Light­foot let­ter to Trump warns Port­land-style in­ter­ven­tion would be a ‘dis­as­ter’

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY LYNN SWEET AND FRAN SPIEL­MAN Staff Re­porters

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.

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