RNC accuses Secret Service of not addressing convention security concerns

The Republican Party is firing its latest salvo in its fight with the Secret Service over placement of a protest zone at the GOP convention in Milwaukee in July.

In a letter to Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle on Thursday, Republican National Committee counsel Todd Steggerda warned of escalating risks of violence at the convention and accused the Secret Service of not addressing concerns that demonstrators could threaten and hurt attendees.

“Rather than dissipating, the overall security climate has worsened significantly over the past month of the USSS’s inaction,” Steggerda wrote. “Your failure to act now to prevent these unnecessary and certain risks will imperil tens of thousands of Convention attendees, inexcusably forcing them into close proximity to the currently planned First Amendment Zone.”

Republicans have complained that a designated protest area is in too close proximity to the convention’s security perimeter around the Fiserv Forum, where the convention is set to take place. GOP officials have proposed a one-block adjustment to the protest site which, according to the letter, “is narrowly tailored to balance the multiple concrete, specific, and well-founded national security and public safety risks … with the need to ensure the rights of peaceful protest and assembly within sight and sound of the convention.”

Republicans have over the last month sent three letters to the service outlining their concerns. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also written a letter. Additionally, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, has spoken with the organization, according to a person familiar with the talks who was granted anonymity to discuss the matter.

Aides to House Speaker Mike Johnson and congressional security officials have also been in touch with the agency, and Scott is expected to speak again with the USSS. But Republican officials say they have been frustrated by the service’s unwillingness to adjust the protest zone.

A Secret Service spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier this month, a USSS representative told The Washington Post that the service was “confident” in its blueprint and that its development was “based on security considerations, including risk and threat assessments, and is not a political matter.”

“With less than two months before the Convention and even less time before the USSS finalizes the Plan, it is imperative you take personal and immediate steps to fix this unacceptable flaw in the design of the Security Perimeter,” Steggerda wrote.

Democratic Party officials are also bracing for protests when they hold their convention this August in Chicago. After the war in the Middle East broke out in October, left-leaning protesters supporting Gaza have demonstrated throughout the U.S., including most recently on college campuses. Those campus demonstrations have at times led to arrests, including at Columbia University, where authorities took into custody more than 300 demonstrators.