RFK Jr.’s Request for Secret Service Protection Is Denied for a Third Time
RFK Jr.’s Request for Secret Service Protection Is Denied for a Third Time

By Jeff Louderback

After the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rejected his plea for Secret Service protection for a third time, 2024 independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called the decision a political move and “weaponization of government” against candidates seeking to unseat President Joe Biden.

Mr. Kennedy is the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was fatally shot in 1968 after giving a presidential primary campaign speech in Los Angeles, and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in Dallas in 1963 as he rode in a presidential motorcade.

Since he declared his candidacy in April, two armed men have been arrested in separate incidents attempting to gain access to Mr. Kennedy.

“Denied Secret Service again! It’s not just about me. It’s another example of weaponization of government against Biden’s political opponents. They know that 30¢ of every campaign dollar goes to keeping me safe,” Mr. Kennedy wrote on X.

“Homeland Security gave no explanation for rejecting our application. Law says all ‘major candidates’ get protection. I’m polling 22 percent (and 40 percent among young voters—beating both President Joe Biden and former President Donald] Trump. My opinion may be biased, but that seems pretty “major” to me, Mr. Kennedy said.

Mr. Kennedy announced his candidacy as a Democrat, then changed his status to Independent in October.

According to federal law, the DHS secretary is authorized to decide who qualifies as a “major” candidate in consultation with the speaker of the House, the House minority leader, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and one additional member selected by the other members of the committee, which as a whole isn’t answerable to the incumbent president.

“I have consulted with an advisory committee composed of the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, and the Senate Sergeant at Arms. Based on the facts and the recommendation of the advisory committee, I have determined that Secret Service protection for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not warranted at this time,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a letter last week.

‘A Political Agenda’

Mr. Kennedy has stated that his campaign has spent millions of dollars on private security.

He contends that the continued denial of Secret Service protection is “political” and part of a trend of federal agencies being weaponized to serve a political agenda.”

Authorities making the decisions would rather he “spend money on protection than spending it on field organization or advertising,” Mr. Kennedy says.

A suspect is taken into police custody outside an event attended by Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr, at Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, Calif., on Sept. 15, 2023. (Courtesy of Stefanie Spear)

In September, an armed man impersonating a U.S. Marshal was arrested outside a campaign event in Los Angeles by security personnel.

A month later, another armed man was arrested for twice attempting to break into Mr. Kennedy’s house in Los Angeles. Mr. Kennedy and his wife, actress Cheryl Hines, were home at the time.

The intruder was later released, and issued a restraining order. He returned to Mr. Kennedy’s house, tried to gain entry, and was arrested again.

When Mr. Kennedy submitted his second request for Secret Service protection, he said he included a 67-page report from Gavin de Becker and Associates, the candidate’s private security firm, “detailing unique and well-established security and safety risks aside from commonplace death threats.”

Mr. de Becker wrote in previous correspondence to DHS that “many media reports have incorrectly reported that Secret Service protection is afforded to presidential candidates only at 120 days prior to the election.”

“This is not accurate, as you know,” Mr. de Becker added before outlining examples of how President Jimmy Carter’s administration offered Secret Service protection for multiple candidates, including Ronald Reagan, “long before the 1980 election.”

The Carter administration provided Secret Service protection for Sen. Edward Kennedy, Mr. Kennedy’s uncle, 441 days before the 1980 election, “even though Kennedy hadn’t formally announced his candidacy.”

The Reagan administration in 1983 and 1987 provided Secret Service protection to Democrat presidential candidate Jesse Jackson 362 days and 351 days before the 1984 and 1988 elections, Mr. de Becker wrote.

Every subsequent administration offered Secret Service protection to presidential candidates, and President Donald Trump gave Democrat candidate Joe Biden the courtesy in March 2020 “about 231 days before the election,” Mr. de Becker noted.

“Every administration for 55 years afforded early Secret Service protection to candidates who requested protection. Your refusal is the sole outlier, making the Biden administration the only one to refuse a protection request.”

Bi-Partisan  Support

Mr. Kennedy has received bi-partisan support in his quest for Secret Service protection.

In October, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent a letter to Mr. Mayorkas, asking why the agency was not protecting Mr. Kennedy.

“On July 21, 2023, you made the executive decision to deny Secret Service protection to Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr. after eighty-eight days of failing to respond to his either formal request for protection, or follow-ups by his campaign,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Oct. 16. “This delay represents a stark departure from the standard fourteen-day turnaround for this type of request.”

Mr. Cruz reminded Mr. Mayorkas of the September incident in Los Angeles.

“This near assassination attempt hardly came as a surprise given that Mr. Kennedy’s original request for Secret Service protection included a 67-page report from a leading private security firm detailing a myriad of unique and well-established safety risks,” the letter said.

Mr. Kennedy is currently traveling around the country, attending private fundraising events and public voter rallies where he talks about his campaign platform and collects signatures to get on the ballot of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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