Lightfoot, White House signal Trump might not send Portland-style strike force to Chicago

Trump on Wednesday will deliver remarks on Operation Legend, a federal government effort to address “violent crime in American cities.”

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched an awareness campaign on July 21, 2020, called “We Are All One Team” that encourages young people to wear masks, maintain social distance and stop gathering in large groups to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot discusses Tuesday how she would respond if President Donald Trump deploys federal forces to Chicago in the same manner he did in Portland, Oregon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday she was told there is no “Portland-style deployment” of federal agents headed to Chicago — a signal also sent by the White House — keeping her guard up as President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver remarks on fighting crime on Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany hinted at the Tuesday briefing that federal agents working with Operation Legend may be sent to Chicago. Trump’s Wednesday guidance said he will be delivering remarks on Operation Legend, combating “violent crime in American cities.”

The Justice Department is expected to announce the expansion of that violent-crime initiative. It is through Operation Legend that Attorney General William Barr earlier sent more than 100 agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA and ATF to help state and local law enforcement, beginning in Kansas City, Missouri.

At the briefing, McEnany said Trump has “offered his help, and we encourage the mayor to take it and to be forthright about the situation in her [city], much like the governor of Missouri was in working with us on Operation Legend to protect the people of Missouri,” McEnany said.

With an unpredictable Trump, Lightfoot, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul are leaving nothing to chance.

The three Democrats had a phone conference Monday afternoon to map strategy with their legal teams, the Sun-Times has learned.

“I’m also not naïve. And we’re gonna be diligent. We’re gonna be ready. And if we need to stop them, we are going to,” Lightfoot said.

Chicago remains on guard as federal agents stay in Portland over the protests of that city’s mayor and the Oregon governor. Federal officers in Portland — not wearing uniforms — patrolled city streets, clashing with demonstrators and making arrests.

The Illinois and Oregon governors and Chicago and Portland mayors and the senators from both states are Democrats.

Trump is using the leaders of Chicago and Portland as proxies for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden as he accuses “liberal” Democrats and Biden of being soft on crime.

In multiple developments on Tuesday:

• Lightfoot said she has talked to John Lausch, the U.S. attorney in Chicago. Based on that conversation, “What I understand at this point — and I caveat that — is that the Trump administration is not going to foolishly deploy unnamed agents to the streets of Chicago,” the mayor said. “As I understand it, what we will be getting are some additional resources in the FBI, the DEA and the ATF.”

The mayor made her remarks at an unrelated news conference outside Guaranteed Rate Field.

“What we will receive is resources that are going to plug into the existing federal agencies that we work with on a regular basis to help manage and suppress violent crime in our city,” she said. “Unlike what happened in Portland, the U.S. attorney himself, John Lausch, is in the loop and will help managing the additional resources.

“That’s a big difference. In Portland, they ignored the U.S. attorney, put these agents on the street and . . . what happened was not only unconstitutional, it was undemocratic.”

Lightfoot said she’s all for an “actual partnership” with the federal government. She acknowledged there are “some things the feds are uniquely-qualified to do and we would welcome that.”

Lightfoot said she has known Lausch for more than 20 years. They once worked together as assistant federal prosecutors.

But, the mayor noted that the information that Lausch gave her is “only as good as” what he has been told. She won’t “put anything past” the Trump Administration.

• Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth plus Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Rep. Danny Davis — all Illinois Democrats — warned the White House on Tuesday not to send camouflaged “secret police” to Chicago. They want to pass legislation to prevent the Trump White House from deploying paramilitary troops to cities uninvited.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon said in floor speech, in Portland, “unmarked vans full of armed men in military gear are snatching people off the streets.” Durbin, in his floor speech said, “If the president truly wants to cooperate with law enforcement efforts, we can find ways to find common ground and make it a safer city together. But sending in secret police with unmarked vehicles to snatch people off the streets is not only unacceptable, it’s un-American.”

• Pritzker, at a press conference in Collinsville, said he called the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and was told “he couldn’t possibly get back to me until about 48 hours from now.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Pritzker said. If the White House sends agents, “They need to answer to the governor of the state, to the mayor of the city of Chicago, to the attorney general of the state of Illinois. We’re going to do everything we can to prevent them from coming, and if they do come we’re going to do everything we can from a legal perspective to get them out.”

At another event in East St. Louis, Pritzker said Trump “is not looking to help us reduce violence. He’s looking to create mayhem because he thinks it will him get re-elected in November.”

• At the White House briefing, McEnany, when asked about agents being sent to Chicago, said, “I think you’re getting ahead of the president here.

“He’s made no announcements as to who’s going where. He’s very discouraged by the violence that he’s seen in Chicago.”

“That’s why he sent a very strong letter to Mayor Lightfoot offering help, because she’s clearly unable to control her streets, and the governor as well, unable to control that area.”

McEnany did not mention that Lightfoot sent Trump a letter Monday night in which the mayor wrote, “I would be happy to have my team sit down with yours” to discuss the situation in Chicago.

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