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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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Latest Bulldog News

  • Carla Williams, a former Georgia women’s basketball player and considered by many the heir apparent to be Georgia’s next athletic director, is instead set to be the new A.D. at Virginia. Williams, currently UGA’s deputy director of athletics, will be hired by UVA, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported on Saturday night. There was no immediate confirmation from UGA. The news could have far-reaching consequences in UGA athletics, as Williams has handled a number of responsibilities as the top aide to athletics director Greg McGarity. McGarity’s contract runs out the summer of 2019. The next-highest ranking member of the athletics department is Josh Brooks, the executive associate athletics director. At Georgia, Williams has been a constant but quiet presence, responsible officially for almost everything involved in athletics. (Her bio on the web site lists her duties including supervision of  academic support, business operations, compliance, event management, external operations, facilities, human resources, sports medicine, strength and conditioning, student services and ticketing.) A native of LaGrange, Williams played basketball under Andy Landers from 1985-89. She went into sports administration, including in UGA’s compliance department, also going on to work at Florida State and Vanderbilt. She returned to Athens in 2004, gradually rising to become the top deputy in the athletics department. Williams will replace Craig Littlepage, who has been Virginia’s athletics director since 2001. The post Georgia deptuty A.D. Carla Williams set to take over at Virginia appeared first on DawgNation.
  • What’s with all the comparisons? The comparisons between Georgia and Alabama are being tossed around left and right these days. What with both teams undefeated, holding court in the top four and commanding the SEC, there is more to compare than just Kirby Smart and Nick Saban. But now eight weeks into the season and there is only one common opponent the two share: Vanderbilt. And just what did Vandy head coach Derek Mason have to say in regards to which of the two, Georgia or Alabama, is the better team? Well, Mason went with the Tide. “Having played both teams, Alabama’s the better team, just in my mind,” Mason said during Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “I think where the difference is in Alabama’s secondary… Alabama’s just a purely dominant defense right now.” via GIPHY Interesting. So, let’s rewind shall we? Alabama played Vanderbilt on Sept. 29 in Nashville. Not even going to lie, ‘twas ugly. 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Dawgs on social Face full of shoulder pad. #ATD pic.twitter.com/G2t4MZ4OaH — Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) October 19, 2017 More importantly: All-American Teammate @RoquanSmith1 https://t.co/HZpeMxb4UQ — Cameron Nizialek (@CamNizguy) October 18, 2017 The post Comparisons between Georgia and Alabama don’t really stack up appeared first on DawgNation.
  • (Note: This is part of a series of stories on legendary Georgia Bulldogs.) DULUTH, Ga. – It’s one of the smallest pictures you’ll find on the walls of D.J. Shockley’s basement. And there are a LOT of pictures in his basement. Some are big, some small, some in fancy frames, others just frameless posters. There’s even a life-size banner of Shockley that a friend snagged from the side of Sanford Stadium back in the day. But this one picture, the little one in the nondescript black frame, is his favorite. It features a beaming Shockley in the middle, his mouth agape in what must’ve been a full-guttural laugh. To his left in the picture, arm-and-arm in an embrace, is Georgia head coach Mark Richt sporting a giddy smile himself. Teammate Kedric Golston and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive are also in the shot, but they’re in the periphery, both literally and figuratively. D.J. Shockley enjoys life these days – especially when he’s at his Duluth home. 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They know Shockley competed with and shared time with “Greenie,” and actually had some good moments here and there. But they also know that he could never unseat the quarterback who would leave UGA as the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. So everybody understands when Shockley explains how he almost left Georgia. Shockley went into Richt’s office after the 2002 season with that expressed intention. But that’s when they had the conversation that Shockley said changed his life. That’s when Richt first uttered those words that are now permanently preserved in black Sharpie on the bottom of a 5-by-7 glossy in the basement of his home. Mark Richt closes the deal “I really believe when you leave here, you’ll leave here with a smile on your face,” is the exact way Richt first put it. But as one might expect, those were simply the last words in a long and heartfelt conversation that started with Shockley saying, “Coach, I’m thinking about leaving.” Shockley recounts it here: “And he says, ‘Shock, first off I’m going to tell you, we love you. You’re gonna get a great education here. I can’t sit here and say, you’re going to play this many series. I can’t sit here and say I’m going to let you start two or three games. I’m not going to do that to you. I’m going to be honest. I’m going to be straightforward. We want you here, we love you here. And I think you will still have a great career here. And I really believe when you leave here, you’ll leave here with a smile on your face.” D.J. Shockey helped UGA and Mark Richt win an SEC title in 2005. (AJC File) Shockley wasn’t sure if he believed that at the time. He entered Richt’s office that day with his mind pretty much made up that he was going to leave if he wasn’t given certain assurances. Like any other athlete of his ilk, Shockley knew he could play. He’d performed well enough not only in practices but also in games to know that. And he knew “Greenie” could, too, and he didn’t hold that against him. But unless Shockley could get himself into a situation where he could truly showcase his talents, he knew his NFL dreams would wither away. Meanwhile, there were plenty of other opportunities to be had. His father, North Clayton High School coach Donald Shockley, had been fielding calls right and left. And they weren’t coming in from lower-division or second-tier schools. Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden were telling his dad Shockley “could walk in right now and play.” “My dad’s like, ‘Hey, you ready to go?’” Shockley recalled with a laugh. But he wasn’t. “At that moment, I knew I had to make the decision for me,” he said. “I had to make a decision that I would live with for the rest of my life. Nobody else would live with this decision. I had to look at myself in the mirror every single day.” Shockley didn’t give Richt his decision right then and there. The plan was to take same time to think about it. But he didn’t really need it. “As I left Coach Richt’s office, I knew this was the guy I wanted to play for,” Shockley said. “No matter where I went, if I went somewhere else, who knows what the situation may be? Who knows what the coach would have been like? But I knew exactly where Coach Richt stood and I knew that he cared about me as a person first, and he knew my abilities. Obviously, he cared about me, and was honest enough with me to tell me the truth. That went a long way for me. And obviously, knowing I would get my degree from University of Georgia, being a guy that will live here, born and raised in Atlanta, Ga., that was another part of it.” Imagine that, Richt kept Shockley at Georgia by telling him exactly what he didn’t want to hear. D.J. Shockley and Mark Richt celebrate the 2005 win in the SEC Championship. (Getty Images) True to his word, there wasn’t a drastic change in the way Richt utilized the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks the next season. Shockley played mainly as a backup to Greene. Eventually they’d establish a rotation; for a while it was every third series. But, generally, Richt went with his gut, changing quarterbacks only when the compulsion or the game dictated it. Shockley was playing though. He appeared in 26 games for the Bulldogs those first three seasons. He had 24 TD passes and 5 interceptions in that span. But it was his senior year before Shockley finally started. And he started with a bang. In the 2005 season opener against Boise State, Shockley established a school record for touchdowns accounted for. He had six – five passes and a run – and the Bulldogs rolled over Boise State 48-13 in a game many of the national pundits had labeled as an upset special. That game served notice to the college football world that Georgia wasn’t going to fall off the map just because all those All-Americans had left. All smiles in the end “Coming into that year, we had a bunch of guys who had been backups for the previous two or three years,” Shockley said. “Greenie left, (David) Pollack left, Thomas Davis. So coming into that season everybody was saying it was rebuilding time for Georgia.” Thanks to Shockley, it was merely a reload year. The Bulldogs were 6-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country when they rolled into Jacksonville to face Florida. But Shockley had sprained a knee the previous week and couldn’t play. Shockley led UGA to a 10-3 record in 2005. He went 10-2 as a starter that year. (UGA) “I didn’t dress out,” Shockley said. “I’m walking around before the game and I notice everywhere I go Charlie Strong (Florida’s defensive coordinator) is following me. He’s literally about 5 yards behind me. He’s watching my gait, seeing if I was going to play.” Shockley didn’t, and Georgia lost 14-10 with Joe Tereshinski III filling in at quarterback. “I remember seeing Urban Myer about 10 years later,” Shockley said. “I introduced myself, and he said, ‘Oh, yeah. I know you are. I remember ’05, we were scared to death you were gonna play. I told Charlie Strong, if this Shockley kid plays, we got no chance!’ It was fun to hear that story.” Georgia dropped a heartbreaker to Auburn in the final seconds the next week, too. But the Bulldogs made it back to the SEC Championship Game, where they were big underdogs to No. 3-ranked LSU. That served as great motivation for Shockley and the Bulldogs. “Nobody was talking about Georgia. ‘Georgia doesn’t belong here. They shouldn’t be here. They’re going to lose by 20.’ It’s the same thing that we heard all year long,” Shockley said. “I still remember to this day, Coach Richt stood in front of the team before we went out and said, ‘You make sure everybody watching this game, and especially those guys with the yellow helmets on, they know the guys with the G are here to play! We took it to heart.” The post Georgia Greats: D.J. Shockley left Bulldogs with smile and an SEC title appeared first on DawgNation.