More than 130 staffers tested positive for COVID-19 after agents on its protective details were forced to attend Trump rallies and put themselves in the splash zone of a highly infectious president. During the Capitol siege, Secret Service officers rushed Pence—the target of would-be assassins, according to prosecutors—to his office near the Senate floor, just steps ahead of the mob. Now the service must adjust to a world where white-supremacist or restorationist violence is expected, where mobs can suddenly breach perimeters, where drone technology is cheap and therefore easily available, and where members of the military and law enforcement are potential insider threats.
Any possibility of normalcy evaporated during the Capitol siege. “That went out the window, based on the current threat environment,” Chuck Marino, a former Secret Service supervisory special agent who retired in 2015, told me. “The domestic threat, violent extremism, and what we saw on [January 6]—you’re seeing, in this case, the Secret Service adapt.” he said. The agency could do more to make sure that extremism in its ranks is detected and neutralized, six former members of presidential protective details told me. (The Secret Service did not respond to a request for comment.)
One of the things the Secret Service is adapting to is the previously unimaginable fact that the president of the United States is the one inciting political violence. “You do need to take the president into the threat environment,” Marino said. “It’s not normal that we need to take the language of a commander in chief into account in the threat assessment. But here you needed to.”