Oregon State Police who are now charged with keeping the peace in Portland and its surrounding suburbs have been “cross-deputized” by the federal government, a local news organization revealed Wednesday, meaning that those arrested by Oregon state police officers can be prosecuted by the United States attorney for crimes stemming from the ongoing unrest even if the local prosecutor refuses to.
KGW Portland reports that Oregon State Police were actually deputized earlier this summer, perhaps as part of a deal to draw down a federal police presence in Portland. As part of that agreement, the Department of Homeland Security removed a number of federal agents from “elite” Customs and Border Protection units that had been protecting a federal courthouse from rioters if the Oregon state government agreed to provide ongoing protection for federal properties.
Now, it seems, the agreement also involved allowing the United States attorney the opportunity to supersede decisions made by the Multnomah County district attorney who noted, early on in the unrest, that he would pursue only “limited prosecution” for certain crimes, including interfering with a peace officer, disorderly conduct in the second degree, harassment, criminal trespass, and even “riot.”
The Multnomah County prosecutors office also said, back in early August, that if a person is arrested for “a misdemeanor or felony crime that causes only financial harm during a protest,” they will be offered “conditional dismissal.”
The cross-deputization, issued by the U.S. Marshals, KGW says, “could allow state police to bypass the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office entirely when it comes to charges against arrested protesters.”
Federal officials would not reveal the full list of crimes they may prosecute even if the Multnomah County DA refuses, but federal officers did make a number of arrests while they were assigned to protect federal property in downtown Portland, including “trespassing on federal property, arson, assaulting federal officers, failing to comply with a lawful order and creating a disturbance.”
It is also possible that the federal deputization will allow the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate those individuals arrested for ties to larger, national organizations. Attorney General William Barr announced, back in June, that the federal government is treating “Antifa” — or “anti-fascists” — as a domestic terror organization and is seeking information on how the group organizes and moves money and supplies across state lines.
In recent days, President Donald Trump has leaned heavily on Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, to get the unrest, which has gone on for nearly 100 days, under control. Wheeler recently became the top target of protests, and as The Daily Wire reported Wednesday, is moving his residence after being targeted with nightly demonstrations, many of which have been declared riots. Wheeler, in his own statement over the weekend, blamed Trump’s rhetoric — and not his governing strategy — for the ongoing violence.
Trump has, in response, threatened to intervene — and even defund — cities like Portland, which he called “lawless.”
“My Administration will do everything in its power to prevent weak mayors and lawless cities from taking Federal dollars while they let anarchists harm people, burn buildings, and ruin lives and businesses. We’re putting them on notice today,” the president tweeted Wednesday.