Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump of “pointing fingers” at Chicago, instead of leading on gun control after the Texas shooting rampage, but steered clear of criticizing Ald. Edward Burke (14th).
One day after Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) condemned as a “disgrace” Burke’s decision to file yet another lawsuit aimed at winning property tax refunds for the hotel and vacant retail space in the riverfront tower that bears Trump’s name, Emanuel refused to join Pawar in condemning Burke.
That’s even though Burke’s sixth lawsuit seeks to deprive the city and its public schools of millions of dollars in sorely-needed revenue and put that money into the pockets of, as Pawar put it, a “racist and a bigot and a demagogue” who has “demonized” Chicago and its immigrant population.
“The city is in court right now as it relates to the Trump Tower asking for greater relief on property taxes. We’re in court right now opposing that. So, you know what our views are. And you know what my views are on Donald Trump. I just spoke to them,” the mayor said.
But what about Burke and the role that he has played in representing Trump on those property tax appeals?
“The point is not about Burke. The point is where is the city as it relates to President Trump and his policies. And I couldn’t have been clearer,” Emanuel said.
Six years ago, Emanuel rocked the boat with a pre-election threat to reorganize the City Council and strip Finance Committee chairman Burke of his police bodyguards and, possibly, his chairmanship.
He ended up retaining Burke, cutting his police detail in half, eliminating three committees and reducing committee spending by 20 percent.
Since then, the two political powerhouses have developed a working relationship not unlike the one that Burke had with former Mayor Richard M. Daley. They don’t necessarily trust one another. But they don’t mess with one another, either. In fact, they’re generally supportive of each other’s programs.
When it comes to Trump, Emanuel didn’t dodge or equivocate.
The mayor blasted Trump for using Chicago gun violence to claim that tougher gun laws would not have prevented the Texas shooting rampage and, to the contrary, might have made it worse.
“You would think that, after Las Vegas and after Texas, President Trump would actually see the responsibility he has as a president to lead…[Instead] he is pointing fingers,” the mayor said.
“Part of the responsibilities that come with that office is the bully pulpit. As my friend [former Clinton adviser] Bruce Reed said on another subject. ‘He’s the bully in the pulpit.’ And he’s not using the bully pulpit to lead. Change laws, realizing that it’s time for the type of strengthening of our gun laws that is necessary for our public safety.”
During a news conference in South Korea, Trump fended off questions about tougher gun laws to prevent more mass shootings, by saying, “The city with the strongest gun laws in our nation is Chicago. And Chicago is a disaster, a total disaster.”
Emanuel countered by repeating one of his favorites one-liners: “A president, like everybody else, is entitled to their own opinion. They are not entitled to their own facts.”
Pointing to the ATF’s recent gun trace report, the mayor said, “What the report showed was that the guns are coming from outside the city. And having a more comprehensive security blanket as it relates to access to guns is what the city of Chicago needs.”
He added, “Our police officers are making progress. But not progress fast enough. We need stronger gun laws to get there.”
The Texas church shooting suspect Devin Kelley was convicted by a general court martial of assaulting his wife and stepson. He would not have been able to purchase the firearms he used in the attack, if only the Air Force had provided that pivotal information to the FBI for entry into a national database.
In light of that deadly oversight, Emanuel was asked what difference stricter gun laws would have made in Kelley’s case.
“It’s about a background check that comes from the background checks that President Clinton passed. The gun he used was also a gun that was banned under the assault weapon ban that now has expired,” the mayor said.
“Yes, the Air Force had a responsibility. They didn’t follow through. But the types of things that related to prohibiting a person with domestic violations…from getting a gun and the type of gun that was used were all things that have been passed under President Clinton.”