Secret Service vs the President: What if the president wants to do something the Secret Service opposes?

The title kinda says it all.

As I understand it presidents are restricted by the secret service from doing many things (e.g. driving).

So, what if president Biden said he was hopping in a car and driving to Starbucks for a coffee? Would the secret service tackle him to stop him?

I get the secret service would at least discourage such things but will they actively stop them?

Serious question, important for engaging with the premise: how have you come to understand that? What’s your basis, your source for that?

My best guess is, the Secret Service would strongly verbally dissuade him from going to Starbucks, but if he insists, they would hastily secure the area as much as they could and have a dozen guys accompanying him.

Now, for genuine dire issues, such as a report of a hijacked jet flying towards the White House with ETA of minutes, they probably would flat-out drag or carry the president to safety if he’s not cooperating.

Here ya go: LMGTFY - Let Me Google That For You

Didn’t Mr. Biden recently drive an electric car after a press conference?

I also seem to recall Mr. Obama, on a state visit to Ottawa, Canada, walking into a random coffee shop populated by ordinary Canadians, ordering coffee, and handing over a Canadian $5 bill to pay for it.

It seems to me that whatever the US President wants to do, is what the US President gets to do, as long as it’s not too outlandish or dangerous.

Not sure if this is the same instance but this is how those things go:

I don’t know. My understanding is they cannot drive on public roads. President Bush could drive on his private ranch.

No, this is the one I’m referring to:

My mistake; he stopped in for a cookie, not a coffee. Most importantly, if you look at the video, it was a complete surprise to the coffee/cookie shop. And apparently, they refused his money; they were happy to make his order “on the house.”

Or else what? Is the Secret Service going to arrest the president?

Well, that’s what the OP is asking.

Certainly they will not arrest him but to what lengths will they go to stop him?

The President is locked out of his limousine. From here:

Responses of “Let me Google that for you”, with or without use of the LMGTFY site, have long been considered too snarky and unproductive for GQ. Please do not do this.

It seems like this kind of question has come up several times before on the board. I’m personally always a bit befuddled by it.

Here’s the U.S. Constitution:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

That’s it. The President is the Chief Executive of the United States, and holds all executive power. The Secret Service, as a division of the Executive Branch, has no authority over the President. Constitutionally, it cannot have any authority over the President. They can’t do anything other than strongly protest if the President does something they don’t want him to.

Of course, they’re still bound by the laws of the United States. They’re not bound to follow illegal orders, and are themselves legally liable if they knowingly do so. But it’s a live debate among constitutional scholars if the President can be arrested by Federal agents while in office. Still, if the President tries to do something blatantly illegal, the Secret Service is probably on pretty solid legal ground if they stopped him.

And, of course, the President isn’t an absolute monarch, and Secret Service agents are civilians. They can refuse orders that would involve actions beyond the legally defined parameters of their jobs and duties.

Other than that, though, Secret Service agents are bound to follow whatever orders the President gives them, and they can’t give the President any orders. They are his subordinates.

From the early 1960s (things may have changed since then):

"The former (Secret Service) agents described their embarrassment and anger at Kennedy’s womanizing in ‘‘The Dark Side of Camelot,’’ a new book by Seymour M. Hersh. In a typical passage, one former agent, Larry Newman, told Mr. Hersh: ‘‘You were on the most elite assignment in the Secret Service, and you were there watching an elevator or a door because the President was inside with two hookers.’’

If I remember correctly from 9/11, Secret Service officers “escorted” Cheney to the bunker in the White House so rapidly that they were essentially carrying him. On the other hand, they tried to dissuade Bush from returning to the White House that evening but he insisted on it and so it happened.

So I agree, in an emergency circumstance the Secret Service isn’t going to confer with the President on what he wants – they’re going to shove him into the car and speed off. But if he insists on doing something the Secret Service can try to dissuade him but ultimately will have to make the best of it.

They touched upon this on The West Wing. The Secret Service can advise the President not to do something, but the President does not have to take their advice, at which point, their job is to make it as secure as possible. The President is in charge.

This is interesting. I agree with the general consensus that the Secret Service has no authority over the President, although in dire circumstances they may act without his specific approval.

But does the Vice President doesn’t have any authority here? If the VP wants to leave the bunker at risk to himself, does the Secret Service have to let him do so.

That’s a bit more of an interesting case. The VP does not have any constitutional authority over the Secret Service. On the other hand, the Secret Service, AFAIK, does not have any statutory authority over designated protectees. I’m not really sure how they could. I can’t see how legally they could do anything more than protest, or at most refuse to continue the protection if the protectee refuses to abide by their guidance.

If the Secret Service tried to forcibly prevent the VP from leaving the bunker, they’d effectively be detaining him without warrant or probable cause. They could plead exigent circumstances, which it seems to me would apply to the initial “escort”. But once they’re in the bunker, if Cheney demanded to be let out, I can’t think of what legal authority they would have to detain him against his will, even for his own protection.

Expanding on that, what if POTUS told them to not let him out?

It seems plausible that whatever standing orders the Secret Service has in the event of emergency would carry the legal weight of “ordered by the President”, and they probably include "don’t let the VP wander away from the bunker.

So even if POTUS doesn’t specifically tell them right now to not let the VP out, presumably he (or a previous one) approved the Secret Service emergency procedures they’re following. So he’d actually have to actively rescind the order for the VP to get away.

Such orders seem likely to survive any future Constitutional challenges as well. The Supreme Court traditionally gives extremely wide latitude to the executive operating in times of crisis.

This assumes that the President has the authority to order the VP to submit to bodily force against his or her will. The Prez doesn’t have that power.

I would venture a guess that during an emergency, it is assumed that the Prez or the VP would consent to a carrying or pushing out of the way of an emergency much like it could be assumed that a person on the street would consent to be pushed out of the way of an oncoming car.