Federal law enforcement agencies are gearing up to expand their footprint nationwide in the coming weeks, despite concerns about the recent scenes of violence and chaos in Oregon.
Department of Homeland Security officials have considered deploying mobile field forces to protect federal property in cities around the country that experience unrest, two people familiar with the discussions told POLITICO. And the Department of Justice is planning to expand “Operation Legend,” a law enforcement initiative launched by Attorney General Bill Barr earlier this month to fight “the sudden surge of violent crime” in Kansas City, Mo.
DOJ plans to announce this week that the operation, which involves agents from the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, will expand into more cities, a DOJ official told POLITICO. “We are seeing success in our Kansas City operation and have already arrested some wanted fugitives,” the DOJ official said.
The discussions have followed weeks of clashes between federal agents and protesters in Portland, which Trump on Monday called “worse than Afghanistan.” The president has vowed to use the power of the federal government to crush what his officials deem “violent anarchists,” wielding his authority to bolster the law-and-order theme he’s woven increasingly into his campaign messages.
The threat of force against cities whose residents overwhelmingly oppose the president has outraged Democratic lawmakers and mayors, several of whom told POLITICO they have yet to receive a formal heads-up about any forthcoming deployments.
Democrats say the federal units are unwelcome and unnecessary — if not unlawful. But the Trump administration insists they are needed to protect American cities from the more unruly elements of a movement protesting police brutality and systemic racism.
“Portland was totally out of control,” the president said on Monday, blaming “liberal Democrats” for incidents of vandalism and clashes between protesters and law enforcement. “They were ripping down — for 51 days, ripping down that city, destroying the city, looting it.”
Senior DHS officials said they expect the unrest to escalate at least through the November election, and noted that the protection of federal buildings falls squarely within their remit. DHS can temporarily authorize officers and agents from its other components — including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — to protect federal buildings.
The Federal Protective Service (FPS), the DHS component that’s specifically responsible for securing federal buildings around the country, has been training officers and agents from other DHS components on its legal powers. And an FPS document reviewed by POLITICO shows more trainings are scheduled for this month. Those trainings are not routine, one person familiar with the situation told POLITICO, and the plans indicate the department is preparing to deploy more officers around the country.
“As DHS cross-designated components to Portland, they received additional training from FPS specifically so they can fulfil their mission,” a DHS spokesperson told POLITICO in response to a request for comment on this story. The spokesperson declined to discuss any other details of this reporting.
We're now in a critical phase. More than anything, Trump wants an excuse to use overwhelming, deadly force to kill his own citizens in order to maintain his power in November. He wants a deadly event he can replay on campaign ads and at rallies and press conferences and wants his followers to take up arms and fight for him if he is willing to go that far.
If this was happening in another country, we would call it what it is, a military crackdown by a despotic tyrant.
This is happening now, in America, today, right now
I have been warning about the slide into authoritarianism for years here.
We're finally on the edge of the cliff, in the storm, and the ground is starting to crumble beneath us
If it goes, there's no easy way of turning back. Not without catastrophic bloodshed in the middle of a pandemic. What I fear most is national martial law and suspended elections, and a military willing to follow Trump's evil orders.
Be careful, folks.
This is where history has its eyes on us, as the song goes.