Does a video show "armed military escorting" former President Donald Trump during a June 10, 2023, visit to a Waffle House in Columbus, Georgia, and does this escort prove that Trump is still the president of the United States? No, that's not true: By law, the U.S. Secret Service, not the military, protects former presidents. A spokesperson for Fort Moore, a U.S. Army base near Columbus, told Lead Stories that the base did not provide a security detail for Trump during his time in the city.
Furthermore, the identity of a security detail has no impact on a former president's status. Under the U.S. Constitution's 20th Amendment, Joe Biden became president of the U.S. at 12:01 p.m. ET on January 20, 2021, after Trump completed his term in office.
Donald Trump has armed military escorting him! Ya know who gets that kind of protection? The President of the United States!
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Jun 30 20:58:32 2023 UTC)
The video appeared on Facebook two days before Trump's June 13, 2023, arraignment on federal charges related to his storage of classified government documents after leaving the presidency.
The footage depicts Trump's June 10, 2023, visit to a Waffle House in Columbus, Georgia, after addressing Georgia's annual Republican Party convention in the city. Two minutes into the video, a helmeted man in military-style camouflage, carrying a rifle and wearing goggles, can be seen standing outside the Waffle House next to a car from Trump's motorcade. The video's claim implies that this apparent escort means Trump is still the president of the United States.
A spokesperson for a U.S. Army base near Columbus, Fort Moore, told Lead Stories via email on June 30, 2023, that the base and The Maneuver Center of Excellence, which runs Army training programs, "did not provide a security detail for former President Donald Trump during his Columbus, Georgia, visit."
The Secret Service provides protection for former presidents and their spouse after they leave office and "during their lifetime, unless they decline protection," according to the Secret Service website. The Secret Service coordinates its protection with "other federal, state and local agencies" and "public safety officials," the website text states. No mention is made of the military.
The director of community affairs and public information for the Columbus Police Department (CPD), Brittany Santiago, told Lead Stories via email on June 28, 2023, that city police had helped provide security for Trump during his visit to Columbus, but that they could not identify the individual in the video posted on Facebook. Santiago wrote:
While there was an increase in law enforcement (Secret Service, Columbus Police Dept., Muscogee County Sheriff's Office, etc.), I CAN confirm it was CPD's Motor Squad that provided former Pres. Trump's escort to and from the airport.
Lead Stories contacted the Secret Service, Trump's communications team and the Columbus Sheriff's Department for comment about the video and will update this fact check when a response is received.
However, the presence of an armed escort in military fatigues in no way affects Trump's status as an ex-president. According to the U.S. Constitution's 20th Amendment, a president's four-year term ends at noon EST on January 20; the term of the next president then begins at 12:01 p.m. EST on January 20. Joe Biden became president on January 20, 2021.