WASHINGTON — A day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot talked with President Joe Biden at O’Hare Airport about the extra resources he promised to combat crime in Chicago, the mayor said Thursday more federal help will come “relatively soon.”
Lightfoot also dismissed as false a report from a conservative news outlet that she asked Biden to send troops to Chicago, a story that seemed the peg for a Fox News reporter to ask White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about it at the Thursday briefing.
Biden and Lightfoot met after a brutal July 4 weekend with 104 people shot and 19 of them killed. Hours before the tarmac huddle, two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and a Chicago police officer were shot.
“I’m expecting those resources to be coming relatively soon, based upon a conversation I had yesterday, both with ATF and the President,” Lightfoot said after I asked about her talk with Biden during a Zoom call with other reporters. Lightfoot was in San Francisco on a trip to promote Chicago as a national tech center.
“And no, we don’t need federal troops; we need federal resources of a different kind. And I’ve been very vocal about that; really vocal about both issues since 2019, and I talked at length last summer about the Trump administration’s disastrous policy of sending troops into cities like Portland and Seattle, which was an unmitigated disaster. Troops don’t know how to do local law enforcement. They’re not interchangeable,” Lightfoot said.
Last year, former President Donald Trump — a serial basher of the liberal, Democratic run Chicago — threatened to “send in the feds.” And Lightfoot told him in strong terms not to do it.
On July 20, 2020, I wrote that “Trump and his administration hinted” that federal agents may be deployed to Chicago as soon as this week to crack down on protests and gun violence in a military-style response similar to Portland, Oregon.”
Lightfoot had her brief conversation on the tarmac with Biden on Wednesday before he headed to Crystal Lake to promote his domestic agenda in Trump-friendly McHenry County.
On June 23, Biden and the Justice Department unveiled proposals to curb gun trafficking in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area and Washington, D.C. within 30 days. One element of the package of proposals was creation of “strike forces” with law enforcement officials from different agencies.
I asked Lightfoot if she expected the Biden team to need the whole month.
“Well, I don’t want to speak for them, but my hope and my expectation is that they’re going to be coming relatively soon.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think this is a matter of incredible urgency,” and “I think the president’s plan is to make a big difference in localities like Chicago this summer.
“So the clock is ticking in getting those resources on the ground here up and activated with local partners, the most effective way for them to really make a difference is to get here sooner rather than later.”
A Justice Department spokesperson told me Wednesday that the strike force plans are still under development.
Lightfoot revealed that “conversations about what that may look like, really started” soon “after the White House announcement.” She said there is a focus on Chicago’s “specific needs” in talks with the FBI, ATF, DEA and the Marshals Service.
Here’s how misinformation starts
At the briefing, Psaki was asked about Lightfoot. “There was a report that she requested federal support,” the Fox News reporter said. “Did that involve troop presence in any way?”
The Washington Examiner, a conservative news outlet, got this ball rolling by reporting, with no attribution, that Lightfoot “requested” that Biden “send federal troops to her city amid a rising crime wave, an offer she previously rejected under former President Donald Trump.”
Fox News is a harsh Lightfoot critic, especially when it comes to the city’s struggle to combat gun violence. So it was not a surprise to me the reporter asked the question at the high profile briefing.
The strike force will likely focus on illegal gun trafficking to stop the flow of illegal weapons to the city. Fewer illegal guns hopefully translate to fewer shootings and deaths.
Said Psaki, “From our end, what the president conveyed to Mayor Lightfoot is that he will continue to work with her, in partnership and work with cities around the country to address … specifically the rise of gun violence.”