White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot needs to “admit” she needs federal resources to help tamp down violence in the city.
During an interview on “America’s Newsroom,” McEnany criticized Lightfoot’s response to the surge in violence in Chicago, and her repeated rejection of federal aid.
McEnany said Lightfoot is not “patrolling her streets,” and needs to “admit she needs federal help.”
McEnany’s comments come just a day after President Trump announced he would deploy 100 federal agents to Chicago to help combat rising rates of crime – a move that marked an expansion of the White House’s intervention into local law enforcement.
The “surge” of agents announced on Wednesday to Chicago and to other American cities is part of the Justice Department’s “Operation Legend,” which was named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was fatally shot while sleeping in a Kansas City apartment late last month. It also comes as federal law enforcement officers have already been deployed into Portland, Ore., and Kansas City, Mo.
“The effort to shut down police in their own communities has led to a shocking explosion of shootings, killing, violence, murders,” Trump said during a speech in the White House’s East Room Wednesday. “This rampage of violence shocks the conscience of our nation and we will not stand by and watch it happen.”
While sending federal agents to aid local law enforcement is not unprecedented – Attorney General Bill Barr announced a similar surge effort in December for seven cities that had seen spiking violence – the type of federal agent being sent, and some of their tactics, have raised concerns among state and local lawmakers.
Usually, the Justice Department sends agents under its own umbrella, like agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Administration. But this surge effort will include Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers, who generally conduct drug trafficking and child exploitation investigations.
A number of lawmakers from New York to Portland have spoken out against the Trump administration sending the agents to their cities, especially following reports that unidentified federal agents detained protesters in Portland and took them away in unmarked vehicles. Portland has been hit with near-daily demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism since the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
Local authorities also have complained the surges have only exacerbated tensions, and criminal justice experts say the efforts defy explanation because of the unprecedented moment America is living through – with a pandemic, historic unemployment and a mass reckoning over racism and how people of color are treated by police.
“Perhaps no citizens have suffered more from the menace of violent crime than the wonderful people of Chicago, a city I know very well,” Trump said during his Wednesday announcement to deploy federal agents to the city.
Chicago is currently experiencing an increase in gun violence that has seen dozens of people shot daily. On Tuesday, gunfire erupted outside a funeral home on the city’s South Side that saw 15 people wounded. Hours later, a 3-year-old girl was shot in the head. She was expected to survive.
Over the past weekend, more than 60 people were shot and 12 were killed. Trump has continually singled out Chicago for its high levels of crime while blaming Democratic leaders for failing to quell the violence.
While berating Lightfoot on Wednesday, Trump called Chicago a “disaster” and said “she’s making a big mistake” in response to her opposition to the presence of federal forces.
Meanwhile, Lightfoot said Chicago does not “need federal troops.”
“We don’t need unnamed, secret federal agents roaming around the streets of Chicago, taking residents without cause and violating their basic constitutional rights,” the mayor said. “I’m glad that the president got the message.”
“I’m glad to see that he realized that what he did in Portland was a grave abuse of his presidential power,” she added.
Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly, Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.