LIGHTFOOT TO TRUMP: SEND US HELP, NOT SECRET AGENTS
Lightfoot letter to Trump warns Portland-style intervention would be a ‘disaster’
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, aiming to avoid a Portland-style federal agent crackdown in Chicago this week, asked President Donald Trump for help Monday in a letter where she said she would take him at his word he wanted to help the city, despite his “incendiary rhetoric.”
And while the Lightfoot letter has several conciliatory passages, her main message to the president was, “What we do not need, and what will certainly make our community less safe is secret, federal agents deployed to Chicago.”
In an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Monday night, Lightfoot said she would go to court to try to block Trump if he made any unilateral actions as he did in Portland. “If we need to, we will,” Lightfoot told Reid. “And we will be prepared.”
Lightfoot released the letter after saying earlier Monday she has “great concerns” over Trump saying he would send federal agents to Chicago in the wake of his actions in Oregon. On Monday, Trump said after another weekend of shootings in the city, “I’m going to do something.”
In the letter, Lightfoot writes, “Any other form of militarized assistance within our borders that would not be within our control or within the direct command of the Chicago Police Department would spell disaster.”
“. . . What is needed more than anything in an operation to protect lives is a clear mission, a detailed operations plan, and a chain of command. Secret, federal agents who do not know Chicago, are unfamiliar with the unique circumstances of our neighborhoods and who would operate outside the established infrastructure of local law enforcement would not be effective, regardless of the number, and worse will foment a massive wave of opposition.”
“Deploying resources like we have seen in Portland,” she wrote, “does not make residents safer, particularly when gun violence plays a significant role in Chicago’s loss of life.”
In a statement, a Lightfoot spokesman said, “Should the Trump Administration foolishly try to usurp our local authority, [Lightfoot] will not hesitate to take decisive action to stop this unwanted and dangerous intrusion.”
Lightfoot’s letter to avert the potential showdown with Trump comes as Portland grapples with plain-clothed federal agents in unmarked cars making arrests in the city over the protest of the mayor. That stark reality resulted in Lightfoot on Monday responding to a letter Trump sent on June 26 to the mayor and Gov. J.B. Pritzker offering help but with so many nasty asides, the two Democratic leaders dismissed it as a publicity stunt.
Trump said he is poised to deploy agents to Chicago as he is increasingly focused on crime and civil rights protests in Democratic-led cities to reinforce his campaign message that he is a law-and-order president. He relentlessly refers to Chicago as “worse than Afghanistan.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday a federal response would take place this week. As of Monday night, City Hall has not been notified about “additional federal resources” coming to Chicago. The White House did not reply to a request to comment on the Lightfoot letter. Monday developments include:
Lightfoot said at a news conference Monday morning that she talked “with the mayor of Portland to get a sense of what’s happened there. We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully. That’s not what we need.”
While Trump has complained that Lightfoot has not contacted him, on Monday she tried to take that off the table in her letter, where she spelled out the federal assistance from the White House she would welcome. She also offered Trump another carrot, saying her team would “be happy” to meet with his White House staffers to go through “actionable policy.” What’s not useful, Lightfoot told Trump, was “derision, mandates or militarized forces.”
A key request in Lightfoot’s list is help in
getting illegal firearms off Chicago’s streets coming in from neighboring states, something Lightfoot said in her letter “you have so far refused to do.” Lightfoot asked Trump for gun control items heavily opposed by Republicans in Congress.
The Sun-Times has learned that the Justice Department this week is expected to announce the expansion of a violent-crime initiative known as Operation Legend, through which Attorney General William Barr earlier sent more than 100 agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshals, DEA and ATF to help state and local law enforcement.
Lightfoot is dealing with multiple explosive issues at the same time: another weekend of gun violence; protests stemming from a revitalized civil rights movement in the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis and the COVID-19 pandemic health and economic crisis that is hitting Black and Brown communities in the city the hardest.
Lightfoot said in the letter if Trump wants to help, he needs to “get at the root cause through community investment” and focus on “systemic issues — racial inequities, poverty, community divestment — that drive gun violence in Chicago.”
† In the Oval Office on Monday, Trump, asked about reports that he is ready to deploy feds to cities, said, “Well, I’m going to do something . . .
“. . . How about Chicago? Would you say they need help after this weekend? Do you know the numbers? Did you hear the numbers? Many, many shot. Many, many killed. I’m not talking about one, two. Was it 18 people killed? I think more than that. And you add it up over the summer — this is worse than Afghanistan, by far.”
Fact check: According to a Sun-Times tally, 70 people were shot, 10 fatally, over the weekend in Chicago.
Trump, asked again about “sending more federal law enforcement to some of these cities,” confirmed some unspecified action was pending and said he had no issue with agents “grabbing” people off the street.
† Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, a Trump supporter, said Monday, “When the feds are in charge, they run their units the way they want to run ’em. They don’t have to deal with this city or the mayor.”
Catanzara posted a letter to Trump on Saturday on Facebook, asking for federal government “help” to fight “chaos” in Chicago. Lightfoot, asked by Joy Reid about the letter, dismissed it as the work of an “unhinged” FOP leader.
† During a Monday news conference, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said, “We’ll take any and all help” when asked about the potential for federal agents being sent to Chicago.
Brown had a June 30 meeting with leadership of the DEA, ATF and FBI and federal prosecutors. At the meeting, according to several sources, Brown asked for help in bringing Chicago gun cases to the federal courts, where guilty verdicts often result in stiffer penalties than in state court.
† The ACLU of Illinois said in a Monday statement from Executive Director Colleen Connell it “opposes the deployment of federal forces in Chicago by the Trump Administration. We will hold the Trump Administration and any such federal forces accountable for unconstitutional actions.”
President Donald Trump on Monday said “I’m going to do something” about shootings in Chicago.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Federal agents line up across from protesters Monday near a U.S. courthouse in Portland, Ore.