Today, President Trump tweeted,

Allegations made by Senator Jon Tester against Admiral/Doctor Ron Jackson are proving false. The Secret Service is unable to confirm (in fact they deny) any of the phony Democrat charges...

I found this odd (I'm not very politically savvy to say the least.) Is it the Secret Service's job to investigate a senator's claims about a Cabinet nominee?

On SecretService.gov, the investigative duties listed include

...threats against Secret Service protectees as well as financial crimes, which include counterfeiting of U.S. currency or other U.S. Government obligations; forgery or theft of U.S. Treasury checks, bonds or other securities; credit card fraud; telecommunications fraud; computer fraud, identify fraud and certain other crimes affecting federally insured financial institutions.

Do the duties of the Secret Service extend to investigating allegations against a White House Medical team member?

Not looking to debate or nit-pick. I know the vehicular claim was erroneous.

4 Answers 4



I know you want to avoid getting too much into the actual claims, but in this case, they explain why the Secret Service would be involved. From CNN:

The White House, however, showed reporters documents on Friday that a White House official claims exonerates Jackson from allegations he inappropriately dispensed pills and wrecked a government vehicle after leaving a Secret Service going away party.

The Secret Service said in a separate statement that it did not find any information to indicate agents intervened when Jackson banged on the hotel room of a female employee while intoxicated on an overseas trip, as four sources familiar with the allegation told CNN the incident did happen. The incident became so noisy, one source familiar with the allegation told CNN, that the Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake then-President Barack Obama.

After the Secret Service statement, a source with direct knowledge of the incident told CNN there was a conversation between White House medical unit staff and the Secret Service at the time in which the Secret Service expressed concern about Jackson's behavior.

Ignoring the substance and veracity of the claims, note that the claims relate to alleged events involving the Secret Service. It's not that the Secret Service would be investigating the allegations. The claim is that they were witnesses.

Doctor Ron Jackson is part of the White House medical team. As such, he worked directly with the Secret Service and people who interacted with the Secret Service. He was also overseas in groups where all the Americans would have had Secret Service protection because they were traveling with protectees within the security zone.

Literal answer

All that said, the normal group that would investigate allegations against nominees would be the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI may or may not have investigated these specific allegations. But some of the witness statements would have been from the Secret Service.

  • Furthermore, if there's allegations of misconduct by the Secret Service agents, then I believe that would be investigated by the Department of Justice's investigator general, not by the Secret Service nor the FBI.
    – Tamzin
    Apr 29, 2018 at 3:08
  • @PinkAmpersand USSS misconduct might be evaluated by DHS OIG, but it can also be evaluated by USSS Office of Professional Responsibility.
    – cpast
    Apr 29, 2018 at 4:06
  • It hast to be noted that - with the benefit of passed time - those allegations came to be false - repeated hearsay. Secret Service stated that "that didn't happen". So it's worth noting that those allegation were immediately characterised as character assasination attemp and - and this will be more in terms of "repeat performance" than "20/20 hindsight" - it was highly credible source(s) in comparision to one "source with direct knowledge".
    – user10424
    May 24, 2018 at 8:47

Secret Service's investigative authority in the cases of (broadly understood) "protection" is severely limited. It is mainly due to the fact that Secret Service agents are prohibited from collecting information. Which is painfully obvious - there could not be a confidential conversation between any two persons within earshot of the USSS agent (Secret Service is also tasked with protection of visiting heads of state in US). They even are dependent on threat assessments on other agencies. Their authority is almost total in WH and possibly in DoT, but outside that USSS agent has even less authority than US Marshall.

So all those allegations would be investigated by the FBI with USSS personnel being witnesses, of course. The additional difficulty is territorial issue. FBI may investigate them, but I'm not sure what penalties any offender would face if they would be outside regulations and/or local code of laws. In other words: it's doubtful that FBI would have the authority to investigate incident overseas at all, in addition to the fact that if there is no crime, there can't be any investigation.

  • Thank you for this informative (and interesting) answer! May 24, 2018 at 12:29

Do the duties of the Secret Service extend to investigating allegations against a White House Medical team member?

It depends on the allegations; but, in this case, no. Secret service agents are "special agents". Special agents have limited authority to conduct investigations and make arrests. Any investigation begun by a special agent stops after it is determined they have no authority to continue. For the Secret Service, the limits are given in 18 U.S. Code § 3056 - Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service. 18 U.S. Code § 3056 (c)(1)(C) limits the authority to crimes against the United States or felonies.

make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony;

Having determined no felony was committed, the special agent then refers the matter to the agency with authority.

The White House Medical Unit [1], of which RDML Ronny Jackson, MD, was the director, is a military unit. As such, any allegations of misconduct would be investigated by a unit of the Department of Defense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Based on the given allegations against Jackson, as a Navy admiral, that authority would have been NCIS. It is not clear that NCIS was called at the time.

"The Senate Armed Services Committee asked the DoD Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the allegations against RDML Jackson on April 26, 2018." [2] On March 3, 2021, the Department of Defense Inspector General released a report concerning the misconduct allegations.

1 "The White House Medical Unit (WHMU) is a unit of the White House Military Office and is responsible for the medical needs of White House staff and visitors. The unit also provides medical care to the President, the Vice President, their families, and international dignitaries visiting the White House."


  • 1
    interesting that we get totally disjoint answers May 14 at 8:16
  • @wrod - Edited for clarification.
    – Rick Smith
    May 15 at 15:18

Among his other duties Doctor Ron Jackson is the President's personal physician. He was also a personal physician of the former President.

While Secret Service can technically investigate anyone who will come in contact with a President (so, yes, potentially all cabinet picks), certainly investigating personal behavior of a President's personal physician is a part of the job of keeping tabs on a President's personal safety.

What it means to "protect the President" may not even be codified in a law. It may very well be simply part of the day-to-day decision making of the Secret Service. If the Secret Service does have discretion as to how it protects Presidents, not vetting a President's personal physician would be a serious lapse in judgement. So it's safe to assume that the President's doctor was vetted and his behavior continues to be vetted to ensure that he continues to provide quality care.

  • I'm new to this site, so don't know the culture. Do you have a source for the statement, "...certainly investigating personal behavior of a President's personal physician is a part of the job of keeping tabs on a President's personal safety"? That implies it's the Secret Service's job to interview all cabinet nominees. Apr 29, 2018 at 1:55
  • @anongoodnurse, Given that their job is protecting the President from all possible threats 24/7, I do not believe this needs clarification. It is certainly within the purview of their job. It's hard to imagine, although I'll concede that it's not impossible, that it would not be a direct requirement.
    – grovkin
    Apr 29, 2018 at 2:03
  • 1
    I don't believe that this is the case. Secret Service cannot investigate anything outside their competences - which are protection of the POTUS and all things DoT related (fake money etc). They do not "investigate anyone who will come in contact with a President". It's FBI's job to provide background checks, approve access level to classified material etc. As I said in my answer - investigative powers come with collection of information, which is prohibited for Secret Service. So I go with @anongoodnurse here. Please provide source, as SS involved in Cabinet nominations sounds ridiculous.
    – user10424
    May 24, 2018 at 8:52
  • @AcePL, you think that disorderly conduct (such as getting drunk and crashing a car) by a member of the White House staff is not something that the Secret Service would need to know about as part of their job of protecting the President's personal safety? A personal doctor may be called upon at all hours of the day to consult, if not handle directly, all medical emergencies striking a President and his family.
    – grovkin
    May 24, 2018 at 18:20
  • @AcePL, I don't know why it needs further explanation that they need to vet such a person. Why would this need to be codified? People are expected to rely on good judgement rather than have everything codified. Asking for a reference is asking for where this needs to be codified. And, while their goals are clearly stated, the means they use to achieve them (keeping the those they are charged to safeguard safe) need not be.
    – grovkin
    May 24, 2018 at 18:22

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