Lawmakers Propose Subjecting Secret Service Director To Senate Confirmation | KUOW News and Information

Lawmakers Propose Subjecting Secret Service Director To Senate Confirmation

May 25, 2017
Originally published on May 26, 2017 11:20 am
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A number of federal agencies have come under pressure since Donald Trump became president. The Secret Service is one of them. In their case, it's not because of the president's policy goals. It's the Trump family lifestyle. And that has led to a bill now moving through Congress. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Nearly every weekend since Inauguration Day, President Trump has stayed at one of his properties outside Washington, most often at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla. In April, he hosted Chinese President Xi there for a summit meeting.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mr. President, thank you very much and, again, a tremendous honor to have you in the United States and at Mar-a-Lago. Thank you very much.

NAYLOR: The president has also overnighted at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York has never seen anything like it.

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JERROLD NADLER: It is hard enough when the president, his wife and children all live in the White House together and take an occasional trip to Camp David. Well, what we have seen from this administration is unprecedented. During the first hundred days or so of the Trump administration, the president spent weekdays at the White House while the first lady remained in New York City. Most weekends, he traveled to Florida and New Jersey to spend time at Trump-owned properties.

NAYLOR: Nadler spoke last night during a meeting of the House judiciary committee which approved a bipartisan bill that removes the cap on how much money the service can spend to protect the president at his weekend homes. All of this presidential travel as well as protecting the president's adult children who also travel the world is taking its toll on the men and women who protect the Trump family, says former agent Jonathan Wackrow.

JONATHAN WACKROW: The Secret Service is operating at lower numbers than they have in modern times. That combined with just the travel schedule and the need to secure multiple locations that the president resides, you know, puts a manpower strain on the Secret Service week after week.

NAYLOR: There are now some 3,200 special agents and another 1,300 uniformed officers. That's down from its peak at the start of the Obama administration due to congressional budget caps. Wackrow says not only are agents spread thin. They're under a lot of stress. In fact, in the most recent survey of workplace satisfaction at 305 federal agencies, the Secret Service placed dead last.

WACKROW: Numerous times you have agents that may be working a midnight shift in, you know, Bedminster and then have to travel to, you know, Washington, D.C., or onto another assignment. Where normally they may have a day or two off, they're just rolling from one assignment to the next. It just shows you their dedication to the mission.

NAYLOR: The House bill would also for the first time require that the director of the service be confirmed by the Senate. That would act as an additional check on the agency which has had some well-publicized incidents of agents acting badly. The Trump administration's budget boosts funding for the service, including money for more agents and officers. There's also more than $25 million allocated for security-related expenses at Trump Tower where First Lady Melania and their son Barron continue to live. Some of that money - $6.3 million - is for rent and utilities the service would pay Trump. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.