Written – March 29, 2019
A man claiming to be “late for dinner with President Trump” was pulled over by West Virginia state police, who found a handgun, gunpowder, and 300 rounds of ammunition in the vehicle. Eric Leonard Charron, 42, had been driving 130 mph on Interstate 68, apparently on his way to the White House from his home in Kansas City, MO when he was stopped by law enforcement. He told police he had “special hearing,” which was how he had received the dinner invite from Trump, and that it “would tell him to do bad things once he got to the White House.”
Officers followed Charron for about a mile before he finally stopped at the West Virginia-Maryland border at about 10:30 a.m. on March 27. The discovery of weapons and strange utterances from Charron prompted officials to close down the interstate for three and a half hours. It also brought in numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement officers as well as the Secret Service and FBI.
Trooper First Class D.W. Satterfield questioned the driver, who said he was late for a dinner with the president and that he then had to go to the Pentagon to return a phone to the leader of the U.S. Army. Charron admitted to having a 9mm handgun in the trunk of his Mazda 6, and when asked if he had any explosives, he said “not a whole lot.”
Three explosive-detecting dogs searched the vehicle and while all three indicated the presence of explosives, none were found. The Trooper tried to open the vehicle’s trunk to investigate but the remote key did not work. Charron told the officer that it probably didn’t open because he had altered it to “keep the CIA from listening to him through the radio.”
Law enforcement also found Charron’s handwritten manuscripts in the trunk with subjects on levitating watercraft, time travel, and various mythical creatures including the Chupacabra. In a surprise revelation, Charron admitted to being under the influence of methamphetamine, adding that he had been using the drug for the past two years.
Charron’s “special hearing” had sent him on a quest to have dinner with the president, where he said he was going to present him with the gun and ammunition as a gift, and then to return a phone to the Pentagon. He also said his special talent would tell him to do bad things when he got to the two places. Was this another aborted assassination attempt on Trump?
Assassination attempts on presidents aren’t uncommon, unfortunately. Just about every president has had his life threatened at some point, a few considerably more times than others. Which presidents have had the most attempts and threats?
Assassination Attempts, Plots, and Death Threats to Presidents
A Google search turned up different opinions as to which president has had the most threats to and attempts on their lives, and the reasons behind them. There are several reports that Barack Obama has had more than any other president, but then there are just as many that say that claim is false. Most cite the former president’s skin color as the core motive. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton definitely had their fair share of scares. What about others, such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, or Jimmy Carter? And where does Donald Trump stand in the line of most wanted?
In an interview with The Daily Caller, author Mel Ayton said Lyndon B. Johnson was the “most threatened president in American history”:
“ … mainly because of the Vietnam War. He is possibly the only president who confined his public speaking events to ‘safe’ venues like military bases. The apex of demonstrations against the war during his presidency occurred in 1968 and the Secret Service persuaded Johnson that the level of hatred directed towards him would make it more likely than not fanatical anti-war militant groups or individuals would make an attempt on his life.”
But then, Ayton clarified his supposition by stating the obvious, that it’s “impossible to assess which American president has been the ‘most-threatened,’ as Secret Service files have, by and large, remained closed. There is no way of knowing how many plots or planned attacks have been made against American presidents that have been foiled by the Secret Service or other law enforcement officers, or how many would-be assassins changed their minds at the last minute due to protective measures.”
Documented Assassination Attempts
The list below represents only the actual recorded events that threatened a president’s life.
Andrew Jackson, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush each suffered just one assassination attempt. Jackson’s would-be assassin fired two pistols at the former president, both misfiring, and then endured a severe cane beating by Jackson before being arrested. Taft was the first president to go to Mexico in a historical meeting with our southern neighbor’s president. During the summit, a man was discovered, just feet away from Taft, with a concealed palm pistol. Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a saloon keeper from New York while campaigning in Milwaukee, WI. His 50-page campaign speech folded in half and a metal glasses case were in his breast pocket and slowed the bullet, likely saving his life. Argentine anarchists plotted to plant explosives on a train that Hoover was traveling in while crossing the Andes, but were caught before they could plant the bombs. Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. which resulted in a broken rib and punctured lung. Hinckley also attempted to assassinate Jimmy Carter in 1981, but lost his nerve. While Bush was visiting Kuwait University shortly after leaving office, fourteen men suspected of working for Saddam Hussein planned the assignation using the car bomb method. Kuwait officials discovered the bomb and arrested the suspects.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush each had two recorded attempts. Abraham Lincoln had three attempts, one successful. And now we come to our top contenders.
3rd: Donald Trump = 3
- June 18, 2016: British national Michael Steven Sandord, during a rally in Las Vegas, NV, tried to seize a pistol from an officer but was foiled when the firearm got caught in the holster. He’d been planning the assassination attempt for a year.
- November 2017: During the ASEAN Summit, the Philippine National Police in Rizal Park arrested a man affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for reportedly planning to assassinate Trump.
- October 2018: Navy Veteran William Clyde Allen III sent a letter containing castor beans to Trump, but it was seized by the Secret Service before reaching the White House.
Trump has not yet been in office for a full term, yet has had almost as many attempts as Obama. Even though there are many that say Obama has been threatened more than any other president in history, in 2017 the Secret Service said that Trump faced just as many as Obama.
2nd: Barack Obama = 4
- April 2009: During the Alliance of Civilizations summit in Istanbul, Turkey, a man of Syrian origins was discovered carrying forged Al-Jazeera TV press credentials. He confessed of his plan to murder Obama with a knife and claimed there were three alleged accomplices.
- November 2011: Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez open fired on the White House with several rounds from a semi-automatic rifle. A window was broken, but no injuries resulted.
- April 2013: A letter laced with ricin was sent to Obama.
- October 2018: A package with a pipe bomb was sent to Obama’s home in Washington D.C. but was discovered by the Secret Police.
And now for the president with the most recorded attempts on his life …
1st: Bill Clinton = 5
- January 21, 1994: Retired military officer and freelance writer Ronald Gene Barbour planned to kill Clinton while the former president was jogging, but returned to Florida without firing a single shot.
- September 12, 1994: Frank Eugene Corder, a truck driver from Maryland, flew a stolen Cessna airplane onto the White House lawn. The aircraft crashed into a tree, killing the would-be assassin.
- Francisco Martin Duran used a semiautomatic rifle to fire at least 29 shots at the White House from a fence that overlooked the north lawn. He had thought Clinton among the many men dressed in dark suits standing outside. Three tourists tackled Duran.
- 1996: While Clinton was visiting the APEC forum in Manila, his motorcade was rerouted just before it was about to drive over a bridge. An intercepted message revealed an attack was imminent. A bomb was found under the bridge and an investigation revealed “that [the plot] was masterminded by a Saudi terrorist living in Afghanistan named Osama bin Laden.”
- October 2018: Cesar Sayoc sent a pipe bomb intended for Hillary Clinton. This was one of a few sent to the Clintons and Barack Obama in the same week.
America’s New Acceptance of Death Threats to Presidents
After reviewing some of the actions considered to be viable threats, does it seem likely that Charron’s attempt to crash a dinner with Trump should be considered as such? He was arraigned and charged with “reckless driving and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.” Even though he admitted that his “special hearing” would instruct him to do bad things at both the White House and the Pentagon, he was not (as of the time of writing this piece) charged with any kind of terrorism or attempted plots of harm to the president.
It makes sense, though, considering how many threats are directed towards Trump on a daily basis, especially with the advent of social media. Actors, athletes, and politicians have lined up at the gates to toss their calls against the president. Sarah Silverman called for a military coup against him on her Twitter feed.
WAKE UP & JOIN THE RESISTANCE. ONCE THE MILITARY IS W US FASCISTS GET OVERTHROWN. MAD KING & HIS HANDLERS GO BYE BYE❤❤❤❤ https://t.co/Y2WZbL012A
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) February 2, 2017
Singer and actress Madonna threatened to blow up the white House in an F-bomb loaded speech during the Women’s March in 2017. “Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair,” she said.
The celebrities’ attacks on the president grew worse. Snoop Dogg shoots a clown resembling Donald Trump in a music video:
— The Hill (@thehill) March 14, 2017
A February 2017 post by Sasha Lekach points out just how much attacks on Trump are accepted by social media, even when the internet giants claim they do not tolerate hate speech. “In a Dataminr search of Twitter posts since Inauguration Day containing the phrase “assassinate Trump” more than 12,000 tweets came up.”
A catholic college in Rhode Island urged stressed students to stab a pumpkin named “Trumpkin” with the instructions “If you ever feel angry or stressed feel free to stab Trumpkin” written on a chalkboard above the pumpkin resembling the president.
Kathy Griffith got herself investigated by the Secret Service after a picture of her holding a fake severed head of Donald Trump splashed across the media.
There are too many instances of thinly veiled and even blatant threats against the president to list here, but what is being done about them? Many of these would have likely led to arrest and imprisonment if they had been directed at former presidents. How seriously does the Secret Service take these, and when does the rights of the First Amendment impose on the safety of the president?