CHICAGO (CBS) — President Donald Trump did not specify what he meant when he threatened to “send in the feds” if Chicago doesn’t get violent crime under control, but city leaders and clergy said the last thing the city needs is National Guard troops on every street corner.
“If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!” Trump said on his Twitter account Tuesday evening.
He did not follow up that tweet with additional information, leaving Chicago aldermen and others guessing as to exactly what the president had in mind.
At the White House, spokesman Sean Spicer on Wednesday declined to provide specifics but said that federal help could come from a variety of sources.
“I think what the president is upset about is turning on the television and seeing Americans get killed by shootings; seeing people walking down the street and getting shot down; the President of the United States giving his farewell address and two people being killed that day,” Spicer said. “What he wants to do is provide the resources of the federal government, and it can span a bunch of things. There’s no one thing. There can be aid. It can be – if it was requested up through the governor through the proper channels – that the federal government can provide on a law enforcement basis. But there’s other aid that can be extended as well, either through the U.S. Attorney’s office, or other means that will ensure that the people of Chicago have the resources to feel safe. That’s what he means.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with Trump during the transition in December and Spicer said Trump vowed federal help, if needed.
“That return call for help has not occurred,” Spicer said.
Ahead of their City Council meeting on Wednesday, several aldermen said they hope Trump was not suggesting he’d order in National Guard troops, as Fox News host Bill O’Reilly suggested on his show on Tuesday, not long before Trump’s tweet about sending in the feds.
“If I were president, I’d say, ‘You know what? The next month, we’re going to have the Guard in these neighborhoods to stop this,” O’Reilly said.
Emanuel said he welcomes federal help in fighting crime; if that means more prosecutions for illegal guns, tracking firearms, and boosting jobs and youth programs. However, he said he would oppose any suggestion to bring in the National Guard.
“As it comes to safety and security, and dealing with gangs and guns, you want the federal resources that are set up to deal with that,” he said.
The mayor said that means federal law enforcement agencies – the DEA, FBI and ATF – not troops.
“The National Guard has nothing to do with public safety” he said.
Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) noted, in the past, Trump has said Chicago could solve its crime problem “in a week” if police were tougher, so he is waiting to find out what Trump meant by threatening to send in the feds.
“We do need the federal government to come into Chicago a little more aggressively, but not boots. What we need is federal money for housing, federal money for employment training, federal money for mentorship, federal money for new bridges and streets” he said.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) echoed that sentiment.
“I hope when he say he’s going to send in feds that he’s referring to sending in some federal money to deal with all of the other reasons why we have crime in our community. Just policing the issue is not going to solve the issue,” he said.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said the federal government also should get involved in helping the Chicago Police Department hire more officers trained in law enforcement.
Ald. Sophia King (4th) said militarizing law enforcement would only exacerbate tensions between police and the public.
“As I go around to communities, knocking on doors, they’re afraid, and he [Trump] has placed a lot of fear, a lot of needless fear, in people,” she said. “We welcome the federal government, but I think the federal government needs to come with money for jobs.”
Father Michael Pfleger, a renowned activist priest, said he adamantly opposes using the National Guard to fight crime in Chicago. He said, even if violent crime were to go down with troops on the streets, it would just go back up when they left.
“You can send in National Guard, which I’m absolutely against, and do a suppression to stop violence, and have a lot of people on the corners for a month or two months. You pull them out, you’re back at ground zero.”
Pfleger said, instead, the Trump administration should focus on providing more federal funding toward economic development, jobs, and education in Chicago.
“If he’s talking about coming in with federal resources to help support communities with jobs, with education, with businesses, and help equalize the playing field as well as law enforcement to deal with illegal guns and gun trafficking; if you’re talking about the comprehensive approach, fine,” Pfleger said. “We don’t need a big brother to come in and lock everybody up.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson also spoke out against Trump’s threat on Twitter.