When he hosted Saturday Night Live last February, comedian John Mulaney joked during his opening monologue about “powerful maniac” Julius Caesar being stabbed to death by “all the senators.”
“That would be an interesting thing if we brought that back now,” Mulaney told the audience.
The comedian said the quip was definitely not about President Donald Trump. But the Secret Service saw it differently.
On March 1, the very day after the show, the agency’s protective intelligence and assessment division opened an investigative file to probe “inappropriate statements regarding President Trump” and noted that Mulaney "exhibits inappropriate behavior."
Mulaney revealed the details of the Secret Service inquiry during an appearance last month on Jimmy Kimmel’s chat show.
His disclosure prompted BuzzFeed News to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the Secret Service.
On Tuesday, the agency turned over 27 pages. The file says a Secret Service research specialist notified the agency's New York intelligence division on March 1, 2020, "for situational awareness," about Mulaney’s monologue, which was “gaining considerable attention.”
“Although no direct threats were made, due to the popularity, it is likely concerned citizens will report this,” the documents say, which included news stories about Mulaney’s monologue from Breitbart and Fox News.
While the records note the agency stopped short of launching a full-blown investigation, they also reveal that on March 2 a Secret Service agent contacted Thomas McCarthy, global chief security officer and senior vice president for NBC, “to express the agency’s desire to discuss the aforementioned incident with attorneys for Mulaney.”
The records say the agency did not make contact with Mulaney and recommended no further action.
However, during his appearance on Kimmel, Mulaney said he spoke to a person at the agency who understood his joke had “nothing to do with Donald Trump because it was an elliptical reference to him.”
“I didn’t say anything about him,” Mulaney said, adding that he has joked about Trump for more than a decade. “In terms of risk assessment, no one who’s ever looked at me thought I registered above a 1.”
The Secret Service documents say Mulaney’s file was closed four days after it was opened, on March 5. It was updated in December when Mulaney acknowledged during his Kimmel appearance that the Secret Service had made contact.
Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He is a 2018 Pulitzer finalist for international reporting, recipient of the IRE 2016 FOI award and a 2016 Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame inductee.
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