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When does the Secret Service investigate presidential death threats?

Photo: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0, Adrian Cadiz / DoD

SAN ANTONIO - When a private citizen or celebrity directs a threat toward the president, the United States Secret Service springs into action.

That was apparently the case recently when a San Antonio woman posted a pointed anti-Donald Trump comment on Facebook the Secret Service deemed worth investigating.

When a Secret Service agent arrived at her apartment accompanied by a member of the San Antonio Police Department to question her about the post, the woman opted to make a video recording of the hallway interview. She then posted it on Facebook.

To date, the woman has declined to speak publicly on her original post or the four-minute video she made of her conversation with the Secret Service. She has retained an attorney, according to a friend of hers.

Paul Duran, special agent in charge of the local Secret Service office, would not discuss specifics of the local incident. But he did explain what his staff is charged with investigating.

“We’re not here to limit anybody’s free speech rights," Duran said Monday. “But if it’s threatening in nature to one of our protectees, then we try to determine credibility.”

Duran refused to reveal how often his office responds to complaints about threats to either President Trump or other public figures.

“Whenever the circumstances arise, we will go on it,” he said.

Several celebrities have been linked to threats against the president, ranging from Kathy Griffin to Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Mickey Rourke and Johnny Depp.

Griffin participated in a Trump decapitation photo stunt in 2017 that led to a Secret Service investigation.

Two years ago, Madonna criticized the presidential election “Yes, I'm angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that this won't change anything. We cannot fall into despair."

Threats are not limited to celebrities.

Last month, an Arizona man was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for threatening to shoot President Trump.

A Kerr County man, Gavin Friedman, pleaded guilty to four counts of writing letters threatening to kill former President Barack Obama and blow up the White House in 2016. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Reiterating he was not speaking about a specific case, Duran said it is his staff’s job to take threats seriously and investigate when needed.

“We try make a determination of the credibility of the threat,” he said.

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