President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’s willing to send as many as 75,000 federal agents into American cities to quell crime under a banner of “law and order,” which has become a campaign theme and a distraction for a President who has failed to adopt an appropriate strategy to contain the coronavirus pandemic that has killed roughly 143,000 people in the United States.
Speaking in a telephone interview with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, the President began by saying he was prepared to dispatch between 50,000 and 60,000 people “that really know what they are doing” into American cities.
The more the President talked, the greater the number of agents grew — expanding to as many as 75,000 agents as the call drew on.
The President said that with the help of “strong” and “tough” federal agents “we can solve these problems so fast. But as you know, we have to be invited in.”
The remarks follow widespread criticism of the Trump administration for dispatching federal agents onto the streets of Portland following weeks of protests in the Oregon city after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis without invitation in May.
Reports of camouflaged agents grabbing people off the streets to be detained in unmarked vans and later questioned surfaced earlier this month. Department of Homeland Security officials claimed that agents were identified by agency insignia and a “police” label on their uniforms. Video footage of federal agents using smoke, impact munitions and batons have also emerged. On Thursday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) was tear gassed as he stood in a crowd of demonstrators in front of a federal courthouse.
Since then the President announced earlier this week that agents would also be dispatched in other American cities, saying Wednesday that a “surge” of federal law enforcement would be sent into Chicago and other cities.
“At some point we’re going to have to do something much stronger than being invited in,” Trump warned in his call with Hannity.
“We’ll go into all of the cities, any of the cities. We’re ready,” he said.
CNN pointed out that if deployed, 75,000 officers would mark a significant portion of all federal officers in the country. According to a 2019 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were approximately 100,000 federal law enforcement officers total for the country in 2016.
Trump’s comments come as he has pushed to make federal policing a campaign issue. In his call with Hannity, the President took aim at Democratic leaders who he said are “not taking care” or “respecting” their police. “They want to take all of their power away,” Trump said of Democratic leaders.
The President mocked the Portland mayor who was tear gassed on Thursday calling him “pathetic” and saying that Wheeler “made a fool out of himself” by deciding go out among the people and join them for a night of protest.
He also has falsely described Democratic opponent Joe Biden as anti-police.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump took to Twitter to address the “The Suburban Housewives of America,” warning that “Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!”
Since protests spread throughout the country following the murder of George Floyd and others, Trump has worked at a message that uses race-baiting and fear-mongering to project tough-on-crime optics that he hopes will detract from his bungled handling of the coronavirus.
“And except for the China virus that came in, we were setting every record you could set for unemployment, for the stock market. Every single record you could imagine,” Trump told Hannity, adding, “no administration has come close.”
During Thursday’s Fox News interview, Trump suggested he’d spoken recently with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat who has strongly critiqued the President for failing to offer common sense gun control reform which would help the Illinois city that has a long history of gun violence.
Trump called it a “great talk,” although Lightfoot has made it clear in tweets and televised interviews that she is prepared to file for a restraining order against federal agents who diverge from the agreed upon path, saying Thursday in an MSNBC interview that the violent scenes that made headlines in Portland would not be repeated in her city. “We’re just not having that in Chicago,” Lightfoot said.