RNC and Secret Service escalate dispute over security at Milwaukee convention

May 23, 2024, 8:58 PM

The RNC convention which will take place at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee in July accuses Secret Servic...

The RNC convention which will take place at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee in July accuses Secret Service of ignoring security concerns around Milwaukee convention. (Mike De Sisti / The Milwaukee Journal/USA Today Network/File via CNN Newsource)

(Mike De Sisti / The Milwaukee Journal/USA Today Network/File via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) —A dispute over security at the Republican Party’s upcoming Milwaukee convention continued to escalate on Thursday, with the GOP accusing the US Secret Service of ignoring its concerns and the agency claiming the party was undermining efforts to keep the July event safe.

The Republican National Committee has been at odds with the city of Milwaukee and the Secret Service over where to place protesters outside the convention. The party has pushed to move protesters to a designated area several streets away from the pathway of convention delegates and other attendees.

In a letter dated Thursday, a lawyer for the RNC blasted Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle, insisting the security environment around the July convention was “rapidly deteriorating” and demanding she force the city to move the First Amendment Zone where protesters can congregate.

“Rather than dissipating, the overall security climate has worsened significantly over the past month of the USSS’s inaction,” RNC counsel Todd Steggerda wrote, adding that Cheatle’s “failure to act now to prevent these unnecessary and certain risks will imperil tens of thousands of convention attendees.”

In a statement to CNN, Secret Service Chief of Communications Anthony Guglielmi said the service “is confident in the security plan being developed, and will continue to focus on working with our federal, state, and local partners to ensure a safe and secure event.” Moreover, Guglielmi said Steggerda had endangered the event by sharing details of the security plan. The letter included maps of the proposed protest area in downtown Milwaukee.

“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 said.

Guglielmi said the host city is responsible for establishing protest zones, not the agency.

The RNC first publicly raised concerns to the agency over the proximity of planned protest zones in a letter last month. The risks have increased since then, Steggerda wrote Thursday, citing statements made by organizers for the Coalition to March on the RNC 2024 suggesting protesters may ignore law enforcement orders related to where they can demonstrate.

Steggarda also asserted that requests by RNC leadership to meet with Cheatle have gone unanswered. A number of top Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, have reached out to the Secret Service to discuss their concerns, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.

Guglielmi, though, said Secret Service personnel in Milwaukee have held multiple meetings focused on security plans for the convention with RNC Chair Michael Whatley, RNC staff and senators.

“The director of the Secret Service continues to engage with Chair Whatley,” Guglielmi said.

The RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment to the agency’s response.

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RNC and Secret Service escalate dispute over security at Milwaukee convention