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Judicial Watch: Records Show Secret Service Ordered Staff to Not Respond to Head of RFK Jr.’s Private Security

(Washington, D.C.) Judicial Watch announced today that it received 63 pages of records from the United States Secret Service in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that show Assistant Director Michael Plati ordering his staff not to respond to a request for information from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s head of security. The documents also confirm that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alexander Mayorkas and President Biden both have the discretion to provide Secret Service protection to Kennedy at any time.  

Judicial Watch received the records through a September 26, 2023, lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after it failed to respond to a July 31 request for records regarding the decision to not provide Secret Service protection for Kennedy (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:23-cv-02846)).

The newly obtained records include a completely redacted June 2, 2023,  report titled “Protective Intelligence Assessment – 2024 Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.”

 On May 17, 2023, an individual, whose name is redacted, from the protection company Gavin de Becker Associates, which Robert F. Kennedy Jr. disclosed is providing him with protection, sends an email to officials in the Office of Protective Services with the subject “From [redacted] quick question and heads up…” The body of the message is redacted except for the greeting and closing.

The message is forwarded to Deputy Assistant Director William Glady and other Secret Service officials whose names are redacted. Glady forwards the de Becker message to Assistant Director Michael Plati as a “FYSA [For Your Situational Awareness].” Plati replies, “No response is required to be given to this individual IMO [in my opinion].” Glady replies, “Agree.” Plati then follows up with, “Nor should it.” Glady responds, “All parties are aware.” Plati replies, “Thank you.”

The records also include a document titled “Campaign 2024 – Candidate Protection: Who receives protection?” that describes how the Secretary of Homeland Security has “broad discretion” when authorizing Secret Service protection to presidential or vice-presidential candidates:

Who receives protection?

The Secret Service does not determine who qualifies for protection, nor is the Secret Service empowered to independently initiate candidate protection.

Under 18 U.S.C.’ 3056(a)(7), “[m]ajor Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates,” as identified by the Secretary of Homeland Security, are eligible for Secret Service protection.

Title 18 U.S.C’ 3056(a)(7) authorizes the U.S. Secret Service to provide protection for major presidential and vice presidential candidates:

• Protection is authorized by the OHS Secretary after consultation with the Congressional Advisory Committee

• The Congressional Advisory Committee includes: Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, and one additional member selected by the others

• Protection under these guidelines should only be granted within one year prior to the general election. Protection more than one year prior to the general election should only be granted in extraordinary, case by case circumstances in consultation with the committee, based on threat assessment and other factors.

Criteria have been established to assist the OHS Secretary and the advisory committee in their decision making (as of 2017). Candidates must:

When determining whether a candidate for the Office of President or Vice President of the United States qualifies as a major candidate, the Secretary has broad discretion and may consider a variety of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to:

1. Whether the candidate has publicly announced his or her candidacy and has filed the appropriate documentation with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and is in compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, and related laws;

2. Whether the candidate is actively campaigning on a national basis for the office for which his or her candidacy has been announced, as demonstrated by operating a national campaign apparatus, regularly appearing at public events in multiple states, producing and publishing campaign advertisements, and other similar indicia of a campaign;

3. A threat assessment conducted by the Secret Service of general or specific threats directed towards the candidate. (for these purposes, “threats” should be defined as explicit threats of bodily harm to the candidate or indications of inappropriate behavior towards the candidate suggesting potential bodily harm);

4. Whether, during and within an active and competitive major party primary, the most recent average of established national polls, as reflected by the Real Clear Politics National Average or similar mechanism, the candidate is polling at 15% or more for 30 consecutive days;

5. Whether the candidate is the formal or de facto nominee of a major party for President or Vice President;

6. Whether the candidate is an independent or third party candidate for President polling at 20% or more of the Real Clear Politics National Average for 30 consecutive days;

7. Whether the candidate is the Vice Presidential running mate of the above independent or third party candidate

What is the history of candidate/nominee protection?

Candidate and nominee protection was expanded to include major candidates for president and vice president in 1968:

• Major candidates and their spouses began receiving protection after the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968. PL-90-331 was passed June 6, 1968. (Language since adopted into 3056).

• Prior to this event, candidates and their families did not receive Secret Service

protection

• Protection of a candidate/nominee is designed to maintain the integrity of the democratic process and continuity of government

A June 13, 2023, email includes a “KENNEDY CPAC [Candidate Protection Advisory Committee] Criteria Analysis.” The document lists the various criteria for providing Secret Service Protection to a candidate but redacts the analysis of each point. For example, the agency redacts the analysis related to:

A threat assessment conducted by the Secret Service of general of [sic] specific threats directed towards the candidate (for these purposes, “threats” should be defined as explicit threats of bodily harm to the candidate or indications of inappropriate behavior towards the candidate suggesting potentials [sic] bodily harm);

In a June 5, 2023, email thread under the subject line “Request for Protection received at DHS” a program manager from the Executive Secretariat of Secret Service, whose name is redacted, writes:

[Redacted] DHS has received the attached letter from the RFK Jr. campaign requesting protection. The letter references an assessment the campaign has conducted on its own… DHS is seeking input on the appropriate process for response so that they can task/track in their systems appropriately. Once you’ve had a chance to review, please let me know what the preference is so we can stay synced.

Glady forwards the message to Plati, noting, “We received the hard copy today. The word document is what goes over to the Hill indicating our recording Secretary recommendation.”

On June 15, 2023, the chief operating officer of the Secret Service emails officials in the offices of Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell with the subject “Candidate Protection Advisory Committee Material:”

As the Recording Secretary for the Candidate Protection Advisory Committee, I write to provide you with the materials compiled by the United States Secret Service (Secret Service) to assist in your review of the request submitted on behalf of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. As set out in the Department of Homeland Security ‘Guidelines for Authorizing Secret Service Protection to U.S. Presidential Candidates’, the Secret Service has prepared an analysis of the factors listed in Section II. The analysis and relevant supporting documents as well as the request for protection are attached.

The records indicate that the Candidate Protection Advisory Committee, which consists of congressional leaders and the Senate sergeant at arms, received briefing information on the Kennedy protection issue.

“These documents confirm the bureaucratic and political runaround the Biden administration went through to ultimately deny Robert F. Kennedy Jr. the requested Secret Service protection,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Biden administration’s refusal to provide Secret Service protection to Mr. Kennedy is dangerous and vindictive. Congress would do well to follow up on these disturbing documents uncovered by Judicial Watch’s FOIA investigation and lawsuit.”

In September 2023, Judicial Watch received Secret Service records detailing the denial of protection to presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., despite having received numerous threats from “known subjects.”

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