Not since 2009 has a member of the American president’s cabinet received protection from the US Marshal Service, the federal agency usually responsible for handling security for judges, witnesses, fugitives, and prisoners.
Education secretary Betsy DeVos—already a departure from the norm in every other way, with her many financial conflicts of interest, controversial viewpoints, and relative lack of education experience—now breaks that pattern. Of all the controversial officials in Trump’s cabinet, she is the only one to receive a security detail.
She will be protected by US marshals for the next four years under an agreement signed this month, according to the Washington Post (paywall). Marshals began protecting her on Feb. 13, a few days after she was blocked by protesters from entering a Washington, DC school.
DeVos’s department will pay the cost for the routine protection, and it’s not cheap: Fees come out to about $1 million a month so far.
A marshals spokesperson told the Post that the education department—which is already straining under Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts—has agreed to pay $7.78 million for services from February to September, and did not provide details for what the costs will be after that. More than 20 people are in charge of guarding DeVos, with salaries ranging from $95,000 to $146,000.
The move is telling of both DeVos’ continued controversiality amongst the American public and of the unusual amount of vitriol leveled against her. Her confirmation was met with rampant protest before and after; her February visit to the DC school was met with cries of “Shame! Shame!” and a possible physical confrontation. A US official told the Post she’s received more threats than previous individuals in the role.
There have been previous education secretaries protected by department employees, but none receiving official federal protection.
The last cabinet member guarded by US marshals was the director of the office of national drug policy—which stopped being a cabinet position in 2009.