Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey defended President Trump’s suggestion he might send federal troops to Philadelphia to fight rising crime, saying “at some point, the president has to step in.”
Addressing a surge of crime in some of America’s biggest cities, President Trump said Monday, “I’m going to do something — that I can tell you.”
“Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”
Trump’s remarks landed just as a national debate has arisen over the presence and actions of federal officers in Portland, Oregon.
“I’m not sure we should consider it bad behavior for the president to send federal officers to protect federal property,” Toomey said Wednesday on Chris Stigall’s radio show.
“The federal government has every right to do that, and when a municipality and a state is deciding: ‘No, lawless riots are fine. We’re not going to protect our citizens, we’re not going to protect the property in this area,’ — at some point I think the president has to step in,” Toomey said.
Stigall noted that Philadelphia was not currently experiencing Portland-style violence then asked: “But if in fact, what we saw [in] the chaos of last month in Philadelphia, you would support the president’s actions there?”
“Look, I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that, and it doesn’t have to come to that,” Toomey began.
“I think if the police get the political support that they deserve, from the mayor — if we have a district attorney who makes it clear that people are going to be prosecuted for breaking the law, that criminality is actually not OK, if we have serious respect for the rule of law — then I don’t think this spirals down to the point where we are anywheres near needing to call out federal reinforcements, so to speak.”
“I think the Philadelphia police and the assets that are at the disposal of the governor are more than enough to, you know, keep the peace. But you have to have people who are willing to enforce the law,” he concluded.
Toomey was pointing his criticisms at Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, and also at District Attorney Larry Krasner, both of whom reacted strongly to the president’s original suggestion.
“If the Trump administration wanted to help cities, they would have gotten off their rear ends back in March and April,” Kenney said. “This is a game he’s playing to divert attention away from the many crises that are facing this nation, and we’ll oppose it with everything we have.”
Krasner compared Trump’s threat to send in the feds to fascism.
“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 in a statement. “Anyone, including federal law enforcement, who unlawfully assaults and kidnaps people will face criminal charges from my office.”
In Portland, federal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were videoed detaining a citizen and putting him in an unmarked van. That video has since been widely shared over social media as well as in national news stories.
Adding to the debate is that the officers have not been wearing badges uniquely naming each one, as municipal police departments do. Civil rights advocates say those are the tactics of a police state and could be illegal.
“This is totalitarianism,” Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator Bob Casey said. ”Law enforcement should protect the people — not the president’s self-interested political motives. … This unconstitutional paramilitary force has no place anywhere in a healthy democracy and, considering Philadelphia’s historical significance as the birthplace of our Constitution, it would be especially disrespectful and insulting here.”
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol leadership pushed back, saying that all of its agents were wearing department insignias and pointing out that unmarked vehicles are common among federal law enforcement agencies.
As for the whose officers not wearing name tags, CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told Fox News on Wednesday: “As acting commissioner, I support and authorized agents not to wear their name tags because the agents are being doxxed. Now, not only are the agents putting their lives in danger, but it’s putting their family’s lives at risk, too. That’s unacceptable.”