Trump announces he's sending federal agents to Chicago

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE said Wednesday his administration is sending federal law enforcement officers into Chicago and Albuquerque, expanding his controversial crackdown on what he claims is an unchecked surge of violence in Democratic-run cities.

"Today I am announcing a surge of federal law enforcement into American communities plagued by violent crime,” Trump said in remarks from the East Room of the White House.

He added he had “no choice but to get involved."

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump said the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would all send agents to Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has urged Trump not to send federal agents into the city, imploring the White House to instead focus on initiatives to curb gun violence that has long plagued the city.

“In the end, we very much want to partner with an executive branch that respects our city, inclusive of all our residents,” Lightfoot wrote in a letter to Trump earlier this week. “Partnership includes respect that you have not shown our residents as of late in mocking the level of violence that challenges Chicagoans.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump has long held up Chicago as an example of a Democratic-run bastion of violent crime. He has previously encouraged the city’s police department to implement the legally questionable practice of “stop and frisk,” suggesting it would cut down on crime.

Lightfoot, in a press conference shortly after Trump's announcement, condemned the federal intervention in Portland. But she clarified that she expected the additional agents being sent to Chicago to integrate with existing DEA, ATF and FBI personnel already based in the city.

"If those agents are here to actually work in partnership on support of gun violence and violent cases, plugging into existing infrastructure of federal agents, not trying to play police in our streets, then that’s something different, and that may add value," Lightfoot said. "But the proof is going to be in the pudding. It’s too soon to say if this is a value add or not."

Asked about Trump repeatedly blaming violence on local Democratic leaders, Lightfoot argued it was intended as a distraction from his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump's announcement Wednesday marked an expansion of a Justice Department program launched earlier this month by Attorney General William BarrBill BarrDemocrats' silence on our summer of violence is a tactical blunder Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results Rep. Raúl Grijalva tests positive for COVID-19 MORE. The program, known as “Operation Legend,” is meant to address violent crime in Kansas City, Mo. Protesters have taken to the streets in Kansas City to demand an end to the operation and call for police reforms.

Under the initiative, Barr directed federal authorities from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA and ATF to assist local police in Kansas City in reducing violent crime in the city. 

Officials announced their first arrest in connection with the effort earlier this week, a 20-year-old man named Monty Ray who was charged in court with illegally possessing firearms. 

Trump said Wednesday the federal government would “immediately surge” officers to Chicago and would “soon” send federal law enforcement to Albuquerque and other cities under the program. 

Wednesday’s announcement comes amid a sustained effort by Trump to elevate his “law and order” rhetoric to the forefront of the presidential election. He has repeatedly attempted to tie presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump campaign emails supporters encouraging mask-wearing: 'We have nothing to lose' Cuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE to the “defund the police” movement, something the former vice president said he does not support, and warned of a dystopian future if Biden is elected even as unrest plays out under Trump’s watch.

“While others want to defund, defame and abolish the police, I want to support and honor our great police,” Trump said. 

The Trump administration has also recently sent DHS personnel to Portland, Ore., to crack down on protests there that have continued after death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in late May. That has garnered stern criticism from Democrats, some Republicans and civil rights advocates. State leaders have called for the removal of the federal officers.

Protesters in Portland have reportedly been detained by officers without insignia or nameplates on their uniforms and put into unmarked vans. Agents have clashed with demonstrators for several nights, using chemical irritants to disperse protesters, including a group of mothers that gathered amid the unrest.

ADVERTISEMENT

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) has also called for federal officers to be removed from the city, and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) sued federal agencies Friday over the detention of protesters.

The Trump administration has defended its presence in Portland, saying it is necessary to protect federal property, namely a U.S. courthouse that has been the site of protests, against violent demonstrations. 

Trump signaled earlier this week that he was considering sending federal agents to cities, specifically naming New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland. Reports circulated that the federal government was drawing up plans to send agents to Chicago, but nothing had been formally announced until Wednesday.

He blamed Democratic city leaders for not taking an aggressive enough approach to confronting violence.

Updated: 5:19 p.m.