President Trump doubled down on his criticism of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday – berating the Democratic mayor for the spike in violent crime in her city and threatening to send in more federal agents to combat the spoke in violence.
Speaking during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, Trump called Chicago a “disaster” and said Lightfoot was making “a big mistake” by not asking the White House for help in combatting crime in the United States’ third most-populous city.
“Chicago is a disaster, the mayor is saying don’t come in,” Trump said. “She’s making a big mistake.”
He added: “Chicago should be calling us and so should Philadelphia and Detroit and many others.”
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When questioned about a 2016 statement he made blaming former President Barack Obama for the violence in Chicago, Trump argued that his predecessor failed to quell the issue in the city during his time in office.
“He did a poor job,” Trump said.
The president’s comments come just hours after he announced he was deploying 100 federal agents to Chicago.
The “surge” of agents announced on Wednesday to Chicago and other American cities is part of Operation Legend – named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was fatally shot while sleeping in a Kansas City apartment late last month – and comes as federal law enforcement officers have already descended on Portland, Ore. and Kansas City, Mo.
Chicago, which is currently experiencing a spat of deadly gun violence, has been a particular target of Trump’s criticism. A shooting at a funeral home earlier this week left 14 people injured, and followed a weekend that saw 10 people killed and 60 people injured due to gun violence.
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While sending federal agents to aid local law enforcement is not unprecedented – Attorney General Bill Barr announced a similar surge effort in December for seven cities that had seen spiking violence – the type of federal agent being sent, and some of their tactics, have raised concerns among state and local lawmakers.
Usually, the Justice Department sends agents under its own umbrella, like agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Agency. But this surge effort will include Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers, who generally conduct drug trafficking and child exploitation investigations.
A number of lawmakers from New York to Portland have spoken out against the Trump administration sending the agents to their cities, especially following reports that unidentified federal agents detained protesters in Portland and took them away in unmarked vehicles. Portland has been hit with near-daily demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism since the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
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Local authorities also have complained the surges have only exacerbated tensions, and criminal justice experts say the efforts defy explanation because of the unprecedented moment America is living through — with a pandemic, historic unemployment and a mass reckoning over racism and how people of color are treated by police.
Chicago’s Lightfoot has been particularly critical of Trump’s use of federal agents in the country’s metropolitan areas.
“We welcome partnership, not dictatorship, and will never tolerate the kind of unconstitutional deployment and state-sanctioned lawlessness we saw in Portland,” Lightfoot said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.