WASHINGTON ― The Trump administration has proposed a study of whether the U.S. Marshals Service should take over security for Cabinet officials, following a series of scandals over how various Trump appointees have used their department security details.
The administration is asking Congress for $1 million in funding to study whether it makes sense for the USMS to take over protection of civilian Cabinet- and sub-Cabinet-level officials across the government. Current security arrangements vary from department to department, which generally gives Cabinet members a lot of discretion over their own security details and creates potential for waste and abuse. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took his security detail on a personal vacation to Europe in 2017, while former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt ordered his costly security detail to run his personal errands like picking up moisturizing lotion.
Last summer, the Trump administration unveiled a plan for the Marshals Service to take over the task on a broader scale, but as CNN reported at the time, some officials within the service questioned whether it was a good idea to expand their mission beyond protecting judges, providing court security, securing witnesses and transporting prisoners. President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal, unveiled Monday, suggests the plan is still under consideration and moving forward.
“What it does is get the proposal on the table, to start looking at what it would take to have the Marshals provide that level of security to any Cabinet member that requires such protection as a result of a security study and a threat assessment,” Lee Lofthus, a longtime DOJ employee who serves as assistant attorney general for administration, told reporters during a budget briefing at the Justice Department on Monday.
“They came to us and said, ‘Look, we would like to take a look and see if a law enforcement organization that is used to doing this type of work ― both threat assessments and the actual details ― could provide this work government-wide where it’s warranted,’” Lofthus said. “That may give the government some advantages in terms of doing this work better and at the appropriate cost.”
“We don’t want the Marshals to detract from their violent crime effort, so this would be a new function for the Marshals,” he said. “The idea is that they’d have to get resources if they’re going to take on this work in the future.”
NBC News reported last year that the U.S. Marshals, in an unusual arrangement, provided security for Education Secretary Betsy Devos at a cost of $5.3 million in fiscal 2017 and $6.8 million in fiscal 2018. The expected cost of DeVos’ Marshals security for fiscal 2019 is $7.74 million.