News and Commentary

DHS Is Not ‘The President’s Personal Militia,’ Tom Ridge Says

"I don't care for it at all."
Tom Ridge
Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for FEHSF

On Tuesday, the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took issue with President Donald Trump’s recent use of federal officers to quell riots in Portland, Oregon, and said he would resist unilateral action from the White House if he were still a governor.

Tom Ridge, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to head DHS after it was created in the wake of 9/11, told radio host Michael Smerconish, “The department was established to protect America from the ever-present threat of global terrorism. It was not established to be the president’s personal militia.”

The former two-time governor of Pennsylvania also conceded he would “welcome the opportunity to work with any federal agency to reduce crime or lawlessness in the cities” if he were still in that office, but said “it would be a cold day in hell before I would consent to an uninvited, unilateral intervention into one of my cities.”

Saying he reached his point of view based on his experience both as a former governor and former DHS secretary, Ridge continued:

Either way, I don’t care for it at all. DHS wasn’t designed for that purpose. And as governor, working in concert with the federal government to address these problems, I’d say that would greatly enhance the possibility of a positive outcome. But when you work unilaterally, and perhaps even against the work that’s going on in the states and the communities, I think it’s counterproductive and it sends the wrong signal. Frankly, I also think it sends a horrible signal globally that we’re just going to send in uninvited federal agents to deal with a state and local problem.

Federal troops from DHS’s Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol Tactical Unit, as well as the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group, allegedly began whisking suspected rioters away in unmarked vans, footage of which has circulated on social media, sparking outrage.

Ridge’s criticism is comparatively muted next to the Democratic politicians who have likened federal officers to Nazis and secret police.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) on Monday accused Trump and Attorney General William Barr of implementing tactics reminiscent of the Third Reich, saying, “That kind of activity is the activity of a police state, and this president and this attorney general seem to be doing everything they possibly can to impose Gestapo activities in local communities, and that is what I have been warning about for a long time.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) echoed Clyburn’s comparison when she tweeted last Friday, “Unidentified stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti. These are not the actions of a democratic republic. [DHS]’s actions in Portland undermine its mission. Trump & his stormtroopers must be stopped.”

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during Tuesday’s press briefing, “By any objective standard, the violence, chaos, and anarchy in Portland is unacceptable. Yet Democrats continue to put politics above peace while this president seeks to restore law and order.”

RELATED: ‘Beginning Of The Ending Of This Democracy’: Jim Clyburn Accuses Trump And Barr Of Imposing ‘Gestapo Activities’

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