Saturday, June 26, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt twenty)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Budget officials and Kelly tried to push off the plan; digging up and replacing the enormous vehicle gates was considered so cost-prohibitive, they hoped to delay and delay until Trump got tried of asking.

Instead, Kelly turned to reviewing the large number of security details—forty-one in all. The Secret Service was stretched so thin protecting all these people that some Trump aides getting protection occasionally had to ride in their agents’ personal cars. Senior officials were told to give the Secret Service two hours’ notice if they needed a ride, because they couldn’t take a car out for the whole day. The Secret Service simply didn’t have enough working vehicles to go around. He looked for details he could cut, and started with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. There was no credible threat against Mnuchin’s life. He was getting the detail because of tradition; Treasury had been the first home of the Secret Service, and the Treasury secretary continued to enjoy a detail even after the agency was moved into the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11. Kelly said it was time to rethink tradition. He was considering reducing or eliminating his own detail, and he suggested Mnuchin give up his. Mnuchin was aghast. He scurried to complain to Jared Kushner, and soon began urging that Trump and Kushner let him return the Secret Service to its rightful home in Treasury. “Mnuchin felt it was a God-given right,” said one national security official. “He pulled out all the stops. There weren’t even any known threats to him.”

Kelly blocked Mnuchin’s transfer idea, but he lost on the detail. Mnuchin kept it even as a female cabinet member, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was getting a stream of death threats and had to temporarily hire her own private security. The decision left the Service scrambling to find enough bodies to staff details for forty-one people, pulling agents from other assignments and rotating them out of their field offices for two-week stints, all to shield and follow every waking move of this expanded group of presidential family members and senior advisers. It also forced the Service to pay the Trump organization more money. Mnuchin at the time was a favored cabinet secretary of Trump’s; he had moved into one of the most expensive suites in Trump’s International Hotel in Washington while his home was being renovated and lived there for six months. The Franklin Suite normally cost $8,300 a night, but Mnuchin negotiated a discount. Mnuchin’s choice of hotel generated a lot of income for Trump’s business. On top of Mnuchin’s bill, the Secret Service also had to rent a room next door to the secretary’s for six months, which meant taxpayers paid $33,000 more to Trump’s company.

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