Cuccinelli defends federal response in Portland, says could extend to other cities

Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli on Monday said defended the Trump administration's use of federal officials to detain individuals in Portland, Ore., and said that the widely criticized federal law enforcement efforts could extend to other cities should they see spikes in violent protests.

During an interview with CNN's "New Day," the Cuccinelli claimed that the Trump administration had become aware of “intelligence about planned attacks on federal facilities” in and around Portland after watching weeks of protests in the city.

"We backed up the Federal Protective Service, which is responsible for protecting the courthouse there," Cuccinelli said. "We've been there ever since, wearing, by the way, the very same uniforms every day, and the crowd has seen them every day."

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Cuccinelli went on to add that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would deploy resources to other cities should similar intelligence about supposed planned attacks on federal buildings be uncovered.

“If we get the same kind of intelligence in other places about threats to other federal facilities or officers, we would respond the same way," he added.

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His remarks follow a wave of criticism against the department's law enforcement efforts in Portland, where widely shared viral videos showed officers clad in unmarked military fatigues and driving unmarked cars seemingly grabbing protesters off of the street and driving away. The city, along with dozens of others across the U.S., has been the cite of weeks of demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in Minneapolis police custody.

“I am basically tossed into the van,” one man told Oregon Public Broadcasting of his experience. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said in a statement that she believed acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Watch live: Acting DHS chief testifies on deployment of federal agents to protests The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE was deliberately setting up confrontations between protesters and law enforcement.

"I told Acting Secretary Wolf that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets. His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes. He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way," she said in a tweet.

Portland's mayor also sharply criticized the tactics during a CNN interview over the weekend.

“The president has a complete misunderstanding of cause and effect. What’s happening here is 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,” Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism, and it’s not helping the situation at all. They're not wanted here, we haven't asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave,” the mayor added.