adjacent cell…as roommates.
Original reporting by Robin Bravender and David Levinthal at Business Insider.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick