COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ever since Joe Biden became a presidential nominee, he immediately received Secret Service protection, said Nick Steen, who served in the Secret Service for 27-years.
“There is a separate division within the Secret Service called the candidate nominee protective division and that who is responsible for all the candidates and the nominees,” Steen said.
Steen helped guard Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.
President Bush, he said, posed a unique challenge.
“President Bush was a world-class runner. There was no doubt he was very, very fast. There was not a whole lot of agents that could keep up with, so we did pretty much have a specialized group that could. Then when he turned to mountain biking, it wasn't like a bike ride down a trail. I mean he was really mountain bike riding and we had to have agents get up to speed and train,” Steen said.
He said President-Elect Biden isn't getting full Secret Service protection yet.
“Once the election is done, certified and that transition begins, what will slowly happen is that resources from the Presidential Protective Division will slowly be given to the presidential elect. So they won't have the full force of the Presidential Protective Division because essentially we will be operating for a two-month period with two presidents,” Steen said.
Steen spent 10 years in the Secret Service before he was selected to the presidential detail. It wasn't just a job, but a call to serve.
“If every day you go into the White House to go to work and go through those gates; if it doesn't give you a little bit of chill down in your bones to realize where you are and what you are doing there's probably something wrong with you,” Steen said.
Steen said because agents go wherever the president is at any time of day, it can take a toll on an agents family.
“It takes a special kind of spouse to deal with a lot of what we do. I thank God for my wife every day that she was able to keep the house running, kids fed, clothed and educated, while I was off playing Secret Service agent,” Steen said.
He said in 2004 he spent 220 nights on the road.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, he spent 250 nights away from his family.
Guarding the president, he said, is a lot like a football player getting ready to run on to the field.
“When game day comes there's no smiles. We are all serious. We are all focused on the mission," Steen said.
Early this week it was reported more than 100 U.S. Secret Service officers were either infected with COVID-19 or told to quarantine because of close contact with someone who had.
All of Donald Trump's children have accepted Secret Service protection.
George W. Bush's daughters, Jenna and Barbara, both received Secret Service protection for his time in office, but they were in their twenties when he left in January 2009.
George H.W. Bush's five adult children did not receive protection when he was in the White House.
The Secret Service is authorized to protect the president, the vice president, the president-elect and vice president-elect, and their immediate families.
It’s unclear if Hunter Biden will accept Secret Service Protection.
Hunter was provided with a Secret Service detail when his father entered the White House from 2009, but stopped the protection in July 2014.
Former presidents and their spouses are given protection, except when the spouse remarries.
In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service to protect a former president and his or her spouse during their lifetime, unless they decline protection.
Children of former presidents are protected until the age of 16.