Trump threatens to double down on Portland in other major cities
Top Democrats are demanding answers from the Trump administration on actions by federal law enforcement agents in Portland, Ore., as President Trump doubles down with a vow to deploy federal police to U.S. cities.
Trump on Monday listed a number of cities where he said he is considering sending federal agents as he praised the response in Portland, which has come under wide criticism amid reports that agents have apprehended protesters without identifying themselves and that some have been held for hours without being charged or read their Miranda rights.
“In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job,” Trump said Monday.
“I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you,” he also said in response to a question about reports that his administration might send federal law enforcement to other major cities dealing with demonstrations. “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.”
Democrats are vowing to fight Trump, who has increasingly leaned into a law-and-order campaign theme this summer in his bid for reelection, claiming his administration has a history of mishandling protests and fanning tensions.
“The House is committed to moving swiftly to curb these egregious abuses of power immediately,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), whose district includes part of Portland, said Saturday in a statement.
Local officials have called on Trump to remove the federal forces.
“The tactics that the Trump administration are using on the streets of Portland are abhorrent. … People are being literally scooped off the street into unmarked vans, rental cars, apparently,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) told CNN Sunday.
“They are being denied probable cause and they’re denied due process. They don’t even know who’s pulling them into the vans. The people aren’t identifying themselves,” he said. “We want them to leave.”
Democrats are pressing federal watchdogs to investigate the situation in Portland, where daily protests and demonstrations have been taking place for nearly two months.
Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), the chairs of the House Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Oversight and Reform committees, respectively, in a letter Sunday urged Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to investigate whether federal law enforcement had violated the constitutional rights of protesters.
They also questioned if the Justice Department and DHS have the power to use federal officers in this way.
Other Democrats have ticked off a list of legislative remedies they believe can be applied to prevent the White House from taking such action, including a bill from progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that would require all federal law enforcers to display identifying name badges at all times — an issue of some controversy throughout the protests for racial justice.
Federal officials have said they are seeking to protect federal property in Portland, pointing to vandalism — including a recent attempt by protesters to burn a federal courthouse between late Sunday night and early Monday morning.
Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli on Monday morning said the federal government became involved in Portland after receiving “intelligence about planned attacks on federal facilities,” weeks after the violence began, and that DHS would follow the same playbook if other federal facilities were threatened.
The Portland police in a statement Monday reported that federal law enforcement dispersed “dozens of people with shields, helmets, gas masks, umbrellas, bats, and hockey sticks” approaching the doors of a federal courthouse.
Police said many of these demonstrators later regrouped and tried to light a fire within the portico of the courthouse, with others adding “wood and other debris to make it larger” before federal law enforcement again dispersed the crowd and put out the fire.
The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that DHS is sending 150 agents to Chicago this week amid unrest as well, though the report said the specifics of the plan are not yet known.
The New York Times reported Saturday that an internal DHS memo said federal law enforcement agents sent to Portland “were not specifically trained in riot control or mass demonstrations.”
The memo, dated Thursday, was prepared for acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf for his visit to Portland, according to the report.
Democrats are signaling they are ready to take action on Capitol Hill. “I think there needs to be a [congressional] response,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Monday.
Top Republicans have praised the administration, arguing the president took the necessary steps to ensure the peace and safety of the country as well as protect federal property. They also slammed Democrats for failing to quell the protests and support police departments in the face of violence.
“Someone’s got to take control of what they’re doing to federal property in Portland, it’s been happening for 53 days straight,” Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, told The Hill.
“The administration is protecting the federal property against the destruction that has taken place there — they have every right to do that and it’s the right thing to do. And most Americans I think understand that,” he said.
“If Democratic officials would focus more on restoring peace to American cities and less on defunding the police and condoning rioting, a federal presence would not be necessary,” echoed Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an ally of the president’s, expressed unease in a Monday tweet about unidentified federal forces in the streets of a major U.S. city.
“We cannot give up liberty for security,” Paul tweeted in part. “There is no place for federal troops or unidentified federal agents rounding people up at will.”
Wheeler and other officials in Oregon argue the federal forces are creating a backlash that will create more unrest.
“We have dozens, if not hundreds of federal troops descending upon our city. And what they’re doing is, they are sharply escalating the situation,” Wheeler told CNN on Sunday.
“Before the federal troops got here, violence was way down. Vandalism was way down. Our local and state law enforcement officials had contained the situation. And what happened instead is, the federal troops came in … and the whole thing blew up again like a powder keg.”
Juliegrace Brufke and Mike Lillis contributed.