Nathan Howard / Getty ImagesDemonstrators walk past a dumpster fire during another night of rioting in Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 14, 2020. (Nathan Howard / Getty Images)
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf issued a blistering letter to Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland giving him the choice of either protecting his riot-torn city or watching President Donald Trump do it for him.
“I urge you to prioritize public safety and to request federal assistance to restore law and order in Portland,” Wolf wrote in the letter, which was dated Monday and posted online by Fox News.
“We are standing by to support Portland. At the same time, President Trump has made it abundantly clear that there will come a point when state and local officials fail to protect its citizens from violence, the federal government will have no choice but to protect our American citizens,” he wrote.
Trump on Monday lashed out at Wheeler.
“Portland is a mess, and it has been for many years,” the president said on Twitter. “If this joke of a mayor doesn’t clean it up, we will go in and do it for them!”
Wolf’s letter notes that after three months of nightly rioting, “Portland has become the epicenter of crime and chaos.”
“Despite this, you have stood by passively, arguing that the nightly violence ‘will ultimately burn itself out.’ The evidence demonstrates otherwise,” he wrote in response to an Aug. 28 letter from Wheeler rejecting any federal help to deal with the rioting.
DHS had sent federal agents to Portland earlier this summer, but they were withdrawn amid vehement objections to their deployment from local Democratic officials. Wheeler insisted the city could bring the violence to a close without outside assistance.
Wolf urged Wheeler to change his mind while Portland can.
“The chaos, destruction, and suffering in Portland are evils you can stop — and must stop. Consider what happened recently in Wisconsin — where the State of Wisconsin requested and received federal law enforcement assistance and the violence and looting there ended,” he wrote.
Wolf’s letter came as some Oregon sheriffs rejected Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s plan to put their deputies into Portland to quell the violence.
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said he was never asked about the plan and he opposes it, according to KATU-TV.
“Increasing law enforcement resources in Portland will not solve the nightly violence and now, murder,” the sheriff said. “The only way to make Portland safe again, is to support a policy that holds offenders accountable for their destruction and violence.”
Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett also rejected the plan, saying its risks to his department included “the lack of political support for public safety, the uncertain legal landscape, the current volatility combined with intense scrutiny on use of force.”
Do you think the federal government should act to end the rioting?
On Sunday, Wolf expressed frustration with Portland officials in an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
“We’ve been asking Portland to do their job really for over three months now,” he said. “What you see in Portland is an environment, they foster an environment of this lawlessness and chaos.”
“We need them to do their job. We need them to step up, and if they can’t or they don’t have the ability or the resources, ask the federal government,” Wolf said. “We’ll provide those resources as we’ve done in Wisconsin and others so that we can address any violence across the spectrum.”
Local officials in Oregon “have failed to protect their communities,” he said.
“It’s time to end the lawlessness and the chaos that we see in Portland,” Wolf said.
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