NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “This is one of those books that will go down as the seminal work—the determinative work—in this field. . . . Terrifying.”—Rachel Maddow
The first definitive account of the Secret Service’s rise and fall, from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the alarming mismanagement of the Obama and Trump years, right up to the January 6th insurrection —by the Pulitzer Prize winner and #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of A Very Stable Genius.
For most of the last decade, Carol Leonnig has covered the Secret Service for The Washington Post, exposing the agency’s secrets, scandals, and flaws—from a toxic work culture to dangerously outdated equipment to deep resentment among the ranks at key agency leaders who prioritized protecting the agency’s once-holy image over fixing its flaws.The Secret Service, on the other hand, wasn’t always so troubled.
he Secret Service was founded in 1865 in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, but its true story begins in 1963, with the death of John F. Kennedy.This once-sleepy agency was shocked into action by its failure to protect the president on that fateful day in Dallas, and it was radically transformed into an elite, highly trained unit that would redeem itself several times, most notably by thwarting an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981. This reputation for bravery and excellence, however, would not last indefinitely.Break-ins at the White House, an armed gunman firing into the residence’s windows while confused agents stood by, and a massive prostitution scandal among Secret Service agents in Cartagena, to name a few, had the once-proud Secret Service running on fumes and beset by mistakes and alarming lapses in judgment by Barack Obama’s presidency.With the election of Donald Trump, a series of promised reforms were thrown out the window, as a president who despised public service instead exploited the Secret Service for political and personal gain.
To investigate these issues within the ranks, Leonnig spoke with dozens of current and former agents, government officials, and whistleblowers who risked their jobs to speak out about a struggling agency in desperate need of reform. “I will be forever grateful to them for risking their careers,” she writes, “not because they wanted to share tantalizing gossip about presidents and their families, but because they know that the Service is broken and needs fixing. By telling their story, they hope to revive the Service they love.”