Politics

President-elect Trump Is Breaking Another Presidential Tradition

December 19th 2016

By:
Mike Rothschild

In what Politico reports is a "major break from tradition," Donald Trump will become the first president to take a private security force with him to the White House.

According to the extensive report, Trump will continue using the private security force he employed during the campaign to augment the extensive Secret Service protection he'll receive as president.

Trump has had a robust security detachment since the early days of his campaign, employing a group of retired military personnel and police, led by a former Navy officer named Keith Schiller. Before the Secret Service took over, members of nearly a dozen different contractors, security firms, and providers of security guards protected Trump during campaign stops.

And while all other presidential candidates have moved away from private protection once they were the nominee, Trump actually increased his. According to the Politico report, he spent over a million dollars on private security, over twice as much as the Clinton campaign, which had three times as many staffers. Experts Politico spoke to expressed concern that the private force might create confusion and lead to unnecessary risk for Trump, his agents, and crowds at his events. One quoted agent called it "playing with fire" and another remarked it was "very surprising."

It's not entirely clear what these guards will be doing once Trump is in office, other than carrying out specific orders from him.

Federal law prohibits private security from carrying firearms on Federal property, and they likely won't recieve the extensive training that Secret Service members undergo to prepare for the crowds and chaos the president attracts. In fact, during the campaign, this private force seemed to exist solely to identify and eject protestors from Trump rallies, to the point where alleged racial profiling and rough tactics resulted in several lawsuits against the campaign.

Trump's use of a large private security force to augment the Secret Service is totally unprecedented.

Organized presidential protection began during the Civil War, with President Lincoln being assigned a small group of Washington DC police officers after he was the target of rumored assassination plots. The Secret Service was only given the task of guarding the president in 1902 after a nearly-unprotected President William McKinley was shot by an anarchist. Since then, it's been exclusively the government's domain to protect the chief executive, never private citizens.

With scrutiny falling on Trump's use of a private security detail, the head of that detail is of particular interest.

A Trump employee for nearly two decades, Keith Schiller has been the Trump Organization's head of security since 2004. He's been a near-constant fixture at Trump rallies, and according to Politico, is one of a few trusted advisors who has the ear of his boss. The report says of him "[Trump] associates say Schiller provides more than just security. Trump has been known to ask Schiller’s opinion on all manner of subjects. When people want to reach Trump, they often call Schiller’s cell phone and he decides who gets through to the boss."

Schiller himself has been criticized for a slow response to an incident in March, during which a gatecrasher jumped on stage while Trump was speaking in Ohio.

According to Politico, Schiller was late in reacting, and appeared to get in the way of the agents trying to get Trump off the stage. He will likely take on the position of personal bodyguard to Trump, a role that has never existed in the White House up until now.

Politico was unable to obtain more than a blanket statement from the Trump campaign, and the Secret Service routinely refuses to comment on the particulars of presidential protection.

But it's clear that like so many other aspects of his presidential run, Trump will be doing things differently than his predecessors.