Trump campaign calls out 'critical flaw' in Milwaukee RNC convention's safety from protesters

Trump campaign wants more space between convention and protest areas

ByKelsey Walsh ABCNews logo
Friday, May 24, 2024
Trump team calls out 'critical flaw' in RNC convention safety
The Donald Trump campaign has accused the Secret Service of a "critical flaw" to keep Milwaukee Republican National Convention safe from protesters.

MILWAUKEE -- The Trump campaign on Thursday fired off a letter to U.S. Secret Service Director Kim Cheatle, demanding she fix a "critical flaw" in the security perimeter of this summer's Republican National Convention, claiming that attendees' safety is at risk as protesters plan to descend on the area.

The convention, slated for July 15-18 in Milwaukee, includes a perimeter that encompasses a nearby park, Pere Marquette.

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As of now, pedestrians would have to walk through Pere Marquette, which is owned by the city, to reach the facilities. According to a person familiar with the security plan, the park serves as a natural congregation point and there's a heightened concern that attendees' safety may be at risk if the park is not secured.

The letter, obtained first by ABC News, comes following multiple attempts from GOP congressional lawmakers, including Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Ron Johnson and Sen. Rick Scott. They requested to meet with Secret Service and RNC leaders to discuss safety and security at the convention as protester make plans to demonstrate.

The crux of the request from the Trump campaign is they would like the Secret Service to create a cushion area -- a one-block adjustment -- between the RNC facilities and the designated protest areas.

In the letter, Todd Steggerda, counsel to the Republican National Committee, said that the Secret Service is ignoring their concerns and multiple attempts of outreach about adjusting the security perimeter.

"To date, the local USSS team has been unresponsive to the RNC's reasonable proposal, as set out in my April 26 letter, to alleviate these safety risks through a very modest alteration of the Perimeter -- namely, to expand a small portion of the Security Perimeter approximately one block to the East to encapsulate the Park," Steggerda wrote.

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Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said in a statement to ABC News that "demonstration zones for the convention are designated by the host city, not the Secret Service."

He noted that the agency has been in constant talks with Republican National Committee Chair Michael Whatley, RNC staff members in Milwaukee, and members of the U.S. Senate about the security plan for the convention, adding that "we take security planning for these events extremely seriously,"

"Our security perimeters are based on public safety metrics, including protective intelligence, risk, and threat assessments. Our model is designed to ensure the highest level of security while minimizing impacts on the public," Guglielmi said.

"Publicly disclosing security information, as done in this letter, undermines our ability to maintain the integrity of our security plan and keep the convention, attendees, and the public safe," Guglielmi added.

The city of Milwaukee has not identified "any critical flaws" and is coordinating with "multiple agencies" to ensure high-level security plans, said Jeff Fleming, Milwaukee's director of communications.

The letter claims that someone with the Secret Service said it was "illegal" to adjust the security perimeter -- however, the Trump campaign insists that the agency has the final authority and discretion to adjust it.

The adjustment to the perimeter would create a balance of security and public safety, the letter says. The Trump campaign claims that moving the perimeter allows attendees, journalists and community members to walk safely, be treated with respect and dignity, and have their first-amendment rights protected. One of those rights includes ensuring the right to a peaceful protest and assembly within sight and sound of the convention. The proposed adjustments establish that this will still happen.

The RNC's demand comes as increased political protests against the war in Gaza are spreading across the country -- with many playing out on college campuses. Several of the protests have resulted in arrests.

More than 50,000 attendees and additional spectators are expected to attend the RNC. Thousands of protesters are expected as well.

The Trump campaign's urgency comes as the convention rapidly approaches.

"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 writes in the letter.

ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.