As soon as I saw the headline to Prof. Turley’s latest post on his blog, “Res Ipsa Loquitur” I knew we had an ethics quiz: “Presidential Protection or Abduction: Why Secret Service Wrong for all the Right Reasons on Jan. 6.”
Turley’s article was prompted by one aspect of the Jan. 6 Commission testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson that President Trump ordered his official SUV to take him to the U.S. Capitol to be on hand with his supporters as they rallied (it turned out to be a “mostly peaceful” rally) against what Trump had told them was the stolen 2020 election. According to the witness, that she was told that T his Secret Service security team refused, causing the President to become furious.
Turley’s take, in brief:
…the Secret Service is trained to take immediate action to protect a president. On the other hand, it cannot effectively control the presidency by controlling a president like a modern Praetorian Guard. In the end, if this account is true, the security team was likely wrong in refusing the order of the President to be taken to Capitol Hill….Trump intended to do exactly what he promised and ordered the Secret Service to take him to the Capitol. But Tony Ornato, White House deputy chief of staff for operations, and Bobby Engel, who headed Trump’s security detail, reportedly refused.
…If true, the security team’s motivation certainly was commendable. It probably prevented Jan. 6 from getting much, much worse…what was the authority of the security team to refuse a direct order from a sitting president to go to Congress?
…The Secret Service has always assumed discretion in seizing a president to protect him from immediate harm [but there was no immediate harm threatened]…Trump reportedly decided he wanted to lead the protests to the Capitol and didn’t care about the security uncertainties — and he actually had a right to do so. Presidents can elect to put themselves in harm’s way… The Secret Service has no authority to put a president into effective custody against his will… In Trump’s case, he reportedly said he did not want to go back to the White House but was taken there anyway.
…This act of disobedience may have saved the country from an even greater crisis…
In the end, the security team was correct on the merits but probably wrong on the law. This was not an unlawful order, and a president must be able to control his own travel. In other words, the agents were wrong for all the right reasons.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is:
Did the Secret Service do the right, ethical thing in preventing President Trump from joining his supporters at the Capitol?
I know what my answer is, but I’ll uncharacteristically stay quiet for a while.
But while we’re discussing Professor Turley, in my estimation one of the very few commentators not with a stated conservative bias who has been fair to Trump and properly critical of the Axis that has been devoted to “getting” him since Trump broke their hearts by defeating Hillary Clinton, take a gander at the reader comments to his post.
There are 320 comments—gee, it must be nice to have that size readership—and almost none of them deal with the issue Turley is raising. The majority, it seems, focus on attacking Turley for “repeating Fox News talking points” (If this issue was raised on Fox, it was because Turley raised it) and being a “sell-out” because hasn’t been condemning Trump for being Trump. Most of the rest is bickering about the Committee, which isn’t germane either, though Turley has certainly criticized its kangaroo court behavior (More Fox talking points!) in other recent columns, and the kind of garbage we have seen in any comments section that isn’t moderated (“Let’s go Brandon!”). Then there are the gratuitous and off-topic comments like,
No R who supports Dobbs is fit for power. Any politician who believes that government has the authority to control a woman’s body, future, and happiness does not understand the meaning of individual rights or the purpose of government. Their contorted view of the Constitution is the poisonous cherry on the cake.
My major reactions to this:
- Bravo to Turley for staying objective and not hesitating to make his informed expert analysis known despite the kind of criticism on his own website, and
- The professor really should moderate his comments.