House chairman asks Secret Service for briefing on COVID-19 safeguards for agents
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Monday that he has requested a briefing from the Secret Service on its safeguards for agents exposed to COVID-19, a day after President Trump left his hospital suite while undergoing treatment for the virus to greet supporters from his motorcade, putting his protective detail at risk of exposure.
Trump, who is currently undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, waved to supporters from inside a Chevrolet Suburban while accompanied by two Secret Service agents on Sunday. Trump could be seen wearing a cloth mask, while the two agents seated inside the car with him wore full protective gear, including medical gowns, respirator masks and eye protection.
Trump’s move to wave at his supporters who gathered across the street from the hospital drew outrage from members of the Secret Service and medical professionals who warned that a patient with a contagious disease shouldn’t be leaving his hospital room or putting his protective detail at risk.
The president addressed the controversy in a tweet on Monday.
It is reported that the Media is upset because I got into a secure vehicle to say thank you to the many fans and supporters who were standing outside of the hospital for many hours, and even days, to pay their respect to their President. If I didn’t do it, Media would say RUDE!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2020
Thompson said that he’s seeking more information about protective protocols for Secret Service agents.
“The height of reckless disregard for others was the president’s ‘joyride’ yesterday where Secret Service agents were required to drive him around in a hermetically sealed vehicle. Exposing Secret Service personnel to the virus does not just put them at risk, it puts their families and the public at risk,” Thompson said in a statement.
“So we can know more about how these events have affected the Secret Service and national security, I have requested a briefing from the agency on the current safeguards in place for their employees — including on the president’s protective detail — and how Secret Service agents can be kept safe from coronavirus-related threats, including apparently the president himself,” Thompson continued.
The Secret Service would not say if the agents in the vehicle with Trump on Sunday are now quarantining.
“The Secret Service will continue to follow established protocols to ensure the safety of our employees. The Secret Service does not discuss our protectees or the specific means and methods regarding our protective mission,” a Secret Service spokesperson said in an email to The Hill on Monday.
“For privacy and operational security reasons, the Secret Service is not releasing how many of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19, nor how many of its employees were, or currently are, quarantined,” the spokesperson added.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said on Sunday that measures were taken to protect everyone in the car with Trump.
“Appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the President and all those supporting it, including [personal protective equipment]. The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do,” Deere said.
Multiple Secret Service members expressed outrage to CNN about the episode while noting that some agents have already tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling with Trump to rallies, where attendees frequently have not worn masks or followed social distancing guidelines.
“That should never have happened,” one Secret Service agent who currently works on the presidential and first family detail told CNN.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most people with COVID-19 should self-isolate for 10 days if symptoms and fever subside by then. Trump announced his diagnosis early Friday.
James Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed, tweeted that Trump’s drive-by appearance was “insanity.”
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” Phillips tweeted. “They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. This is insanity.”
Trump said in a video posted to Twitter on Sunday that he has “learned a lot” about the virus while undergoing treatment.
“I learned about it by really going to school,” Trump said. “This isn’t the ‘let’s read the book’ school. And I get it, and I understand it, and it’s a very interesting thing.”