Trump's show of federal force sparking alarm in cities

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Chicago Sun-Times 2020

Chicago police and activists crowd around a vehicle that tried to drive through the protesters circle at the intersection of Roosevelt Rd. and Columbus Dr, Monday, July 20, 2020 in Chicago. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is using the Department of Homeland Security in unprecedented ways as he tries to bolster his law and order credentials by making a heavy-handed show of force in cities around the nation in the lead-up to the November elections.

His plan to deploy federal agents to Chicago and perhaps other Democratic-run cities where violence is spiking represents Trump's latest effort to use an agency that was created after the Sept. 11 attacks to thwart terrorists to instead supplement local law enforcement in ways that bolster his reelection chances.

Trump has already deployed Homeland Security agents to Portland, Oregon, on the grounds of protecting federal buildings from protesters, drawing intense criticism from local leaders who say the federal presence has only exacerbated tensions rather than promoting public safety.

“This is precisely the type of tyrannical deployment of power that the Founding Fathers were specifically worried about,” said Jeffrey A. Engel, director of Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University.

Under Trump's latest plan, yet to be publicly announced, about 150 Homeland Security Investigations agents would go to Chicago to help local law enforcement deal with a spike in crime, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

Those agents, who are generally used to investigate human trafficking, drugs and weapons smuggling, are expected to stay in Chicago at least two months, according to the official. It's not clear exactly when they would arrive or how their mission would play out, but they would work under the Justice Department.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said no one had been sent to Chicago yet. She added, “The bottom line is that this president stands with law and order, which leads to peace."

In a tweet Sunday, Trump blamed local leaders for a growing spate of violence in cities like Chicago that has left dozens dead, including young children. He added a dire warning that “The Radical Left Democrats, who totally control Biden, will destroy our Country as we know it,” referring to Democratic rival Joe Biden.