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Trump Threatens To Deploy Federal Law Enforcement To Chicago

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

After camouflaged federal agents arrested protesters on the streets of Portland, Ore., President Trump now says he may be sending more federal forces to other U.S. cities. This is what the president had to say yesterday at the White House.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I'm going to do something. That I can tell you - because we're not going to - New York and Chicago and Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore and all of these - Oakland is a mess. We're not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.

MARTIN: President Trump has made empty promises before, but the Chicago Tribune is reporting that plans are already in the works for Chicago. Gregory Pratt is one of the reporters who broke the story for the Tribune. And he joins us now. Good morning, Gregory.

GREGORY PRATT: Good morning.

MARTIN: What have you learned about these plans?

PRATT: So there's a lot in the air. But what we do know is that the administration has planned to send roughly 150 Homeland Security investigators, which is a special wing of ICE that doesn't do immigration but works on serious investigations into things like human trafficking. And they're planning to send about 150 of them into Chicago, where, I think, they'll be working for the Justice Department. And their mission is going to be to, quote-unquote, "combat violence." But it's not clear what that means exactly. President Trump, his administration have been vague about it.

And even after we broke the story that they were going to send these agents, the mayor's office said the feds hadn't shared any definitive plans with the city, which has raised some concerns, especially after what you saw out of Portland, where federal agents reportedly snatched protesters off the streets and threw them into unmarked vehicles without explaining why they were being detained.

MARTIN: Right. It's so interesting, too, that you say that the chain of command is unclear, that you're not - no one's really sure who they're reporting to, if it's the Justice Department or someone else. I mean, can you talk, Gregory, about how this fits into President Trump's larger criticisms of Chicago? Because that's a city that he has targeted in his rhetoric for many years, right?

PRATT: Yeah. And, you know, Mayor Lightfoot often says that he's been using Chicago as a punching bag from the beginning of his administration. In his first week, Trump tweeted, send in the feds and caused a minor panic. But until now, he hasn't done it yet. So right now, what's different and what's hard to ignore is that we have an election in November. Trump is down in the polls. And he is crafting a law-and-order message, particularly during the national protests and civil unrest over the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Boyd.

Now, that said, crime is up in Chicago, where shootings and homicides are up substantially. So he's not wrong about that, even though people here express a lot of skepticism that he actually cares about the problem.

MARTIN: So tell us more about what local leaders are saying, in particular the mayor, Lori Lightfoot.

PRATT: Well, Mayor Lightfoot yesterday, before we broke our stories, said she has general concerns about the possibility of Trump sending feds to Chicago based on what had happened in Portland. And here's what she said.

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LORI LIGHTFOOT: We don't need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully.

PRATT: So she also said that we won't have tyranny here on the streets of Chicago. So that's some real pushback.

MARTIN: All right. We will keep following it. Thank you for your reporting, Gregory Pratt with the Chicago Tribune. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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