Inside The Assassination Attempts Against Donald Trump

Correction 4/15/23: A previous version of this article stated a "potential assassination attempt" against Trump involving protestor Austyn Crites occurred at a Reno campaign event in 2016. However, the Secret Service confirmed there was no such threat and that Crites did not have a gun.

Being a world leader is dangerous business. Surprisingly, in more than two centuries, only four American presidents have been killed while in office, beginning with the shooting death of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. In office from 2016 through 2020, the 45th U.S. Commander-in-chief, Donald Trump, clearly survived his time in the White House. There were several attempts on his life, though, including three during his administration and two while a presidential candidate (although one turned out to be a false alarm). Perhaps unsurprisingly, "The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017-2021" claims that Trump was worried about attacks on his life, despite his public persona suggesting otherwise. "At a cocktail party, Trump told several of his Florida friends he was afraid Iran would try to assassinate him, so he had to go back to Washington where he would be safer," the book reads.

Though none of the reported assassination attempts on Trump's life were successful, it proves that the job of U.S. president is still risky, despite modern security measures and 24-hour Secret Service protection. The most recent attempt on then-President Trump's life, in fact, came in 2020. And after only one year in office, there was already at least one attempt on the life of Trump's successor, Joe Biden (per 

Notably, only two of the five reported threats on Trump's life involved a gun. In keeping with Trump's unconventional approach to the presidency, one would-be assassination made an attempt on his life with perhaps the most unusual weapon used to threaten a commander-in-chief in U.S. history: a forklift, as The Atlanta-Journal Constitution explains.

Trump faced major security threat while in Nevada

Before that forklift incident, though, there was a clear attempt on Donald Trump's life with a firearm while the 45th U.S. president was still a candidate and the presumptive GOP nominee. At a 2016 campaign rally in Las Vegas, British national Michael Steven Sandford tried to snatch a firearm from a police officer. He later said he intended to shoot and kill Trump and expected he would be shot and killed by law enforcement as a result, The New York Times reported. Sandford was apprehended and rushed from the scene. He later pleaded guilty on three charges and was sentenced to one year in prison in the U.S. before returning to the U.K., per AP.

Trump faced another unsettling incident in November of that same year, when he visited Reno for a campaign event — but it turned out to be nothing more than an unfortunate miscommunication involving a man named Austyn Crites, who was politically opposed to Trump. While Crites held a sign, "Republicans Against Trump," someone in the crowd yelled "gun," which led to a bit of chaos and Trump being yanked off the event stage by Secret Service, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported. Crites was apprehended and questioned, with the Secret Service confirming he was unarmed and no weapon was found, per CNN. Crites was released, and although some in Trump's circle tried to paint the situation as an "assassination attempt," it clearly wasn't the case.

Three attempts were made against Trump while in office

The final three assassination attempts against Trump happened during his presidency, and each one turned out to be an actual threat. All three were tried with unconventional weapons. First, a forklift: In 2018, Gregory Lee Leingang of North Dakota pleaded guilty to planning to flip Trump's limousine with a stolen forklift during a presidential visit to North Dakota one year earlier, the AP reports. The forklift got stuck, and Leingang fled the scene on foot. He was later sentenced to five years in prison for the crime (via Grand Forks Herald), with additional time served for unrelated offenses (per InForum).

Both of the remaining two assassination attempts happened through the mail. In 2018, William Clyde Allen III mailed ricin-laced letters — a biotoxin— to both Trump and the Pentagon. All envelopes were intercepted. Though he pleaded not guilty, Allen was indicted on all charges, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. And then finally, in 2020, Canadian citizen Pascale Ferrier was arrested attempting to cross the U.S.-Canadian border with a gun. She, too, had attempted to mail a ricin-laced letter to the White House, which was intercepted before it reached its intended destination, BBC News reports. "I found a new name for you: 'The Ugly Tyrant Clown'," she wrote. "I hope you like it. You ruin USA and lead them to disaster. I have U.S. cousins, then I don't want the next 4 years with you as president. Give up and remove your application for this election."