Chicago warns against ‘dictatorship’ as it awaits federal agents

Chicago, July 24, (tca/dpa/GNA) – After a frenzied 24 hours during which Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot threatened to sue if US President Donald Trump tried to send federal agents into Chicago without her permission, she acknowledged Tuesday that the city would be working with federal agents to fight crime, but warned that her administration would be vigilant against abuses of power.

Lightfoot changed her tone after talking with US Attorney John Lausch, a former colleague whom she has said she respects and admires. He assured her an influx of law enforcement would be working “collaboratively” with Chicago cops against violent crime.

The unfolding situation in Chicago “at this point” won’t resemble the situation playing out in Portland, Oregon, where unidentified federal agents wearing camouflage uniforms have been denounced by local leaders for their actions, Lightfoot said at an unrelated news conference.

Instead, Lightfoot said she expects Chicago will receive resources that will plug into existing federal agencies that already work with the city, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, she said.

Still, Lightfoot was careful not to put too much trust in the White House and an administration with which she’s had a mostly adversarial relationship since she took office last year.

“I don’t put anything past this administration, which is why we will continue to be diligent and why we will continue to be ready,” Lightfoot said. “If we need to stop them and use the courts to do so, we are ready to do that.”

For Lightfoot, the prospect of increased federal assistance for anti-crime efforts is a thorny proposition. More federal agents could help with the city’s skyrocketing violence, but the unfolding controversy in Portland and Trump’s repeated harsh rhetoric toward Chicago has led to high public mistrust in the federal government.

The announcement about federal agents coming to Chicago is the latest development in an ongoing war of words between the Republican president and Democratic mayor.

Last month, Trump lashed out at Lightfoot and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker about Chicago’s gun violence, saying the two had put their “own political interests” ahead of the lives of residents and insisting that “law and order” was needed.

Lightfoot, who has ripped Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, responded with a statement saying she doesn’t “need leadership lessons” from the president and accused him of using victims of gun violence to try to score “cheap political points.”

In recent weeks, Lightfoot repeatedly has questioned the sincerity of Trump’s offer to help Chicago and denounced his response to George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer.

“What I really want to say to Donald Trump … begins with F and it ends with U,” she said in May after Floyd was killed.

On Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Department of Homeland Security was crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to the city this week.

The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, the Tribune reported, though the specifics of their mission were not made public.

At her news conference, Lightfoot did not specify how many agents were coming to Chicago, from what agencies or which federal officials she talked to aside from Lausch.

But an official with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday the Trump administration plans to send 150 agents to Chicago, with about 75 coming from HSI and the rest coming from other federal agencies.

They’ll largely be working on drug cases that are fueling crime, the official said, adding that the city wouldn’t be worried about the group of feds coming in if the situation with Portland weren’t happening.

Chicago police and other big-city departments across the country regularly work with federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ATF and the US attorney’s office on investigations into drug- and gun-trafficking and myriad other crimes tied to violence.

In Chicago, such investigations are often based in certain neighborhoods on the South and West sides where much of the violence in the city occurs. One incentive for the partnership is the potential for a lengthier prison sentence for criminals tried and convicted in the federal system as opposed to being prosecuted in state court.

Such partnerships over the years have been through federal programs such as Project Exile, aimed at shifting more gun prosecutions to federal judges so they can hand down stiffer penalties on convicts, and Project Safe Neighborhoods, another effort that shifted gun prosecutions from state court to federal court.

Lightfoot’s attitude Tuesday toward the additional federal help was a stark contrast from the night before, when she appeared on the MSNBC show “The ReidOut” and said she would use every tool she has to stop Trump from sending “troops” to the city, including filing a lawsuit.
“We’re not going to have tyranny in the city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said.

As she explained the situation with Trump on Tuesday, Lightfoot said the federal government could help Chicago by sending resources that work through the existing federal infrastructure.
“I sent a letter to the president yesterday outlining various ways in which if he really wanted to partner with us, that he could do so. There are some things the federal government is uniquely qualified to handle. We would welcome that,” Lightfoot said.

“What we do not welcome, and what we will not tolerate, and we will fight against is the deployment of unnamed federal special secret agents onto our streets to detain people without cause and effectively take away their civil rights and their civil liberties without due process. That is not going to happen in Chicago, and if we see that, the minute we see it, we will be rushing into court to stop that from happening.

“We welcome actual partnership,” Lightfoot added. “But we do not welcome dictatorship, we do not welcome authoritarianism and we do not welcome unconstitutional arrest and detainment of our residents.”

Trump is no stranger to toying with the idea of sending more federal law enforcement to Chicago.

Days after his inauguration in 2017, he took to Twitter to criticize the city’s violence, proposing a vague solution: “I will send in the Feds!”

At the time, it was a declaration that kept city officials guessing. Did he mean more federal aid to Chicago police? Would he send more resources to the FBI and other federal agencies that already work in Chicago? Did he intend to send in the National Guard?

That summer, 20 ATF agents were sent to Chicago to help form a task force aimed at cutting the flow of illegal guns in the city and cracking down on people arrested repeatedly on gun-related charges. Among other duties, the group was tasked with examining bullet casings recovered from crime scenes to perform expedited ballistics testing to determine if the casings were expended from the same guns used in other shootings.

DHS officials could not be reached for comment, while a spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman on Monday indicated an announcement would be forthcoming on an expansion of what has been dubbed Operation Legend, which saw several federal law enforcement agencies assist local police in Kansas City, Missouri, including the FBI and US Marshals Service.

Illinois’ two US senators, Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, also expressed concern about the move.