When Donald Trump Travels, This Is How the Secret Service Keeps Him Safe
Wherever Donald Trump travels — whether he’s meeting with global leaders or escaping to Mar-a-Lago or one of his golf courses — the Secret Service goes to keep him safe. Abraham Lincoln actually created the agency on the day of his assassination, but it wasn’t until decades later that Secret Service agents took on the task of protecting the president. Today, the agency protect Donald Trump, both in Washington and anywhere else in the world that he travels.
Below, check out the most interesting facts about how the Secret Service keeps the president safe, even when he jets off halfway around the world on Air Force One.
1. Secret Service agents scope out the president’s destination months ahead of time
The Oregonian reports that when the president plans to travel, Secret Service agents will visit his destination up to three months in advance. There, they meet with local law enforcement agencies to work out the logistics of the trip.
They have to clear airspace at the airport during the president’s arrival. They also need to request a motorcade route through town. Plus, they need to identify nearby trauma hospitals. They even need to secure safe locations for the president in the event of an attack or another emergency.
Next: Agents also identify potential threats in advance.
2. They identify people they need to watch — and warn them
The Oregonian reports that when Secret Service agents prepare for presidential travel, they also work with local police to identify any possible threats. Specifically, they look for the most serious category of possible threats. Those come from people who have threatened the president in the past and actually have the capability to carry out the threats.
Secret Service agents then actually contact those people. The agents even warn them that they’ll be watched closely when the president comes to town.
Next: Dogs help the agency look out for these.
3. Dogs help them watch out for bombs
As the president’s arrival date draws near, Secret Service agents bring in the bomb-sniffing dogs. They check every stop on the president’s route with the dogs. And they clear nearby streets of all parked cars “to ensure that no one can plant a car bomb near the president’s hotel,” according to the Oregonian.
They also plan out the locations where the president will exit his limousine. And they set up canopies over those areas so that he isn’t exposed.
Next: Secret Service agents get medical training, and also travel with this unlikely item.
4. Secret Service agents travel with a bag of the president’s blood type
Mental Floss reports that when Secret Service agents escort the president on his travels, they’re always prepared for an emergency. In fact, the Presidential Protection Division, the branch of the Secret Service responsible for guarding the lives of the president and his family, trains its agents in “ten-minute medicine.” That way, they know how to do everything possible to keep the president alive until he can get medical attention in an emergency.
No matter where he goes, the president can never be more than 10 minutes away from a trauma hospital. And the Secret Service posts an agent at each hospital, ready to coordinate with the hospital staff in case of an emergency. Plus, the president’s motorcade also carries bags of blood (in the president’s blood type) in case he needs a transfusion.
Next: Agents drive the president around in this vehicle.
5. They drive him around in heavily-modified limousine
The Secret Service has made some interesting modifications to Donald Trump’s limousine. (The limo goes with him even when he flies.) According to Mental Floss, the heavily-armored vehicle is flat-tire-proof and bulletproof. And the agents who drive it have extensive experience in defensive driving.
In fact, those agents learn how to perform a 180-degree turn. That way, they can dodge an explosion or re-route around a roadblock. Mental Floss notes that the limo and other vehicles used by the president go to a Secret Service garage for maintenance. Also at that garage, the agency modifies commercial vehicles in order to make them more attack-resistant.
Next: There’s always an extra one of these waiting in the wings.
6. Secret Service agents always have an extra plane waiting
Donald Trump flies on Air Force One. But before the president’s jet touches down at his destination, the Secret Service will fly a backup plane to a secret location. The Oregonian reports that they take this precaution “just in case something happens to the primary mode of transport.”
In fact, the publication reports that every time the president travels, thousands of people get involved. A minimum of seven planes fly with the president. That includes some that transport cargo such as helicopters, limousines, and communication equipment. Other planes hold hundreds of agents and staff members.
Next: Agents don’t ever leave the president alone.
7. They never leave the president alone, even in the restroom
Mental Floss also reports that when the president travels, Secret Service agents never leave him alone, even in the bathroom. “Being on protective detail means following the president wherever he or she might go,” the publication explains. “This includes the bathroom, the doctor’s office, or anywhere that might benefit from a little privacy.”
The president never goes into a room alone. Even if he goes to get a prostate exam or a colonoscopy, a Secret Service agent, armed with a gun, will accompany him.
Next: Agents watch what the presidents eat — and not out of concern for his weight.
8. Secret Service agents watch the president’s food
Donald Trump’s diet has proven a topic of fascination for many Americans. But Secret Service agents are interested in what the president eats for a very different reason. As Mental Floss explains, “every bite of food presented to the president is prepared under the watchful eye of the Secret Service.” Agents even “stare down” White House chefs to ensure that nobody poisons Trump’s food.
The Oregonian reports that when the president travels, a crew of cooks and servers go with him. They buy groceries and prepare food for the president in whatever kitchen is available — with Secret Service agents watching to ensure that nobody interferes.
Next: The agency chooses where the president will stay.
9. They also choose the hotel where the president will stay
Donald Trump probably has lots of opinions about hotels. But he doesn’t get to choose where he’ll stay when he travels. Mental Floss reports that the Secret Service scouts out hotels to choose one where they can best control the environment. They run background checks on hotel employees. And if anybody has a criminal history, the hotel manager has to ask them not to come in that day.
Additionally, the Secret Service will take over entire floors above and below the president’s room. Agents will also “commandeer elevators for their own private use, which can disrupt a hotel’s business,” Mental Floss notes. The Secret Service even keeps an elevator repairman on standby in case the president gets stuck.
Next: Agents have to make some preparations before the president arrives at the hotel.
10. Secret Service agents prepare the president’s hotel room
It’s not just housekeeping that has to prepare for the president’s arrival. The Oregonian notes that before the president arrives at the hotel, agents “perform a complete sweep of all rooms where the president will be.” They check for bugging devices and explosives. And they even take apart all the picture frames to ensure that nothing is concealed inside.
Then, they put bulletproof plastic over the windows. They even remove the phones and televisions to eliminate the possibility of eavesdropping devices. And they replace those devices with their own secure electronics.
Next: The Secret Service enables the president to do this.
11. They let the president greet private citizens
Mental Floss reports that Secret Service agents make it possible for the president to greet citizens who are standing behind a roped-off area. But they consider it the most nerve-wracking part of their job, regardless of whether they’re far away from the White House or close to it.
As the president greets the crowd, agents scan for threats. They look for hands stuffed in pockets and other signs of suspicious activity. And they wear sunglasses so that they scan the crowd without tipping off any potential suspects.
Next: Agents film this part of the trip.
12. The Secret Service actually films presidential motorcades
Mental Floss reports that Secret Service agents also film the president in case something goes wrong. “For all of the controversy it created,” the publication explains, “the Zapruder film of the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination was invaluable in helping the Secret Service understand how quickly a situation can spin out of control.”
Even today, agents study that footage as part of their training. They also film current presidential motorcades, just in case they need to review an attack.
Next: Agents go with the president to the golf course.
13. Secret Service agents take up whatever hobbies the president enjoys
If the president enjoys hobbies that take him out of the White House, then the Secret Service agents who protect him have to learn to keep up. Mental Floss notes that agents had to go horseback riding and jogging with Bill Clinton. Donald Trump doesn’t seem to participate in either of those activities. But he definitely spends time on the golf course.
As The Hill reports, the Secret Service had spent nearly $150,000 on golf cart rentals by mid-November 2017. Agents need to protect Trump, even on the golf course — and even if they need to take up a new skill to do it.
Next: The president doesn’t have much of a say in this matter.
14. The president can’t opt out of Secret Service protection
One of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., made a splash by abandoning his Secret Service detail for a short time to go unaccompanied on a hunting trip in Canada. But even if Donald Trump didn’t want the Secret Service going with him when he goes to his winter White House or elsewhere, he doesn’t actually have a choice.
As Mental Floss explains, “Presidents and vice-presidents don’t have the ability to refuse Secret Service supervision once they take office, although some can switch to private security detail once they’ve served their term.” Interestingly enough, the president can request Secret Service protection for other people.
Next: The Secret Service refers to the president in this way.
15. Secret Service agents use a variety of code names when they protect the president
One of the most well-known facts about the Secret Service? The agency uses code names when protecting the president, the first lady, and other prominent people both in D.C. and elsewhere in the world.
Donald Trump’s code name, “Mogul,” was widely reported on during his presidential campaign. It’s since been reported that the Secret Service refers to Melania Trump as “Muse.” The agency reportedly chose “Hoosier” as Mike Pence’s code name. And agents refer to Karen Pence as “Hummingbird.”
Next: Agents routinely investigate these.
16. They investigate death threats against the president
Another part of the Secret Service’s job? Investigating death threats against the president. That means that when somebody suggests that they want to harm the president, Secret Service agents will investigate every aspect of their lives. Agents interview friends, neighbors, colleagues, and employees.
Their goal is to determine whether the person is serious or not. And they can decide whether somebody who makes a threat should just get a warning, should be committed for psychiatric evaluation, or should be charged with a Class E felony.
Next: But Secret Service agents don’t have to do this.
17. But Secret Service agents don’t swear an oath to die for the president
Secret Service agents are trained to take a bullet for the president. But Mental Floss reports that agents never explicitly swear to give their life in order to protect the president. It’s understood that something could happen. But everybody works their hardest to avoid a deadly situation.
Nonetheless, agents do undergo training in which one agent acts as a stand-in for the president and the others try to navigate threats. The training makes use of non-lethal plastic bullets, which leave a colored trace and a superficial sting. That way, agents know where they’ve been hit, and can tell where they hit their target.
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