WASHINGTON – After years of tangling with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Donald Trump offered an olive branch to Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot in a phone call the day after her sweeping victory.
Whether it amounts to a reset — given that Chicago has been a target of Trump for years — remains to be seen.
“The president had a great conversation this week with newly elected Mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, where he congratulated her on the victory, and expressed a strong willingness to work with her to assist the great city of Chicago,” Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Trump and Lightfoot talked late morning on Wednesday, following her commanding win over Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. In a separate call, White House senior adviser and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump phoned Lightfoot to congratulate her, Lightfoot spokesman Nadia Pearl said.
There is no reason to think Lightfoot won’t oppose the same Trump policies, especially relating to immigrants, that Emanuel and other Democratic big city mayors — and Democratic governors and attorneys general — have been fighting in lawsuits around the country.
For all that, Emanuel — as does freshman Democratic Gov. J. B. Pritzker — say they want to work with Trump on areas where they can find common ground.
During the campaign, Lightfoot said that as mayor, she would seek even less cooperation with ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and would maintain Chicago as a “sanctuary city,” strengthening laws welcoming the undocumented to Chicago.
Trump, during his 2016 campaign and while in the White House continues to hit Chicago on law and order issues, almost always siding with and defending police.
Lightfoot and Trump start out with no relationship, and that’s a plus.
That Lightfoot is not an outsized personality like Emanuel will also help in forging relations with the norm-busting Trump and his administration.
Until last Tuesday night, Lightfoot was virtually unknown outside of Chicago.
Emanuel has been a tempting Trump target because he has had a big national profile since working for former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s — and he was former President Barack Obama’s first chief of staff.
When Emanuel left the White House to make his first run for mayor, Trump, with his Trump Tower in Chicago, donated $50,000 to his campaign.
Another complexity in the Trump/Emanuel relationship has been other history with his brother.
Emanuel’s brother Ari is the powerful head of Endeavor, a talent and entertainment company. Ari Emanuel once represented Trump, a former reality show star. While Trump was president-elect, Ari Emanuel met with Trump at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Lightfoot will be in Washington soon enough. I expect she will meet with Trump at the White House in the coming months, or at least Ivanka Trump.
We’ll see how that “great conversation” between Donald Trump and Lightfoot really translates.
FOOTNOTE: Lightfoot as Chicago mayor-elect is vaulted into the top ranks of national Democrats. Besides a call from the GOP president, two former presidents and several 2020 Democratic presidential rivals phoned.
They are, Pearl told me, former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, among others, 2020 presidential contenders U.S. Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.