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House Democrats Target Trump’s Secret Service Protection

Does the proposal seek to solve a real problem, or just target Trump?

A new proposal by House Democrats would strip former protectees who are convicted on felony charges of their Secret Service protection. Though the proposed legislation allegedly never mentions his name, the DISGRACED Former Protectees Act is clearly aimed at denying former President Donald Trump secret service protection should any of the 91 felony charges against him bear fruit. Indeed, the associated fact sheet that has been released has Trump’s name in both the introductory and concluding paragraphs.”

The introduction of such a bill raises numerous practical questions about Trump’s novel situation, not least of which is whether this proposed “solution” even has a real problem that needs solving.

DISGRACED Former Protectees and the Secret Service

When a set of initials is organized in a way that spells out a word already in use, it’s often referred to as a contrived acronym – contrived because it seems the originator sought specifically to form the already in-use word rather than coining a new term altogether, like scuba or NASA. Lawmakers are notorious for trying to wrangle bill titles so they fit some desired term – and the Denying Infinite Security and  Government Resources Allocated toward Convicted and Extremely Dishonorable Former Protectees Act is certainly an impressive one.

Cleverly contrived moniker aside, the DISGRACED Former Protectees Act ostensibly seeks to solve two problems: How can the Secret Service practically protect a prison inmate, and should it? It may, however, raise more questions than it answers.

House Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), who also chaired the House January 6 committee, introduced the bill Friday, April 19. While no text is yet publicly available, Rep. Thompson’s office did publish a fact sheet. Simply put: “The DISGRACED Former Protectees Act would terminate Secret Service protection for individuals who otherwise qualify for it upon sentencing following conviction for a Federal or State felony.”

“Current law does not contemplate how such protection would occur – or whether it should occur – if a protectee is sentenced to prison time following conviction for a felony,” the fact sheet explains. “As a result, current law may serve as an impediment to the equal administration of justice and present logistical difficulties for both the Secret Service and prison authorities at the Federal and State levels.”

A Solution in Search of a Problem?

Speculation abounds as to how the Secret Service might protect former President Trump in prison – and, let’s face it, this bill is entirely about Trump regardless of how generally it may be worded. But few of those exploring the problem seem to have considered the reality of incarcerating celebrities. Often, when someone who’s sentenced to prison time might have legitimate reasons to fear for their lives either because of fame prior to incarceration or the infamy of their crimes, they’re placed in protective custody, or administrative segregation.

In short, the “logistical problem” faced by the Secret Service probably doesn’t actually exist.

Then there is Rep. Thompson’s concern that Secret Service protection might lead to Trump being unfairly pampered. Would the former president serve an entirely different sentence than most inmates? Of course – most celebrities do, even without special bodyguards.

In 2010, for example, rapper Lil Wayne was sentenced to one year for a gun charge. When he arrived at Rikers Island, the star got his own cell with a window facing outside. He spent his time cooking, watching TV, and playing Uno. In his own words, the eight-month stint he ended up serving was “not that difficult.” Foxy Brown, another rapper once held at Rikers Island, served nine months for violating her parole after she assaulted two nail-salon workers in 2006. She was allowed to wear Gucci sneakers, a Fendi scarf, and apply makeup. She had unlimited TV and phone use and had her meals delivered to her cell by guards. The administration even helped her set up interviews and a photo shoot for a magazine that promoted her new album.

Martha Stewart, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton, are just a few more celebrities whose stints behind bars proved the rich and famous just don’t do the same kind of time as everyone else.

Beyond these issues lurk perhaps less obvious questions and potential unintended consequences. What of the families of protectees? One might argue that if Trump’s guilty of criminal activity, then he no longer deserves Secret Service protection – or that if he’s convicted and sentenced, he’ll be protected by the prison administration. But what of his wife and children who remain on the outside? Will they retain their protection even while Trump does not? And what happens if the former president becomes the president once again? Also, it isn’t made explicitly clear by the fact sheet whether Trump will lose his protection only if he is sentenced to time in prison. What if he is convicted of crimes that carry potential prison time, but is ordered to probation or home confinement instead?

Is It All for Naught?

Perhaps the most immediate practical question surrounding the legislation, however, is what chance does it stand? With a Republican majority in the House, the likelihood of this bill passing – or, for that matter, that it will even come to a vote – is quite low. Even if it did pass the House, a 60-vote majority in the Senate for a bill clearly aimed at Trump is going to be a tall order.

Finally, even if it did pass both chambers and become law, it must once again be asked: What happens if Trump wins in November? That would likely spell the end of all the federal prosecutions, at the very least – and even if he had already been convicted of some charges at that point, there’s the possibility of the presidential self-pardon.

In light of all this, one might be forgiven for asking whether the DISGRACED Former Protectees Act is even a serious bill at all. Do Rep. Thompson and his eight Democrat co-sponsors really think this will eventually become law – or is this just more of Democrats lobbing anything they can at Trump in hopes of scaring away his voters?

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