President Donald Trump reportedly phoned Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday night to hash out details of a “surge” of 200 federal agents designed to help Chicago officials control a dramatic uptick in gun violence that’s taken place in the city since the end of May.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the pair spoke about an agreement to send the 200 federal agents — mostly agents from the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals, and DEA — to assist the Chicago Police Department in handling crime in a number of target neighborhoods wracked by recent gang activity.
Lightfoot fought federal assistance, particularly after being roiled by harsh words from President Trump, and comparisons between Chicago and Portland, Oregon, where federal law enforcement agencies are engaged in nightly battles with “anti-fascist” protesters targeting a federal courthouse in the city’s downtown. But after a gang-related mass shooting outside of a funeral home left 15 mourners wounded Tuesday night, Lightfoot seemed more open to the idea of receiving federal assistance.
The pair reportedly agreed, in the call, to place U.S. Attorney John Lausch in charge of the “surge” and that the character of federal assistance would be markedly different than that scene in Portland, where armed, elite law enforcement agents have moved to the front lines of confrontations with protesters (though it appears Trump reserved the right to expand the scope of federal intervention if necessary).
“Trump and Lightfoot are in agreement over the strategy of sending in agents to plug into existing operations,” the Sun-Times said on Thursday. “Trump, who has bragged since his 2016 campaign he knows how to easily solve crime in Chicago, did not take a future heavier handed response off the table.”
The mayor’s office said, simply, that Trump “reached out to Mayor Lightfoot this evening to confirm that he plans to send federal resources to Chicago to supplement ongoing federal investigations pertaining to violent crime. The conversation was brief and straightforward.”
“Mayor Lightfoot maintains that all resources will be investigatory in nature and be coordinated through the U.S. Attorney’s office,” the office said in a statement. “The Mayor has made clear that if there is any deviation from what has been announced, we will pursue all available legal options to protect Chicagoans.”
Lausch will also take an active role in handling the “surge.”
“This is not patrol. This is not against civil unrest,” Lausch said on Wednesday, adding that federal agents will focus entirely on “gangs, guns, and drugs” and will not be dressed in camouflage or deployed to handle protests unless necessary.
In what could be described as an administration-wide effort to assure Lightfoot and other Chicago officials that scenes now common on Portland will not be repeated on the streets of Chicago, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf also weighed in on federal law enforcement’s role in handling the city’s violence.
“The DHS mission in Portland is to protect federal property and our law enforcement officers. In Chicago, the mission is to protect the public from violent crime on the streets,” Wolf said.
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