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The Financial Quandary of Protecting the Trumps

By Carrie Robinson
10 Feb 2017

Though it is still early in President Donald Trump’s term, the Secret Service seems to be getting more media attention than usual lately. The Secret Service always works diligently to protect the President’s family, but the Trumps have provided an extra challenge. For starters, President Trump has a large family – five children – and some of his adult children already have their own children who also require Secret Service protection. According to NBC, President Trump’s intention to regularly visit the First Lady and their son, Barron, at their New York City home also requires additional staffers to travel and secure both locations. Even before taking office, taxpayers were paying more than $2 million per day to ensure the safety of the Trump family, and that number is only expected to rise throughout his term in office. This could be a major problem, because, although protective needs are rising, the Secret Service budget is not.

While the President and first family does have virtually unlimited access to Secret Service, some fear that they are exploiting their protection for private gain. Recently, Eric Trump, one of President Trump’s sons, caused quite the controversy with his own dependence on the Secret Service. Last week, Eric cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 for Secret Service costs while on a business trip (representing the Trump Organization) in Uruguay. The expensive bill includes not only security but also accommodations for staffers during the trip. Although the Trumps have claimed a separation of government and business, Eric Trump’s visit included a stop to the Trump Tower Punta del Este, which has raised concerns about a possible conflict of interest. However, the Secret Service has declined to release additional details about the trip.

Richard Painter, a former chief White House ethics lawyer fears that the Trumps’ mixing of government and business could be seen as “…the connection to the U.S. government, and the suggestion that if you do business with this company … you’ll be in good with the United States. And the Secret Service presence just exacerbates that.” Washington University law professor Kathleen Clark also voiced her concern, telling the Washington Post, “there is a public benefit to providing Secret Service protection…But what was the public benefit from State Department personnel participating in this private business trip to the coastal town? It raises the specter of the use of public resources for private gain.”

Former Secret Service agent Evy Poumpouras hopes that the Trump family will cut down some of their travel plans, specifically the President’s regularly scheduled visits to his New York home. Poumpouras told NBC that she does not think frequent travel to New York City is a good idea because “to physically recreate the security that exists at the White House in New York City, it’s not going to happen.” Out of the respect for American taxpayers and for the safety of the entire Trump family, many agree that the numerous First Family members needs to cut back on their personal travel plans.

Although many Americans do not agree with President Trump and his policies and business ethics, his – and his family’s – safety is still integral to the security of the entire country. Although the Trump administration will likely continue to rack up a high cost for Secret Service, the guaranteed protection is invaluable.  Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent told NBC News “you put a price tag on anything around the president, then you’re putting a price tag on his life, and that is priceless.” Although the President does have a large family, many believe their Secret Service detail cannot be reduced. The former director of the Secret Service, W. Ralph Basham explained, “think about the consequences of something happening to one of the children. The security of it outweighs the expenses of it.” If something, such as a kidnapping, were to happen to one of the President’s family members, there is a possibility that he could be forced to choose between protecting his family and protecting his country.

Although some may find the exorbitant cost of protecting the Trump family superfluous and concerning in regards to the family’s business ventures, the job of the Secret Service is to not only protect the First Family, but also the nation.

Carrie Robinson graduated from DePauw University in 2017 with an anthropology major and economics minor. She is from Dublin, Ohio.
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