As President Donald Trump defends his questionable use of federal agents to arrest and detain protesters in Portland, Oregon, in recent weeks, suggesting also that such actions could happen in other places across the country, one district attorney of a city Trump said might be next said he’d take direct action against any federal officers that unlawfully detained individuals.
Trump appeared to cite partisan politics on Monday as part of the reason he felt the need to take action against certain cities, telling reporters that beyond Portland, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia could be next to see federal law enforcement confront Black Lives Matter protesters in those cities.
“All run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by the radical left,” Trump said in his comments. He also called those cities “worse than Afghanistan” while stating his rationale for sending federal agents to them.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner explained in a statement earlier this week that he would not allow such efforts to happen in his city, mentioning his family members’ past actions against authoritarian threats as part of the basis for him taking such a strong stand against the president.
“My dad volunteered and served in World War II to fight fascism, like most of my uncles, so we would not have an American president brutalizing and kidnapping Americans for exercising their constitutional rights and trying to make America a better place, which is what patriots do,” Krasner said. “Anyone, including federal law enforcement, who unlawfully assaults and kidnaps people will face criminal charges from my office.”
On Wednesday, Krasner reiterated what he had said earlier in the week, tweeting out that his office “will not make excuses for crimes committed by law enforcement that demean the democratic freedoms so many Americans have fought and died to preserve.”
— DA Larry Krasner (@DA_LarryKrasner) July 22, 2020
Several legal experts have spoken out against the president’s use of federal law enforcement in Portland, as well as his threats to use those same officers in other cities across the country, as likely overstepping his bounds and powers as commander-in-chief. While the president may have some ability to deploy officers in certain cases, he doesn’t have total authority to do so.
“The president is not the king. The president does not have the ability to require states to enforce their laws in a certain way, or to elbow aside their law enforcement abilities,” Boston College law professor Kent Greenfield said to Reuters.
Elizabeth Goitein with the Brennan Center for Justice expressed similar sentiments on social media.
Agents are “arresting people without probable cause (far from any federal property) and deliberately creating no records of the arrest so they can deny it ever happened,” she wrote on Twitter.
Goitein went further in a second tweet, stating that the use of “a secret federal paramilitary force” in U.S. cities “is every bit the abuse of power that it appears to be.”
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