Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Monday ripped Portland’s mayor for claiming that the Trump administration’s deployment of federal agents into the city is sparking an escalation in violence.
“I believe it’s a completely irresponsible comment,” Wolf said in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”
“The facts don’t lie and the facts are that these violent anarchists and extremists were violent well before DHS surged federal assets into Portland,” he said about the unrest in Oregon’s largest city that has been going on for 53 straight days as of Sunday.
“DHS is not going to back down from our responsibilities. We are not escalating, we are protecting … federal facilities,” he said, adding “it’s our job.”
Over the weekend, groups of protesters broke into the Portland Police Association building and set it on fire.
President Trump pledged to crack down on the protests that targeted federal buildings, and dispatched US Marshals Special Operations Group and the agents from the US Customs and Border Protection team based on the US-Mexico border.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said city officials never asked for the president’s help and he wants the agents to leave, claiming they are a “blatant abuse of police tactics by the federal government” and “a direct threat to our democracy.”
“The president has a complete misunderstanding of cause and effect,” Wheeler, a Democrat, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “What’s happening here is we have dozens, if not hundreds of federal troops descending upon our city and what they’re doing is they are sharply escalating the situation. Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism.”
But Wolf rejected Wheeler’s assertion that the presence of the federal officials led to a spike in violence.
“What we know is, before July Fourth, where we saw an escalation of violence in Portland, before that time there was violence ongoing and DHS had very few officers in the city,” Wolf said.
He added that “we’re going to investigate and we’re going to hold those accountable. We’re going to arrest them and hold those accountable that are doing this destruction.”
News reports said there have been incidents in which agents wearing camouflage uniforms without identifying badges have snatched people off the street and driven away in unmarked vans.
Trump defended having the federal agents in the city in a tweet Sunday, saying they were there to protect the city from dangerous rioters.
“We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it. Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE,” Trump said in a posting. “These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”
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