President Trump on Monday vowed to send more federal law enforcement personnel to major cities facing a surge in violence, amid reports that the Department of Homeland Security is drawing up plans to send 150 federal agents to Chicago.
“New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore … we’re not going to let this happen in our country,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “We will have more federal law enforcement. That I can tell you.”
While the DHS has not officially announced that it will be sending additional personnel to the cities Trump mentioned, the president has for weeks decried the crime rates in American cities, while faulting Democratic mayors and other officials for not cracking down harder. The summer surge comes amid widespread protests against police brutality and racial injustice, which in some cases led cities to overhaul policing practices.
Trump has specifically singled out Chicago in recent weeks for the surge in homicides and other violent crime there – blaming “liberal Democrats” for the spike and promising swift action.
Trump’s comments about Chicago come after the president of the local police officer’s union wrote him a letter asking “for help from the federal government” to help combat gun violence. The city has seen 414 homicides this year, compared with 275 during the same period last year.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, a vocal supporter of Trump, called Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot a “complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order,” but did not say what kind of help he was asking for or whether he wants federal troops to be sent to the city.
It’s not the first time Trump has made disparaging comments about Chicago leaders, and what he says is their inability to control violence. Just last month, Trump sent a letter criticizing Lightfoot and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a “lack of leadership” in stemming gun violence. Lightfoot dismissed Trump’s letter as a “litany of nonsense.”
Police in Chicago reported that 10 people were killed over the weekend by gun violence and 60 more injured – including 10 minors – in a spate of shootings that eclipsed those during the same weekend last year, in which 43 people had been shot, three fatally, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Chicago Tribune on Monday reported that the DHS has a plan to send 150 Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents to the city to aid local law enforcement in combatting violent crime.
“DHS does not comment on any allegedly leaked operations,” a department spokesperson said in a statement, when asked by Fox News about the report.
The DHS has not released any details of the plan so far, but city officials and federal law enforcement agents questioned by the newspaper confirmed the deployment, though could not offer any details as to what the HSI agents would be doing or whose command they would come under.
Mayor Lightfoot said that she is concerned about the possibility of Trump sending federal agents to her city given the controversy surrounding the crackdown on unrest in Portland.
“We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully,” Lightfoot said, according to the Tribune.
The administration has enlisted federal agents, including the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and an elite U.S. Customs and Border Protection team based on the U.S.-Mexico border, to protect federal property in the Oregon city.
But Oregon Public Broadcasting reported last week that some agents had been driving around in unmarked vans and snatching protesters from streets not near federal property, without identifying themselves. The reports led Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Friday to sue Homeland Security and the Marshals Service in federal court.
The complaint says that unidentified federal agents have grabbed people off Portland’s streets “without warning or explanation, without a warrant, and without providing any way to determine who is directing this action.”
In a statement, DHS insisted that agents are identifying themselves as Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents. But they admitted agents were not wearing name tags -- citing recent doxing incidents against law enforcement.
Demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality have happened every day in Oregon's largest city since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd on May 25, but have become more chaotic in recent weeks. Protesters outside the city’s U.S. courthouse set a fire in the building's entryway early Monday before being tear-gassed by federal agents.
Trump has slammed the protestors in Portland as “anarchists,” while praising the federal agents for their work in attempting to quell the unrest.
“They’ve been there three days and they really have done a fantastic job in a very short amount of time,” Trump said on Monday. “They grab them, lots of people in jail.”
On the protesters, Trump said: “These people are not protesters, these people are anarchists. These are people that hate our country and we’re not going to let it go forward.”
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Fox News' Morgan Phillips and David Spunt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.