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No Secret Service nightmare: Agents ready for presidents who stray

No Secret Service nightmare: Agents ready for presidents who stray

No Secret Service nightmare: Agents ready for presidents who stray
Photo Credit: Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post
President Donald Trump stops his motorcade to greet supporters on Bingham Island outside Palm Beach on Sunday March 19, 2017, on his way to Palm Beach International Airport.

No Secret Service nightmare: Agents ready for presidents who stray

Bill Clinton liked to go jogging around Washington.

Barack Obama would stroll from the White House to a nearby Five Guys burger joint.

So while some expressed alarm after President Donald Trump stepped out of his armored SUV to greet supporters on his way to the airport on Sunday, former Secret Service agents only grimaced.

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“While the Secret Service would certainly prefer the president never, ever do that, they all do that,” said former Secret Service agent Dan Emmett, who served for 21 years and is the author of the upcoming book, “I Am a Secret Service Agent.” “It’s a Secret Service nightmare, but agents are trained for that.”

Former agents say such impromptu stops — known as “off the record” events — are more common than most people believe, and obviously riskier than staying in places that have been screened by the president’s security detail.

But because they’re random, they carry an element of surprise that works to agents’ advantage: Bad guys don’t know they’ll be there, either. The track record bears it out (knock on wood): Presidential assassins all knew where the presidents would be when they pulled the trigger.

“I know it seems to the untrained eye that it’s dangerous — What if this? What if that?” said former agent Dan Bongino, who was on the presidential detail under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama and now lives in Martin County. “The reality is, (bad guys are) not there, ready for an attack and an assault on the president.”

That doesn’t mean some presidents don’t knowingly walk into potentially dangerous situations.

During the Rodney King riots, Emmett remembered when President George H.W. Bush, who wasn’t prone to “off-the-record” stops, wanted to see the devastation in Los Angeles in 1992.“We thought he was just going to drive around,” Emmett said. Instead, “He got out of the limo and was walking through south-central LA in a Brooks Brothers suit, with buildings still smoldering and store owners on the roofs with shotguns. You had people that close to the president with live weapons.”

That’s not quite Bingham Island, the narrow stretch of land between Trump’s Mar-a-Lago and West Palm Beach, where the president stopped, waved and pointed at supporters before getting out and shaking a few hands on Sunday. He even invited seven supporters back to his mansion on Saturday for a brief chat.

Secret Service agents had to push back the crowds, and they scrambled to make sure the door to the president’s armored SUV stayed open while he was out of the car. A U.S. Secret Service spokeswoman on Monday declined to comment on Trump’s stop.

Agents said they can do little but protest when the most powerful person on the planet wants to get out and talk to people or stop at a diner for a meal.

“You can give a suggestion. You can give advice. But ultimately it’s up to the president,” said 29-year agent Danny Cecere, who retired in 2003.

President Jimmy Carter liked to walk to the South Lawn of the White House and talk to visitors on the other side of the fence, for example, he said.

“Park police on the outer perimeter, they didn’t like it,” Cecere said.

The agents said that having local police on the scene is critical to keeping presidents safe when they choose to stop somewhere unscheduled. When Trump stopped on Sunday, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies were helping keep people back.

Emmett recalled driving around Moscow when Clinton asked to get out of the car and talk to a crowd of people.

“That seems a little bit dangerous,” Emmett said, but Clinton wandered into the crowd anyway.

His fears lessened when “we were immediately surrounded by these very large and menacing-looking policemen in police coats,” he said.

Bongino said even when stops seem impromptu, they often aren’t. Usually, agents have scouted out the lemonade stand where a president wants to stop.

You’re making sure “it’s not the Osama bin Laden school of lemonade-making or something,” Bongino said.

But the agents said that if Trump keeps stopping to talk to supporters along his route between Palm Beach International Airport and the winter White House at Mar-a-Lago, it could raise the level of danger significantly.

“Doing the exact same routine, time after time after time, you’re giving them your playbook,” Emmett said.

For that reason, Bongino expects Trump will start taking advantage of his newly constructed helipad. He didn’t use Marine One this weekend, though.

Not only are helicopters safer than being on the ground, he said, past presidents used them whenever possible so they didn’t disrupt traffic.

“Presidents are politicians,” Bongino said. “The last thing a president in a swing state wants to do is disrupt the locals.”

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Georgia Sports News

  • The Braves returned pitcher Anyelo Gomez to the Yankees Tuesday, four months after he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Gomez gave up nine runs and two homers in his past two relief appearances for the Braves, who would have been required to keep Gomez on their 25-man roster the entire season.  Never miss a minute of what’s happening with the Braves. Subscribe to myAJC.com
  • ATHENS – The empty lockers were when it hit home to those who remained. Or at least for those who saw it after the fact. Then there was Jonathan Ledbetter, who stumbled upon the scene as it was happening in the Georgia locker room. “I tried not to go in the locker room too many times when they were taking the nameplates out because I knew I would get all sentimental and emotional. But I did see the guys’ nameplates getting taken off,” Ledbetter said, with a bit of a rueful smile. “I did have to say goodbye to a bunch of guys, but they’re on to bigger and better things. I’m happy for them. I can’t dwell on the past.” It was a bit of an odd scene at the Butts-Mehre athletic building Tuesday. The new era of Georgia football was getting underway with the first day of spring practice. But the old era was still around as Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel were all hanging around the complex, walking through the hallways, getting ready for UGA’s pro day Wednesday. For the last few years, especially the best one in recent Georgia history, they formed the core of the team. They were the face of the program, the best players and the most vocal leaders. And now they’re gone. “They left their mark here; they left their legacy,” Ledbetter said. “We’re going to try to one-up them. That’s all you can do. I’m going to meet them down the road later in life.” There remains plenty of optimism about Georgia football given the talent that is on the roster and the talent that is still coming in. Still, those are some very big names whose nameplates are no longer on lockers. Is it scary? Or is it exciting? Both? “It’s different,” receiver Terry Godwin said. “I’ve been here with these guys three years, and then they’re finally gone. So it’s kind of something to get used to, not seeing those faces and playing around with those guys. But it’s something you’ve got to go through in life.” This was the first time members of the 2018 team met with the media since the sudden end to their season. Interestingly, players seemed willing to talk about the way the National Championship Game ended. There were no marching orders not to talk about it. Some players even brought it up when that wasn’t the question asked. Godwin paused for a second and smiled when asked if and when he got over that game. “To be honest, me personally, I’m not over it because it’s something I dream about every night,” he said. “One play. We work so hard and got there, and we came up one play short. That hurt me tremendously to see our seniors sit there and cry and just weep. That was very hard. That was tough.” There was a lot of talk about leadership Tuesday. The on-field void left by the departed – especially inside linebacker Roquan Smith – is easier to gauge. It will be hard, but not impossible, given the way Georgia has recruited lately. Nine members of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class already have enrolled and will compete for spots this spring. That doesn’t include 5-star tailback Zamir White, who is rehabbing a right-knee injury. The intangibles, however, are harder to gauge. Quarterback Jake Fromm is back, bringing his boyish enthusiasm, so that should help. But who else? Tight end Isaac Nauta pointed to himself as a vocal leader on offense, along with Godwin and center Lamont Gaillard. On defense, Nauta mentioned Juwan Taylor, who started one game at inside linebacker last season and will be competing for a starting spot this spring. “We got to work pretty quick after the national championship, and all those guys left and were training for the draft,” Nauta said. “So you kind of looked around and realized that there’s a whole new group of guys here. It was a pretty quick turnaround, and it felt weird, because you’ve been with guys for two years and now they’re gone just like that.” Nauta snapped his fingers for emphasis. “I think with football especially it has to be very quick to turn the page,” Nauta said. “If you focus on what you did or you didn’t do, you can’t ever move forward. I’m not saying not to remember it and not to learn from it. But I would say we turned the page really quick and got back to work. Obviously it sucked, and it was a horrible feeling, but we learned from it and I would say we turned the page very quickly.” When the season ended, coach Kirby Smart sat down with several remaining players who would have to assume bigger roles. On and off the field. When Smart became the coach more than two years ago he arranged for players to have their own leadership council, as he called it, and for the first two years many of the same players were on it. Chubb. Michel, Bellamy. Carter. Smith. Isaiah Wynn. John Atkins. Dominick Sanders. And still others. Now, it’s a new group. A very new group. “We’ve got a lot of talent on this team,” Ledbetter said. “It’s just kind of putting it together and making it a family again.” The post A new era arrives for Georgia football appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Apparently Justin Fields’ finger is just fine, thank you very much. Fields came to Georgia as the No. 1-rated dual-threat quarterback in America. So, naturally, everybody in the Bulldogs’ spring camp is talking about how great his arm is. “Cannon” seemed to be the consensus description. Players and coaches fielded a lot of questions Tuesday about Georgia’s latest 5-star sensation. The Bulldogs held their first of 15 workouts at Woodruff Practice Fields and, not surprisingly, all eyes were on Fields as he trotted out in a No. 1 Georgia jersey for the first time. Javon Wims, watching practice from the sidelines on Tuesday, has had the opportunity to throw and catch with the 6-foot-3, 225-pound freshman. The Bulldogs’ leading receiver from last season has been in town training for the pro day workout Wednesday, and Fields has thrown some routes with him. “Great arm,” Wims said. “Cannon.” And that was a description that was offered over and over. “He’s got a cannon,” junior tight end Isaac Nauta said. “He’s a big, physical kid. … He’s a really good kid too. I like the way he acts and his demeanor. He doesn’t get too big of a head. He’s very level-headed. And coming in to a place like this that’s what you’ve got to be.” Said senior wideout Terry Godwin: “He’s got a nice arm. He’s a quarterback. We’re not recruiting a guy who doesn’t have a great arm. … But, overall, he’s a great guy. In 7-on-7, he’s been out there throwing the ball, knowing the checks and everything. He’s carrying himself very well.” For the record, coach Kirby Smart hates such talk. He loathes people heaping praise on players who haven’t yet proven themselves in the heat of meaningful competition. But he also had some nice things to say about Fields, who Georgia had to pry away from an early commitment to Penn State and fight off virtually every SEC and ACC team to land him. “He’s done a tremendous job in the offseason workouts,” Smart said at his spring practice news conference. “He’s a competitor. He competes every day. He’s first in line trying to compete with every guy at his position. From a football standpoint, we haven’t been able to see a whole lot because we haven’t been able to do a whole lot. But he’s a very bright kid, and I’m excited to go see him practice.” Recruiting analysts and those who have worked with Fields in elite prospect camps have maintained all along not to sleep on his passing ability. At Harrison High, he rushed for 2,096 yards and 28 touchdowns, but he also threw for 4,187 and 41 more scores. So he was truly a dual threat. At Georgia, Fields is working behind Jake Fromm, who earned SEC freshman of the year honors as a 14-game starter and 13-game winner last year. Fromm’s obvious edge is having been through all those battles and having complete command of the playbook. But Fields also has impressed in the meeting room. And he didn’t win Elite 11 MVP honors on his running ability. He trained under Ron Veal — the same quarterback coach as Clemson 5-star freshman Trevor Lawrence — and plans to dedicate himself in the film room as much as the weight room. “Right now, I would think the big thing for him is just learning the playbook,” Matt Dickmann, Fields’ coach at Harrison High, told DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell. “That’s the big thing. Once he learns the mental aspect of what he needs to do for each play and what the coaching staff wants, the sky is the limit.” Of course, the Bulldogs are just getting started, so there’s much more to see and learn about Fields. But his reputation precedes him, and that has even Georgia’s jaded veterans eager to see what all the fuss is about. “I haven’t been able to see him escape a pocket or do any of that type of stuff,” Nauta said. But I’ve seen him run through winter workouts and he can run, too. But what’s impressed me is his arm.” The post ‘Cannon’ arm creates buzz for dual-threat QB Justin Fields in Georgia’s spring camp appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Justin Fields took snaps under the watchful eye of James Coley, his new position coach. Jim Chaney worked with his new unit. Brenton Cox and other early enrollees moved through drills. Andrew Thomas took his place at left tackle. The new version of the Georgia football team was on display Tuesday afternoon as it took the field for its first spring practice. As a few members of last year’s SEC and Rose Bowl champion team watched from the sideline, those who remain ran through their first practice with a few of their touted newcomers. (Side note: You will see a version of the term “five-star early enrollee” four times in this story.) Here are some notes and observations from the media viewing period, which lasted about 13 minutes: Cox, the five-star early enrollee, was working with the outside linebackers and wearing No. 1. Cox has been listed as both an outside linebacker and defensive end, but for at least this practice was working outside. Cox, listed at 6-foot-4 and 250, looked a bit thinner than that, and at least to this eye better suited for outside linebacker. Fields, another five-star early enrollee, is also wearing No. 1, as expected, working with Jake Fromm and walk-on quarterbacks Stetson Bennett and John Seter. They were coached by Coley, back working with the quarterbacks after two years coaching Georgia receivers. Coley looked at home, with analyst Jay Johnson also watching from the side, as he did last season. Chaney, still the offensive coordinator, was indeed working directly with the tight ends in his new role as their coach. He could be seen hunched down and working closely with Isaac Nauta, Charlie Woerner and the other tight ends. The first-team offensive line did not offer any big surprises: The right tackle was redshirt freshman Isaiah Wilson, while Thomas was at left tackle, moving over after starting every game at right tackle last season. That has been the plan for awhile. The three interior spots were as they finished last year: Kendall Baker at left guard, Ben Cleveland at right guard and Lamont Gaillard at center. Freshman Cade Mays, another five-star early enrollee, was working at right tackle and wearing No. 77, which had been Isaiah Wynn’s number. Sam Madden, a junior offensive lineman who has played sparingly, was not seen at practice. One tangible benefit for being able to hire a 10th assistant coach: Scott Fountain, in his new role as the special teams coordinator, was working with the kickers and punters. The past two seasons Shane Beamer, who was special teams coordinator and tight ends coach, worked with the tight ends during the early periods while the kickers and punters worked without a full-time assistant coach. Kevin Butler, the student assistant coach the previous two seasons, is still with the team and working with the kickers, at least during the spring. J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte were the first teamers at safety during one drill. Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee were the top two corners. None of that is surprising. It wasn’t apparent who was working at star yet. Zamir White, the five-star tailback and early enrollee, was working on the side, doing light sprints. White is working his way back from knee surgery late last year. The post Georgia practice report: Justin Fields debut, coaches in new roles, one player out appeared first on DawgNation.