WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump remained fixated on Chicago on Wednesday, still offering no solutions as he blamed – with no proof – “illegal immigrant gang members” for crime in the city.
Trump is preferring to keep talking about a problem rather than do something about it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson are clearly on the record as eager to work with the Trump administration.
Wednesday’s remarks before a law enforcement group are the eighth time since Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20 – counting a reference on the Trump White House site – that Trump singled out violence in Chicago.
Mayoral spokesman Matt McGrath said, “With all the talk and no action, you have to wonder whether the administration is serious about working with us on solutions, or if they are just using violence in this great city to score political points.
“We’ve been clear, there are ways the federal government can help, and we’re happy to partner with the administration whenever they decide to stop talking and start acting.”
Johnson said, “I hope the President had an opportunity today to hear from police chiefs around the country who are facing many of the same challenges Chicago is facing, including too-easy access to illegal guns, inconsistent sentencing, and a more fractured and decentralized gang structure where gunfire is as likely to erupt from a feud on social media as a battle over turf.
“We’re clear-eyed about the challenges we’re facing in Chicago and will continue working day and night to address them, and we’re eager to work more closely with the federal government.”
Trump so far has offered no federal assistance to Chicago despite Mayor Rahm Emanuel having met with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
Speaking to the Major Cities Chiefs Association’s winter conference at a hotel near the White House on Wednesday, Trump said, “In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone, and the rate so far this year has been even higher. What is going on in Chicago?” Trump said.
“…Whether a child lives in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, or anywhere in our country, he or she has the right to grow up in safety and in peace. No one in America should be punished because of the city where he or she is born. Every child in America should be able to play outside without fear, walk home without danger, and attend a school without being worried about drugs or gangs or violence.
Trump then brought up illegal immigrants and crime, once again throwing a spotlight on Chicago.
He urged the law enforcement officials to tell the Department of Homeland Security John Kelly to tell him “who the illegal immigrant gang members are. Now, you have that power because you know them, you’re there, you’re local. You know the illegals, you know them by their first name, you know them by their nicknames. You have that power. The federal government can never be that precise. But you’re in the neighborhoods — you know the bad ones, you know the good ones.
“I want you to turn in the bad ones. Call Secretary Kelly’s representatives and we’ll get them out of our country and bring them back where they came from, and we’ll do it fast. You have to call up the federal government, Homeland Security, because so much of the problems — you look at Chicago and you look at other places. So many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not even legally in our country.”
Backstory: Trump may be setting a trap for Emanuel here, by linking, with no proof, illegal immigrants and crime in Chicago. Chicago is a sanctuary city and Trump signed an executive order in his first week in office to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities. Emanuel has made a strong stand in maintaining Chicago as a sanctuary city despite Trump’s threats. The issues – crime in Chicago, getting Trump to send more federal help and Chicago’s sanctuary status – may all become linked.
On Tuesday, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway told the Sun-Times, “All I can say is, he’s been in touch with Mayor Emanuel and that’s great. It’s nice bi-partisan action to try to solve what clearly, I think, anybody would admit is a vexing problem. So I’m sure they will have another private discussion before anything is formally revealed.”
She commented after Trump earlier Tuesday told a group of sheriffs in the White House, “if you ran Chicago, you would solve that nightmare, I tell you. … Because to allow — I mean, literally — hundreds of shootings a month, it’s worse than some of the places that we read about in the Middle East, where you have wars going on. It’s so sad. Chicago has become so sad a situation.”
As reported in the Tuesday Sun-Times, Chicago’s City Hall wants to get to work with the Trump White House.
“Instead of focusing so much energy on rhetoric about Chicago, the people of this city would be better off if the president would finally partner with us to improve public safety for Chicago,” Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath told me.
Here’s a rundown on Trump speaking out on crime in Chicago:
• In his July 21, 2016 speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump talked about the shooting victims “in the President’s hometown of Chicago.”
• While President-elect, in a Jan. 2 post on Twitter, Trump said Chicago should ask for “federal help,” even though Emanuel did in a meeting he had with Trump in New York on Dec. 7.
• On Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, Trump’s WhiteHouse.gov web site mentioned Chicago shootings.
• Trump said in a Jan. 24 Twitter post he will “send in the feds” if Chicago does not stop the “carnage.”
• On Jan. 25, in an ABC News interview, Trump said two people were shot and killed on Jan. 10, when now former President Barack Obama was in Chicago delivering his farewell speech at McCormick Place. There were no homicides in Chicago that day.
• At a Republican retreat in Philadelphia on Jan. 26, Trump, talking about murders in cities said, “And then you look at Chicago, what’s going on in Chicago? I said the other day, ‘What the hell is going on?’”
• On Feb. 1, during a meeting at the White House to mark Black History Month, Trump said if Chicago officials don’t take steps to stop violence, “we’re going to solve the problem for them,” and suggesting that direct intervention with street-gang leaders might be a good idea.
• On Feb. 7, talking to a group of sheriffs in the White House, Trump compared Chicago to violence in unnamed Middle East nations.