White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Tuesday said the Trump administration has the legal authority to send officers to Portland and potentially other cities in response to crime and unrest.
When she was pressed on whether the Constitution gives the federal government the ability to send agents to cities without the approval of their respective mayors, McEnany cited a provision of 40 U.S. Code 1315, that says the Department of Homeland Security secretary “shall protect the buildings, grounds and property that are owned, occupied, or secured by the federal government … and the persons on the property.”
“When a federal courthouse is being lit on fire, commercial fireworks being shot at it, being shot at the officers, I think that falls pretty well within the limits” of the law, McEnany told reporters in a televised news conference, referring to nights of riots and violent demonstrations in Portland following the death of George Floyd in May.
Under the aforementioned law, she said the administration can use agents to “conduct investigations of crimes committed against federal property or federal officers.”
Agents from several federal offices were deployed to Portland in an effort to stop unrest and attacks on the federal courthouse. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, both Democrats, have decried the move as unconstitutional.
McEnany added that these officers “don’t identify themselves to crowds because it would put them at great risk.”
Her comments came amid a rise in crime, shootings, and murders across several major cities in recent weeks following the death of Floyd in Minneapolis. Trump on Monday afternoon vowed that he would send federal officers to those cities in an attempt to quell unrest and deal with the spikes in crime.
Trump suggested that New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, and Oakland could see federal agents in the coming days.
“We will have more federal law enforcement. That I can tell you,” he added.
“Governors and mayors really need to step it up, particularly in Democrat cities where Democrat streets are out of control,” she said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday said the White House is sending agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Lightfoot confirmed that Chicago will not receive DHS agents.
“Unlike what happened in Portland, what we will receive is resources that are going to plug in to the existing federal agencies that we work with on a regular basis to help manage and suppress violent crime,” she said. “I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership, but we do not welcome dictatorship,” USA Today reported.