Donald Trump’s recent comments about “Second Amendment people” raises an issue that I’ve wondered about for a long time. What standard does the Secret Service use in determining whether its agents need to contact someone who makes a threat against the President or a presidential candidate? And what does the Secret Service do when they contact someone like that?
I ask these questions because there is a chilling quality to such a visit on political speech. Now the Secret Service does not visit every person who makes a crazy comment, as they lack the resources for that and correctly conclude that the vast majority of those statements are harmless. But are there written guidelines that help them assess this? If so, what are they? And would there be a First Amendment claim, say against individual Secret Service agents, if someone felt that they were being unfairly targeted or harassed for things that they said?