The U.S. Marshals Service has taken the unusual step of providing a protective detail to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who emerged from a contentious nomination process as a lightning rod of controversy.
DeVos last week was briefly blocked by protesters from entering a Washington middle school. One of those protesters has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of assaulting a police officer stemming from the incident. Police said the man also physically tried to block DeVos’ vehicle.
Drew J. Wade, a spokesman for the Marshals Service, said in an email to POLITICO that the law enforcement agency “is not aware of providing a protective detail for the U.S. secretary of Education in the past.”
“The Attorney General authorized the U.S. Marshals to provide the protective detail for Secretary DeVos,” Wade said. The Marshals Service, which is part of the Justice Department, declined to provide additional details about the new security measures or who requested them.
While security for top government officials varies across agencies, the Marshals Service is not currently protecting any other Cabinet member. The Marshals Service previously protected the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy when it was a Cabinet post, Wade said.
The past four Education secretaries have been protected by the Education Department’s own small security unit, which is comprised of about a half dozen agents, according to a former department official. Two or three of those agents at a time have typically protected the secretary at events in the Washington area, the former official said.
It’s not clear how the U.S. Marshals are coordinating protection of DeVos with the Education Department’s security unit. The department did not respond to requests for additional information about DeVos’ security.
Following last Friday’s incident outside the D.C. school, DeVos has made several public appearances in the city — she spoke to an association of magnet schools, for example, and also to a conference of community college leaders. Both times, she appeared to be under tighter security than previous Education secretaries.