The situation is increasingly dire at the Secret Service, where the task of keeping up with President Donald Trump and his family has strained the agency nearly to the point of breaking, according to a Thursday report in The New York Times.
After a trying campaign season, the Secret Service has undertaken the immense task of providing protection for Trump, a handful of his aides, the president’s four adult sons and daughters along with their spouses and children, and first lady Melania Trump and their 11-year-old son, who both live at Trump Tower in New York. All told, the Secret Service is looking after 40 percent more people than it would in a typical non-campaign year, essentially putting the agency in perpetual campaign mode, the Times reported.
“They are flat-out worn out,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told the Times.
It’s not just the number of people under Secret Service protection. The president and his family have taken a freewheeling approach to travel in the opening months of his presidency. Trump has spent at least seven weekends at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in the 11 weeks since his inauguration, each trip costing taxpayers an estimated $3 million or more.
The president’s children have also kept an active schedule, making a number of international and domestic trips for both business and pleasure. His sons Donald Jr. and Eric have flown on work junkets to far-flung places including Dubai and Uruguay, each time traveling with Secret Service details whose expenses are paid by U.S. taxpayers. The extended Trump family also jetted off to Aspen, Colorado, last month on a ski vacation that reportedly required the supervision of around 100 Secret Service agents.
The Trump family’s expensive lifestyle has created a mess for the Secret Service. Last month, the agency requested an additional $60 million in spending for fiscal year 2018, according to a Washington Post report, only to be rebuffed by the Office of Management and Budget. Nearly $27 million of that was to be earmarked for security at Trump Tower. The Secret Service’s annual budget is about $2 billion, with a substantial portion dedicated to protection.
As some had feared, the financial stress is forcing the Secret Service to scale back on other operations, like investigations into cyber-hacking, counterfeit currency, financial crimes, and missing or exploited minors, a former agency official told the Times. Some staffers are reportedly being diverted away from these efforts and onto security details.
News of the Secret Service’s budget woes comes as the agency is facing a wave of negative publicity. On Wednesday, CNN reported that an agent on Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail had been suspended for soliciting a prostitute at a Maryland hotel. The agent was reportedly off duty.
The Secret Service has also weathered criticism for a number of recent security breaches, including a March incident in which an intruder was able to reach a door of the White House. It reportedly took agents nearly 20 minutes to apprehend the trespasser. At the time, former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said the agency’s response was proof that Trump was no longer safe in the White House.
Persistent staffing shortages and the recent departure of Secret Service Director Joe Clancy appear to be complicating the agency’s effort to right ship. Clancy stepped down in February, kicking off a frantic search for a new director.