On Tuesday night, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News covered the shocking levels of violence in Chicago. O’Reilly explained, “The first 23 days of this year, 42 homicides in the Windy City, up 24 percent from last year. An unbelievable 228 people have been shot and Chicago in 23 days….The question is, can President Trump override local Illinois and Chicago authorities, and stop the murder?” O’Reilly then hosted attorney Horace Cooper, who stated, “Absolutely the feds can do this…I don’t know another word besides carnage to describe the devastation that’s been taking place.”
President Trump immediately responded on Twitter:
If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
This isn’t the first time Trump has signaled that he wants to use the federal government to intervene in Chicago. On January 2, he tweeted:
Chicago murder rate is record setting – 4,331 shooting victims with 762 murders in 2016. If Mayor can’t do it he must ask for Federal help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
Imagine the conservative reaction if Barack Obama said that Governor Greg Abbott had to get Houston’s crime rates under control or he’d send in the feds. It wouldn’t be gentle.
Now, realistically speaking, Trump could deploy more DOJ agents to Chicago. He could also send the ATF and the DEA, as well as other federal agencies. Or Trump could be talking about martial law.
None of these solutions sounds particularly federalist. The DOJ, ATF and DEA routinely overstep their mandates under the Constitution. And if Trump is seriously talking about deploying federal troops by declaring martial law, that’s obviously a violation of federalist principles. In any case, this isn’t the sort of talk that’s likely to quiet talk of Trumpian authoritarianism. Trump may want to do the right thing by Chicago. That’s praiseworthy. But it would behoove him to be a bit more exact in his language rather than firing off tweets because he saw a lawyer say some things on Fox News.