My Visit with the Secret Service
I have been an ardent critic of Donald J. Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, and I have been a proud member of The Resistance movement since he was elected. Despite being blocked by Trump and visited by the Secret Service, I intend to continue criticizing Trump and his administration. I will not be silenced.
In this article, I provide context for my visit with the Secret Service, what transpired during the visit, and some suggestions that derive from my experience.
I have posted several tweets about Trump that have engendered intense criticism, mostly from Trump supporters. Let me identify and discuss some of these tweets in hopes of creating a context for what may have contributed to my visit with the Secret Service.
On June 6, 2017, I posted a tweet that stated I hope Trump gets pancreatic cancer (see graphic below).
On February 22, 2018, about a week after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I sent the following tweet to Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. I tweeted an apology to her about 11 hours later (see graphics below).
On April 7, 2018, I posted the following tweet about the fire at Trump Tower that occurred on the same date:
Two days later, I apologized for that tweet:
Shorty after my tweets about the Trump Tower fire, Michael “Lionel” Lebron posted the following video to discuss it.
I have also posted several tweets to Donald Trump, Jr. Some of these tweets suggested that it is too bad his father wasn’t aborted as a fetus. The graphic below is a tweet I posted to Donald Trump, Jr. on June 14, 2018, his father’s birthday. The Independent Journal Review posted an article about this tweet, too.
Perhaps my most controversial tweets were ones that called for a scholarly discussion about the ethics of assassination (see graphics below for my July 27 tweets on this topic). I posted a similar tweet, one that did not mention any specific person, on July 3, 2018. I deleted it on the same day and I have thus far been unable to recover a screenshot.
On July 3, 2018, I sent a tweet to Donald Trump, Jr., another tweet about his father being aborted as a fetus (see above for mentions of the original tweets on this topic). I deleted that tweet and I am unable to recover a screenshot at this time. I suspect that tweet caught the eye of a Trump supporter who, in turn, called the Secret Service on me.
On July 3, 2018, I received a phone call from a man who claimed he was with the Secret Service. I thought it was a prank from a Trump supporter, so I hung up on him. I heard a knock on my door about one hour later.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“Secret Service. We want to talk with you.”
I opened the door and saw two black men dressed in plain and informal clothes. One of the Secret Service agents, the one who did most of the talking during our visit (hereafter referred to in this article as Agent 1 [the other agent is hereafter referred to in this article as Agent 2]), told me that they were with the Secret Service and that they wanted to talk to me. I asked to see their identification and each man showed me their badges.
Agent 1 said that I wasn’t required to talk with them, but he added that their report about me would be more favorable if I cooperated. Agent 1 said that the meeting would last about 20 minutes. At this time I told the agents that I have never had any thoughts, plans, or intent to harm Trump, and I reiterated this multiple times during our meeting.
I went inside my apartment and got dressed while they waited outside my door. When I walked out of my apartment, I suggested to the Secret Service agents that we have our discussion in a meeting room in the lobby of my building (see photographs below). The three of us took the elevator to the lobby and we made our way into the meeting room.
Agent 1 sat to my right at the table and Agent 2 sat across from me. Agent 1 proceeded to ask me a series of questions about myself, including but not limited to, my educational and work background, if I own a car, if I own any firearms, my travel history, and if I have ever been to Mar-a-Lago. I told the agents that I have never been to Mar-a-Lago and that I have no plans to go there.
Each of the agents had manila folders. As Agent 1 went through the pages in his folder, I saw printouts of some of my tweets as well as my article A Mental Health Counselor’s Views on Speculations About President Trump’s Mental Health. When I saw the printout of my article on Trump’s mental health, I gladly summarized for them its thesis.
It was clear to me that the Secret Service was concerned about some of my past tweets and not necessarily my article on Trump's mental health. Agent 1 asked me about my tweets regarding the fire at Trump Tower (see above). I told him that although I got excited when I initially heard about the fire, I never wished that anyone would be harmed. I told the agents that I had deleted those tweets and that I regret posting them.
Agent 1 then asked me about my tweet calling for a scholarly discussion regarding the ethics of assassination. I clarified that the tweet was in no way a call for assassination but, rather, it was intended to only generate scholarly discussion about the pros and cons of assassinating a political leader. I told the agents, again, that I have never had any thoughts, plans, or intent to harm Trump. Agent 1 asked me if I have ever had any ideas about harming Mike Pence. I told them that I hadn’t, although I see Pence as a hypocrite.
I explained to the agents that the purpose of my tweets about Trump is to critique him because he is attacking democracy and human rights. They nodded as if to convey they understood. Agent 1 told me that there are specific keywords that raise concerns by the Secret Service. He went on to say that communications that are interpreted by them as a threat will always raise concerns. When I raised the question on what is considered a threat, Agent 2 invoked the adage “I know it when I see it” (see Jacobellis v. Ohio). Agent 2 also suggested that tweets like those posted by Jimmy Kimmel are fine. Agent 1 told me that if I am visited again by the Secret Service, different agents will show up and they will be more aggressive toward me.
At the end of our meeting, Agent 1 requested to see the inside of my apartment. He told me that they only wanted to do a walk through to make sure there was noting crazy on my walls. He said he would not do a search. I complied with their request.
After their walk through of my apartment, I bid farewell to the agents. As Agent 1 was walking out of my apartment, he remarked that he observed a lot of traffic in my area and he attributed the traffic to the Independence Day weekend.
I suspect that a Trump supporter called Secret Service on July 3, 2018, the same day that I posted a tweet to Donald Trump, Jr. (see above). I have received a lot of support on Twitter about this incident and I am thankful for this. The main concern expressed to me on Twitter has been that the U.S. government has infringed on my First Amendment rights. Many people on Twitter, upon learning that I was visited by the Secret Service, also expressed concern about the hypocrisy of it given Trump’s history of threats, including his threats to Hillary Clinton (see videos below), his claim that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters (see video below), and Trump having called the press the enemy of the people.
At a rally on January 23, 2016, Trump stated the following:
“My people are so smart. And you know what else they say about my people? The polls. They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters. OK? It’s like incredible.”
At a rally on August 9, 2016, Trump stated the following:
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”
At a rally on August 25, 2016, Trump stated the following:
“Now she wants to essentially dismantle our Second Amendment. I think the first thing she should do i call up Washington and immediately request that her great Secret Service agents drop all weapons. Let them walk around with no weapons. And let’s see how she feels about that when she wants to take away your guns.”
The Secret Service agents who visited me identified fair guidelines on what could be interpreted as a threat. An article published by Forbes also identifies keywords used by the Department of Homeland Security to monitor social media. My visit with the Secret Service and the support I have received regarding the visit has emboldened me to continue tweeting my criticisms about Trump and to do so more beautifully, more devotedly, and more intensely than ever before. I will take care not to tweet anything that could be interpreted as a threat.