Cockell Returns To Bodyguard Duty
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton has his old shadow back.
Secret Service agent Larry Cockell, head of Clinton’s protective detail and the man who walks in lockstep with the president, one or two steps behind, is on the job again after testifying in the Monica Lewinsky investigation.
Expressionless, exuding a mix of attentiveness and calm, Cockell opened and closed the door of the president’s limousine on an outing Tuesday night, rode in that car and stayed precisely behind Clinton when he worked the crowds _ the most visible figure in the trusted band of agents who guard the president and ease his travels, whether in China or a leafy suburb of Washington.
It was Cockell’s proximity to the president that interested Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr _ and set up a fight lost by the White House in court over whether agents can be compelled to testify. There was some question later whether Cockell, who stepped aside for two weeks, would get his job back after having his face splashed on TV, but the expectation was that he would.
``It really is a matter exclusively for the Secret Service, although, in candor, we have publicly indicated that we have high regard for him and we look forward to his return to the detail,″ Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry said before Cockell returned.
Cockell, 47, is a former St. Louis police officer, a 17-year veteran of the Secret Service and the first black man to lead the president’s protective detail. Brian Stafford, former head of the detail, took Cockell’s place until his return.
The extent to which agents prefer to blend in was obvious a few months ago when Clinton attended a graduation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There was Cockell, on the stage, seated behind the president and wearing a cap and gown, a departure from the usual dark suit.
On Tuesday night, Clinton went to the National Council of Senior Citizens conference at a Washington hotel and Cockell was in the front seat of the presidential limo as the long motorcade snaked through the downtown. Clinton relished his reception from the sea of gray heads, and people pressed up to a rope to meet him after the speech.
At larger or more rambunctious events, Cockell has been known to grip the president’s belt to help support him against the crowd. That wasn’t necessary at the hotel.
His lawyer said Cockell had been eager to return to work. But that might be something only the shadow knows, and this time he wasn’t talking.