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Former Homeland Security secretary says DHS not meant to be 'president's personal militia'

Former Homeland Security secretary says DHS not meant to be 'president's personal militia'
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Tom Ridge, a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and the first secretary of Homeland Security, asserted that the department — established in late 2002 — was not created "to be the President's personal militia."

The Department of Homeland Security has garnered attention recently amid ongoing actions against Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Ore. The Trump administration deployed federal officers to the city in late June to protect federal property, a move that has generated a wave of backlash from Democrats, advocates and some Republicans. 

"The department was established to protect America from the ever-present threat of global terrorism," Ridge told radio host Michael SmerconishMichael SmerconishCNN's Smerconish lauds Trump on ,000 relief checks: 'Most effective thing he's done' post election Trump attacks former DHS secretary over criticism of federal crackdown Former Homeland Security secretary says DHS not meant to be 'president's personal militia' MORE on Tuesday.

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He then gave his perspective as a former governor, saying, "Had I been governor even now, I would welcome the opportunity to work with any federal agency to reduce crime or lawlessness in any of the cities. But ... it would be a cold day in hell before I would consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention into one of my cities."

Protesters in Portland have been holding demonstrations in the city's downtown area since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the end of May. The demonstrations have dominated Portland's downtown and at times have led to the damage of federal property.

Tensions between protesters and DHS officers reached a boiling point last week.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfLawmakers slam DHS watchdog following report calling for 'multi-year transformation' Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye passage of infrastructure bill; health experts warn of fourth coronavirus wave MORE called protesters a "violent mob" and "lawless anarchists," using similar language that President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE has used to describe protesters across the country.

Two weekends ago, a protester was critically injured after being shot in the head by nonlethal ammunition fired by federal officers. Then on Friday, reports surfaced that federal agents clad in unidentifiable military fatigues and driving unmarked vans were picking up protesters and detaining them. 

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The behavior of the officers immediately sparked outrage from Democratic lawmakers in the state, and the conduct of the Homeland Security agents has raised serious legal and constitutional questions.

Both Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) and Oregon Gov. Kate BrownKate Brown74 people linked to COVID-19 outbreak at Oregon church Businesses sue Oregon governor over COVID-19 restrictions White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states MORE (D) have condemned the federal presence. Members of Oregon's congressional delegation wrote to Wolf last week demanding a full review of what happened.

Speaker of the House Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Rural Democrats urge protections from tax increases for family farms Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (D-Calif.) has called the officers "stormtroopers."

Nonetheless, Trump and Wolf have both doubled down on the use of federal forces to quell unrest in cities this week.

The president on Monday said that he would possibly be sending more federal officers to other "Democratic" cities, saying that the agents in Portland were doing "a fantastic job."

“I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you,” Trump said. “Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess.”

"I don't need invitations by the state, state mayors or state governors to do our job. We're going to do that, whether they like us there or not," Wolf said Monday. The acting secretary added Tuesday that the federal officers in Portland “will not retreat."