President Donald Trump said he is prepared to send up to 75,000 federal officers to "help" cities deal with an uptick in crime as he mocked Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler after he was tear-gassed by what Oregon leaders have labeled Trump's "secret police."
The Trump administration has deployed officers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Marshals Service, ostensibly to protect federal property in Portland. However, they have been seen snatching protesters into unmarked vans away from any federal buildings. Oregon's attorney general filed a lawsuit seeking to force the feds out of the city.
The administration also launched a separate Department of Justice (DOJ) effort called "Operation Legend," deploying hundreds of federal officers and DHS personnel to cities such as Kansas City, Chicago and Albuquerque in response to a recent rise in violent crime.
Trump on Thursday suggested that he could "solve these problems so fast" if cities "invited" up to 75,000 federal officers onto their streets.
"We want to go in and help the cities. We want help Chicago. We want to help all of them," Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. "Detroit is having problems . . . We'll go into all the cities — any of the cities. We'll put in 50,000, 60,000 people that really know what they are doing. And they are strong, tough and we can solve these problems so fast. But as you know, we have to be invited in."
He added that "at some point, we have to do something much stronger than being invited in."
"We'd go in with 50,000 to 75,000 people," he said. "We would be able to solve it like you wouldn't believe it, like, quick."
Trump's insistence that he wanted to "help" cities was quickly undercut by his mockery of Portland's mayor, who was tear-gassed by federal agents on Wednesday while condemning the federal deployment to a group of protesters who jeered his presence.
"He made a fool out of himself," Trump said. "He wanted to be among the people so he went into the crowd and they knocked the hell out of him. That was the end of him, so it was pretty pathetic."
Wheeler, a Democrat, has repeatedly demanded Trump withdraw the federal officers from his city.
"What I saw last night was powerful in many ways. I listened, heard and stood with protesters," he tweeted on Thursday. "And I saw what it means when the federal government unleashes paramilitary forces against its own people."
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, condemned the deployment as a "blatant abuse of power."
"The Trump administration needs to stop playing politics with people's lives. We don't have a secret police in this country. This is not a dictatorship, and Trump needs to get his officers off the streets," she told NPR. "There's absolutely no question that by having the presence of federal officers here, it's simply like adding gasoline to a fire . . . The situation had been improving over the past several weeks and that their presence here substantially escalated the situation . . . And honestly, this is about scoring political points. It's about political theater. It's clearly not about problem-solving, and it's obviously not about public safety."
Trump praised the feds in Portland for doing a "great job," even as DOJ and DHS inspectors general launched investigations into the federal use of force in the cities of Portland and in Washington.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Thursday announced that he would investigate how the U.S. Marshals Service has used force against protesters in Portland and how other DOJ officers were deployed in response to protests in Washington.
Federal officers deployed to Portland have been seen tear-gassing peaceful protesters and beating a Navy veteran. Earlier this month, a protester suffered a fractured skull after he was seen on video being hit in the head by "less-than-lethal" munitions fired by the feds. The U.S. Park Police, which is part of the DOJ, was used to clear protesters outside the White House so that Trump could stage a photo-op in front of a nearby fire-damaged church in a move reportedly ordered directly by Attorney General Bill Barr.
"The review will include examining the training and instruction that was provided to the DOJ law enforcement personnel," Horowitz said, adding that he would also look at whether officers had complied with "applicable identification requirements, rules of engagement and legal authorities" and their "adherence to DOJ policies regarding the use of less-lethal munitions, chemical agents and other uses of force."
DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari announced a separate probe into allegations that department officials had "improperly detained and transported protesters" in Portland, where they were seen putting protesters into an unmarked van.
The DHS probe was launched after the heads of the House Oversight, Judiciary and Homeland Security committees condemned tactics of the federal forces in Portland.
"Many of these federal agents are dressed as soldiers, driving unmarked vehicles and refusing to identify themselves or their agencies," they said in a joint statement. "Nearly everywhere they have deployed, their presence has increased tensions and caused more confrontation between demonstrators and police."