Trump throws darts at Lightfoot, Pritzker over crime; offers help with ‘unsolved challenges’
The offer — and insults — are in a letter Trump sent to the mayor and governor. Lightfoot said in reply, “How about some leadership not steeped in the divide and conquer tactics?”
President Donald Trump, in a Friday letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker filled with insults — and coming after Trump on Thursday called Chicago “worse than Afghanistan” — accused the Democratic leaders of putting their “political interests” ahead of “your own citizens.”
Trump offered, in the letter, to help “tackle unsolved challenges” in improving public safety. He wrote that if Lightfoot and Pritzker “were willing to put partisanship aside, we can revitalize distressed neighborhoods in Chicago, together. But to succeed, you must establish law and order.”
A Pritzker spokeswoman said it was the other way around and the Trump letter was the president’s attempt “to politicize tragedy.”
Lightfoot replied: “I don’t need leadership lessons from Donald Trump. As our police officers, street outreach workers and residents continue to work tirelessly to keep our communities safe, he’s using the victims of gun violence in our city to score cheap political points, spew racist rhetoric, and ignore the impact of COVID across this country. It is despicable, disgusting and all too typical. Same old tired playbook. How about some leadership not steeped in the divide and conquer tactics?
“I stand with the Governor in providing for the safety and well-being of our residents.”
The Trump letter comes in this context: more shootings in Chicago, and Congress ending the week in a stalemate over addressing police reform after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.
Protests across the nation prompted Trump to issue an executive order on policing. Trump’s action followed a shift of public opinion on intolerance of race-based policing as the Black Lives Matter movement mainstreamed after Floyd’s death.
Trump has been accusing Democrats of being soft on crime while running as the “law and order president.” The jabs came in a letter where Trump cites a Sun-Times June 8 story he said he read about 18 shooting deaths on one bloody June day, the most violent day in the city in 60 years.
“Your lack of leadership on this important issue continues to fail the people you have sworn to protect. I am concerned it is another example of your lack of commitment to the vulnerable citizens who are victims of this violence and a lack of respect for the men and women in law enforcement,” Trump wrote.
Trump goes on to summarize federal funds that have flowed to the city, including for law enforcement. He does not mention that his administration has tried over the years to take away law enforcement related federal grants because of the city’s sanctuary city status.
Chicago officials declared Chicago a sanctuary city in the wake of Trump’s immigration crackdowns and have fought other policy directives from the Trump White House.
Trump for years has focused on Chicago’s struggles with shootings, up to his comment on Thursday in a Fox News interview about Chicago being “worse than Afghanistan,” comparing the city unfavorably to “Honduras, Guatemala.”
Lightfoot on Friday, noting Trump’s hotel off Michigan Avenue, hit back in a Tweet with a screenshot from the Trump hotels website touting the city as a world-class tourist destination.
Trump in his letter called for bipartisanship at the same time he zinged Lightfoot and Pritzker.
He said he will “ask members of my Cabinet” to meet with them to help “devise a plan to make Chicago safe, since a successful formula has escaped both you and your predecessors.”
Pritzker press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh told the Sun-Times: “President Trump is a failure who has once again resorted to a press stunt in an attempt to distract from his long list of failures, especially his response to the deadly coronavirus and nationwide calls for racial justice. The people of this state and this nation have unfortunately come to expect his unhinged attempts to politicize tragedy with his predictable and worn-out strategy to distract, distract, distract.”
Trump has sided with Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police when it comes to policing issues in Chicago. In May, Trump tweeted congratulations to John Catanzara when he was elected the new FOP chief.
Trump — for years a critic of how Chicago handles crime — last October, in his first visit to the city as president, slammed the city at a convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Trump has focused on Chicago crime since his 2016 presidential campaign, accusing city leaders and then Mayor Rahm Emanuel of thwarting police and at one point pledging to “send in the Feds.”
One of Trump’s oft-cited claims, which has never been proved, is that he talked to a “top police officer in Chicago” who told him he could stop crime in the city “within one week.”