January 25, 2017
A senior U.S. Secret Service agent posted Facebook condemnations of President Trump during the past seven months, including one in which she said she wouldn’t want to “take a bullet” for him.
She explained herself saying she viewed his presidential candidacy as a “disaster” for the country, and especially for women and minorities.
Kerry O’Grady, the special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Denver district, oversees coordination with Washington-based advance teams for all presidential candidate and presidential trips to the area, including all upcoming or future trips by the president, vice president or Trump administration officials.
Despite her senior security role, she has made her disdain for Trump and his incoming administration clear to her Facebook followers, who included current and former Secret Service agents and other people who were employees at the time of the posts. O’Grady’s posts triggered at least one complaint to the office that oversees investigations into Secret Service misbehavior, two knowledgeable sources told the Washington Examiner.
In one Facebook post O’Grady wrote at 11:07 p.m. on a Sunday in October, she endorsed Hillary Clinton and said she would endure “jail time” rather than “taking a bullet” for what she regarded as a “disaster” for America.
The post didn’t mention Trump by name but clearly referred to him.
In the same post, she mentioned the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch staff, except the president, vice president and some other senior executive officials, from engaging in certain political activities.
“As a public servant for nearly 23 years, I struggle not to violate the Hatch Act. So I keep quiet and skirt the median,” she wrote. “To do otherwise can be a criminal offense for those in my position. Despite the fact that I am expected to take a bullet for both sides.
“But this world has changed and I have changed. And I would take jail time over a bullet or an endorsement for what I believe to be disaster to this country and the strong and amazing women and minorities who reside here. Hatch Act be damned. I am with Her.”
Secret Service employees are among those federal employees subject to enhanced Hatch Act restrictions, including these two rules:
- May not post a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
- May not use any email account or social media to distribute, send or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
Asked for comment, the U.S. Secret Service responded: “The USSS is aware of the postings and we are looking into the matter.”
In a lengthy interview with the Washington Examiner Monday, O’Grady said she took down the post after two to three days of greater reflection and wasn’t trying to imply she wouldn’t take a bullet for Trump or any officials in the Trump administration.
“It was an internal struggle for me but as soon as I put it up, I thought it was not the sentiment that I needed to share because I care very deeply about the mission,” she said.
O’Grady repeatedly stressed that she would in no way shirk her duties to protect the president because of her opposition to Trump’s candidacy and support for Clinton.
“No, not at all. I firmly believe in this job. I’m proud to do it and we serve the office of the president,” she said.
At the time of the posting, she said she was reacting to news about Trump sexually assaulting women. O’Grady’s Facebook post came in the wake of the release of a video in which Trump and “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush engaged in a lewd conversation about women in which Trump bragged about being able to grab women by their genitals.
O’Grady said she had experienced sexual assault in college and “there was a very emotional reaction to what was said.”
“But I recognize that the agency is the most important thing to me. My government is the most important thing to me,” she said. “I serve at the pleasure of the president, but I still have the First Amendment right to say things.”
O’Grady’s negative stance regarding Trump did not end when he became president.
O’Grady posted the logo for the Women’s March on Denver as her Facebook cover backdrop on Inauguration Day, Friday, Jan. 21 at 12:25 p.m.
When one of her Facebook followers commented that “none of these women represent me #justsayin,” O’Grady countered that “all of these women represent me! Proud to say it! #nasty.” That back and forth, captured in a screengrab of the post, no longer appears on O’Grady’s Facebook page.
Women anti-Trump activists have taken on the label of “nasty woman” to demonstrate their opposition to him. The phrase is a reference to Trump’s remark calling Clinton “such a nasty woman” in the final moments of the presidential debate in late October.
At 11:23 p.m. on Inauguration Day, she updated her profile picture to an artist’s rendering of Princess Leia with the words, “A woman’s place is in the resistance.” “The resistance,” with its allusion to the rebels in the “Star Wars” movies, has become a moniker for those opposing Trump’s presidency.
Those posts remained on O’Grady’s Facebook page as of Monday afternoon. She took the posts down after her interview with the Washington Examiner and replaced them with a backdrop of a snowy scene and a smiling photo of herself sporting ski gear.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, which investigates agency complaints of misbehavior, received a complaint about O’Grady’s Facebook posts on Oct. 11, a source said.
It’s unclear whether the Secret Service explicitly bans agents and other employees from engaging in political speech on social media or has written rules prohibiting it.
But in operational security training, instructors have long warned agents or would-be agents against the use of social media because it can make them vulnerable to threats by exposing their personal information and their movements, according to two knowledgeable sources.
In another pre-election post that no longer appears on her Facebook page, O’Grady shared a Huffington Post story with the headline: “Scott Baio Defends Trump’s Sexism with More Sexism.” She accompanied her Facebook post of the story with the words: “One word: douche. How do you like them apples?!”
In a post in late November, O’Grady shared Facebook remarks from the liberal news outlet Vox, which carried a photo of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and a story with the headline, “Donald Trump nominates Jeff Sessions to serve as attorney general.” The Vox Facebook post commented, “Just a few years ago, this would have been unimaginable.”
O’Grady added her own comment on the post: “We are moving our civil rights into a period of bigotry, misogyny and racism that this country has not tolerated for decades. Dark ages. I am horrified and dismayed beyond words.”
O’Grady appears to have removed the pre-election posts after fellow and former Secret Service agents complained to her supervisors and the Office of the Inspector General, according to two sources familiar with the timing of the posts’ removal.
At publishing time, O’Grady released the following statement:
“I serve this country with pride and I proudly diligently and fiercely protect and support the institutions and pillars of our republic established by the very same document that allows my free expression. I do so with every fiber of my being for the very reason that those institutions are in place to guarantee my right and the rights of all our citizens to voice and express our opinions and beliefs even when and especially when those values may be contrary to those of the party in power. My devotion to mission and country is only strengthened by the fact that the founders recognize the value of dissent and the freedom to assemble and voice those opposing convictions.
“They enshrine those rights for future generations so we avoid the path of authoritarian regimes that shackle their people with fear.”
In response to whether her expression of her opposition to Trump would affect her ability to do her job, she said:
“I hope you understand that’s an emphatic no and I need to make sure that’s resoundingly clear and just reinforces that this job needs to done well.”