By Joseph Ax
BEDMINSTER, N.J. (Reuters) – Three military helicopters hovered over Anne Choi’s backyard, engaged in what appeared to be a drill ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit three weeks ago to this tranquil town of farmland and horse barns in rural New Jersey.
“My sheep were terrified,” Choi, 44, said on Thursday inside her two-story barn a mile east of Trump National Golf Club, as half a dozen Shetland sheep grazed outside. “It’s awful. We don’t have the infrastructure here. We can’t support the weight of his presence.”
As Bedminster prepared this week for the president’s latest trip to the 600-acre (240-hectare) private club, a 17-day stay that is his first extended vacation in office, some of the town’s 8,000 residents expressed frustration at the security protocols, road closures and daily disruption that will begin with his arrival on Friday.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Secret Service said safety measures would also include a “tethered drone,” equipped with optical and infrared cameras and powered by a wire attached to a ground controller, that could impede on the privacy of nearby residences.
“It’s super creepy,” said Julie Henderson, an artist who lives down the road from Trump National, as two military helicopters roared overhead before circling and heading back toward the golf club.
The Secret Service said the drone would focus primarily on the outer perimeter and would not “physically intrude upon or disturb the use of private property outside the Trump National Golf Course.”
Trump’s movements can also lead to the closure of local roads and highways. Julie Henderson’s husband, Paul Henderson, said he has twice been stuck on an Interstate on his way to work while Trump’s motorcade used the highway.
Not everyone in this town about 40 miles (60 km) west of New York City agrees Trump’s visit will be a nuisance. Steve Desiderio, who owns a restaurant and catering business in Bedminster’s modest downtown, said the influx of federal agents and journalists would be a welcome boost to his business.
Desiderio, a 48-year-old Trump supporter, added that complaints about the disruption were overblown and media-driven.
“It’s just fake news,” he said, echoing one of the president’s favorite phrases. “They try to spin it like it’s gridlock. So there are five more cars at the stoplight?”
Bedminster’s Republican mayor, Steven Parker, also brushed off the criticism.
“It’s really been a big non-event,” he said.
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