WASHINGTON – The Secret Service has participated in planning meetings as recently as Monday with Manhattan court authorities, the New York Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to discuss security preparations in the event charges are filed against former President Donald Trump, Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle told USA TODAY Tuesday.
Cheatle said the agency has been provided no information related to the timing of a possible decision, and that “no extraordinary measures” have been required in the security effort.
“The Secret Service has a long-standing relationship with a lot of our law enforcement partners, both here in the National Capital Region and in the New York area,” Cheatle said. “On a daily basis we are always coordinating with our law enforcement partners for any inevitable that might happen, wherever we have protectees or our investigative missions.”
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The director said New York court officials “invited” the agency to be a part of the discussions, but she declined to elaborate on the planning details or how Secret Service would proceed in transporting Trump to Manhattan, if that was required.
With an obligation to provide protection for the former president for the rest of his life, the agency has been thrust into potentially uncharted territory as officials may have to navigate accompanying a protectee through the criminal justice system.
“I really think we’re getting ahead of ourselves, because it’s not appropriate for me to comment on anything that may or may not happen,” Cheatle said. “What I can say is that the Secret Service will always make sure that we provide a safe environment for all our protectees, wherever that may be.”
The director’s comments come as much of the nation anticipates a decision from the Manhattan district attorney on whether to take the unprecedented step of charging a former president.
Trump has been the focus of a years-long investigation into a $130,000 payment to a former porn star to silence her about a prior affair in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, a central witness in the Manhattan investigation, has asserted that Trump directed the payment be made and the transaction was disguised as a legal expense.
Fearing a decision was near, Trump took to social media Saturday suggesting that he would be arrested Tuesday and called for his protesters to stage protests against the law enforcement action.
Trump’s lawyers later acknowledged that Trump’s abrupt weekend declaration was based on no advance information from prosecutors, yet the call for demonstrations echoed a call for the mass gathering of rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, resulting in the violent attack on the Capitol.
Since the weekend, law enforcement officials in New York and Washington have taken visible pre-emptive action, erecting crowd control barriers in downtown Manhattan and near the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
“We are always having discussions with our law enforcement partners to mitigate any potential issues that might pop up, but nothing extraordinary is taking place,” she said.
President Joe Biden appointed Cheatle to the post in August at a time when the service faced scrutiny on multiple fronts.
Cheatle, a former career agent and first woman to oversee protective operations, returned to the agency after a stint as a senior executive at PepsiCo North America. Her appointment came as a special House committee investigating the Capitol attacks was questioning the service’s performance and as the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general was investigating missing text messages sought as part of the Capitol attack inquiry.
At the time of her appointment, Biden described Cheatle as “a distinguished law enforcement professional with exceptional leadership skills, and was easily the best choice to lead the agency at a critical moment for the Secret Service.”
“She has my complete trust, and I look forward to working with her,” Biden said then, adding that Cheatle served on his protective detail when he was vice president.
Cheatle is the second woman to lead the elite agency charged with protecting the president, vice president, their families, top White House staffers and visiting world leaders. The agency also secures major national events, including the Super Bowl.