Two Secret Service agents who rode with President Donald Trump as he drove around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center while he was hospitalized with Covid-19 last year needed to wear full medical protective gear, the agency's director said Thursday.
Secret Service Director James Murray said in a budget hearing with the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security that Trump's desire to be seen outside the hospital in October where he could wave to supporters "was extensively discussed” with doctors beforehand.
He said that the Secret Service talked with the White House medical team and medical staff members at Water Reed beforehand and that the two agents in the vehicle with Trump wore the same kind of personal protective equipment gear that front-line health care workers used.
"The two individuals in the vehicle were fully outfitted in PPE," he said.
White House officials said at the time that Trump was bored and wanted to show strength, but the move was widely criticized. A doctor affiliated with the hospital, George Washington University professor James Phillips, was quoted as saying: "Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential 'drive by' now has to be quarantined for 14 days."
Murray said at the House hearing that he would like to have a replica of the White House at the agency’s training center outside Washington. Using the current training facility "is like having a basketball team practice outdoors in a field, instead of indoors on a basketball court."
He said the new, taller fence around the White House fence has been installed on the north side of the grounds and should be finished a year from now.
“The new fence is a game changer for us,” Murray said, adding that the agency might need to consider setting up a checkpoint farther out to screen people before they can get up to the fence.