If you can’t trust the people who are expected to take a bullet for you, who can you trust?
President Joe Biden was so disturbed by the Secret Service’s handling of text messages sought by the House January 6 select committee that he stopped speaking candidly in the presence of special agents assigned to his protection detail, a new book on the Biden White House has revealed.
In The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House, author Chris Whipple writes that Mr Biden’s discomfort with the post-Trump era agency began early on in his presidency, when it became clear that “some of” the agents charged with protecting him from assassination were strong supporters of the man he defeated in the 2020 election, former president Donald Trump.
According to a copy of the book obtained by The Independent ahead of its 17 January 2023 release date, Whipple writes that Mr Biden simply did not trust the agents, and noted that his attitude is a sharp contrast from how he felt during his years as vice president, when he’d become very close with the agents on his detail. He added that the change in Mr Biden’s view is also a result of the increased size of the detail assigned to the chief executive and suggested that the president shouldn’t have been surprised by the presence of “Maga sympathisers” among his bodyguards because the Secret Service “is full of white ex-cops from the South who tend to be deeply conservative”.
“Surrounded by a new phalanx of strangers, Biden couldn’t help but wonder, Do these people really want me here?” Whipple wrote.
He added that Mr Biden’s trust in his protection detail was further shaken by a March 2021 incident involving a Secret Service agent and his then-three-year-old German Shepherd, Major.
Major, who Mr Biden adopted from the Delaware Humane Association in 2018, was the first rescue dog to serve as First Canine. He allegedly bit a Secret Service agent in the private residence portion of the White House on 8 March 2021, and was temporarily relocated to Delaware for training in the wake of that incident, though he later bit a National Park Service worker just after returning to the White House at the end of that month.
According to Whipple, Mr Biden was quite sceptical about the details of the first alleged biting incident. He writes that although no one disputed that an incident had taken place, the president “wasn’t buying the details,” particularly the alleged location of the biting.
Whipple reveals that Mr Biden expressed his concerns to a friend while he was giving a tour of the White House family quarters. The president reportedly pointed to the alleged location of the biting — on the second floor of the executive mansion — and told the friend: “Look, the Secret Service are never up here. It didn’t happen”.
He added that Mr Biden thought “somebody was lying … about the way the incident had gone down”.
The president had spent more than eight years surrounded by Secret Service agents, first as vice president and again as a candidate, and later as president-elect and as president. But his relationship with the men and women who swear an oath to defend the US Constitution and protect whoever may be President of the United States was further strained by the agency’s actions in the wake of the violent attack on the Capitol fomented by his predecessor.
Whipple writes that Mr Biden felt the continuing influence of Mr Trump’s so-called “Make America Great Again” movement “all too close to home — in his Secret Service detail”. He further explained that the agency had “looked both incompetent and politicized” by the failure of agents on Mr Trump’s detail to retain and turn over text messages from 5 and 6 January 2021 — the day before the Capitol attack and the day of the attack itself.
It was also one of Mr Trump’s own appointees — Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari — who had asked agents for the messages, and who had later told Congress that all but a single message had been irretrievably lost, while the Secret Service, ordinarily world-renowned for its technical abilities, claimed the deletions were the result of a “migration” during schedule mobile device upgrades.
Faced with the knowledge that members of Mr Trump’s detail — some of whom remained with the agency — had actually cheered on the Capitol attack, as well as the House January 6 select committee’s revelation that former vice president Mike Pence had actually refused to get in a car with his own protective detail during the attack for fear that they would have taken him away in service of Mr Trump’s push to remain in office illegally, Whipple writes that Mr Biden “wasn’t taking any chances” with his bodyguards.
“Wary of his own Secret Service agents, the president no longer spoke freely in their presence,” he added.
When The Independent contacted the White House for comment on whether Mr Biden has confidence in his Secret Service detail and if he feels comfortable speaking candidly when agents are within earshot, as well as whether Mr Biden believes the Secret Service fabricated details of the Major Biden biting incident, a White House responded that Whipple “did not give us a chance to verify the materials that are attributed here”.
“We respect that there will be no shortage of books written about the administration containing a wide variety of claims. We don’t plan to engage in confirmations or denials when it comes to the specifics of those claims,” the spokesperson said.