Secret Service director: Current polarization ‘plays into’ threat environment

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Secret Service Director Kim Cheatle said Sunday that current political divisions play into the domestic threat environment as her agency prepares to protect both parties’ nominating conventions this summer.

When asked by “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos about how “extreme political polarization” feeds “into the threat environment,” Cheatle said threats are constantly evolving but conceded that division plays a role.

“I think it plays into it,” she said. “I think that the environment that we’re dealing with today is certainly different than it was four years ago. I’m sure we’ll see an evolution in the next four years, as well, but it is definitely something that we take into consideration.”

Cheatle added that “there’s nothing specific and nothing credible out there right now.”

Republicans are hosting their convention from July 15-18 in Milwaukee, and Democrats will hold theirs from Aug. 19-22 in Chicago.

Both events will likely tie up a substantial portion of each city’s downtown and require major security presences by the Secret Service and local police.

Cheatle said the Secret Service is monitoring any threats from foreign or domestic terrorism ahead of the events.

“I think we have to make sure that we are assessing the risk for both of those, as well as any other type of threat that may come at us whether it’s a lone gunman, an organized attack or an organized group,” she said.

Both conventions are also likely to draw protesters, especially as liberals continue to object to President Joe Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza, posing a challenge to law enforcement balancing the conventions’ protection and the need to honor demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.

“The Secret Service, as well as Milwaukee Police Department, Chicago Police Department, obviously respect the right for everybody to be able to express their First Amendment rights. Where we have concerns is if those potential demonstrations turned violent, and then appropriate action would be taken. But we certainly welcome people to come out and be able to express their First Amendment rights,” Cheatle said.

She added that “we are definitely preparing in different ways,” noting there aren’t particularly different kinds of threats but that “each city is different.”

Stephanopoulos also asked Cheatle about former President Donald Trump’s sentencing in September of fraud convictions in New York, asking how the Secret Service would protect him in jail if he were to be sentenced to time behind bars — a prospect that legal experts suggest is unlikely.

“We have the responsibility of protecting our folks no matter where they are, and so we will figure out how to strike that balance,” Cheatle said.

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