Donald Trump Jr. has asked to be removed from Secret Service protection, telling friends he wants more privacy, according to two people briefed on the decision.
It’s a rare move for a member of the president’s family to forgo a security detail, in part because adult children are counseled by the Secret Service that they are quickly seen as targets for those railing against their famous parents.
One close friend of the president’s son said Trump Jr. has been talking for weeks about waiving the 24-hour protection that Secret Service agents provide him, his wife and their five children. But it was unclear Monday night whether he had requested his wife and children be dropped from protection. Secret Service spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan declined to comment on whether Trump Jr. and his family were no longer receiving protection.
"To ensure the safety and security of our protectees and their families, we will not confirm who is currently receiving Secret Service protection," Milhoan said.
Trump Jr.’s wish to quit Secret Service protection was first reported by the New York Times on Monday night.
Several former Secret Service officials strongly recommended that the president’s son reconsider his choice, saying it could put him in jeopardy.
Jonathan Wackrow, a former member of President Barack Obama’s detail and now an executive of a risk-management company in New York, called the decision “shocking.”
"In today's global risk environment, waiving this detail poses great danger to him and to his family," Wackrow said. "What he is becoming potentially is a target of opportunity.
"People who want to lash out at the president are going to seek that path of least resistance," he added. "This decision is negligent."
Trump Jr.'s push to eliminate his 24-hour protection comes at a time when the extended Trump family has faced steady criticism for straining the resources of the Secret Service. The agency's workload for security personnel has demonstrably grown under Trump, who has five children and nine grandchildren. The Secret Service now protects 42 people around the clock, 11 more than it did under Obama. The Secret Service's list of people to protect under Trump includes 18 members of the president's family. The Secret Service acknowledged it is strained to pay its agents overtime based on the demands of multiple round-the-clock details.
Wackrow said he is sympathetic to the hassles of security. Trump Jr. and his wife have struggled with the logistical headache of helping coordinate the five separate details of their children. Rich Staropoli, a former member of the Trump administration and former Secret Service agent, said one frustration has been that the Secret Service has been sending a rotating set of temporary agents to staff the details of Trump Jr.'s young children.
"Every few weeks they get new people," Staropoli said. "There are all these new people coming and going. The kids don't like that. They can't get comfortable with someone they don't know."
Trump Jr. also privately fumed about an incident involving his son Donald III’s detail agents in March. The president’s grandson was being chauffeured by agents in an SUV. He awoke to find two agents had been taking pictures of themselves with him while he had been sleeping.
Protection for adult children is automatically provided, but they can legally turn it down. Ron Reagan declined Secret Service protection during his father's second term as president.