If there are any checklists or plans, procedures or guidelines that the secret service must follow in the event of a autogolpe—A Latin American-style crisis where a sitting president refuses to hand over power – half a dozen former officials familiar with the government’s most sensitive contingency plans are unaware.
No one would speak for the record, due to both the secrecy of the plans and the sensitivity of the moment: they don’t want to encourage President Donald Trump to cross a line the authorities did not conceive of.
The Daily Beast urged these officials to run through storylines on the grounds that Trump played a sport of turning the inconceivable into how the hell did that happen?
These officials, who include secret service presidential details officials, agency heads and military planners, see two distinct issues.
The first is, will there be a question about who the president really is? The other: what if, in a fit of spades, the former president simply does not leave the seat of US government.
“I would have a conversation with the chief of staff, then the family, Ivanka and the other kids, and I would tell them that it will be your job to make sure he is gone.“
– former senior secret service official
The first question is easy to answer. After the Electoral College certification on January 6, the White House military office will prepare a briefing for President-elect Joe Biden on the contents of the president’s emergency bag, often known as football, along with a satellite phone secure and nuclear laminated. guide to war options inside. They will accept, from the National Security Agency, a set of presidential authentication cards, known as cookies, which will be active when Biden is sworn in. Each has two columns of letters and numbers and is used by Pentagon emergency action controllers to positively identify the president.
If the past is a prologue, Biden will receive the procedural briefing on January 19, and a military assistant will be assigned to him immediately, hours before the inauguration. (As vice president, he received similar information and the process hasn’t changed, officials say.)
President Trump’s nuclear authentication card will not work after taking the oath. As far as the US military is concerned, it doesn’t matter where the president is; billions of dollars have been spent to ensure that the Commander-in-Chief can execute a war plan from anywhere on Earth, even if he cannot immediately occupy the White House. There will be no ambiguity, those officials said, even if Trump tried something extraordinary. The Pentagon’s command and control centers would not take his orders.
What if Trump doesn’t leave?
What if he sits down at the Resolute desk and challenges someone to physically pull him away? What if he occupies a sofa in the residence? The harm here is real, beyond the ridiculous performance would seem to the rest of the world: a functioning president needs a functioning office.
Former heads of government agencies and secret service officials urged to think about this scenario have proposed several plausible solutions. “I think I would have a conversation with the chief of staff, then the family, Ivanka and the other kids and say, ‘It will be your job to make sure he’s gone,'” a former senior official said. secret services. .
Another possibility: “When the staff leave on January 19, do not let them enter the complex the next day. It can’t do anything without its staff.
An isolated president, in other words, would be more likely to just throw in the towel.
“I really think it would be the Republican Party if he tried something like this,” a second former official said. “The Service and the military just wouldn’t want to get involved. It is not our role. (Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the troops had no role to play in the election or its aftermath.)
A movie ending isn’t in the cards either, as the Secret Service’s Presidential Protection Division (PPD) immediately transfers its resources to the incoming president on January 20. In other words, there won’t be a “Biden detail” in a shootout with the PPD because the PPD becomes the Biden retail the moment the president is invested.
And no one should care about loyalty either. Deputy Director of Secret Service Leonza Newsome III was the head of Biden’s vice-presidential detail during the Obama administration.
But what if Trump just said no?
“Well, I guess by law he would be an intruder,” said a former Secret Service agent. “We had to escort him.”
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