Trump administration plans to keep federal presence in Portland into October, email shows

The Trump administration is planning to keep federal agents in...

Posted: Jul 28, 2020 9:19 AM

The Trump administration is planning to keep federal agents in Portland, Oregon, through at least mid-October, according to an internal email obtained by CNN.

Portland has been the site of ongoing protests for more than 50 days that have turned violent, sparking outrage among local officials who have faulted the federal presence for aggravating the situation on the ground.

But as protests persist, Customs and Border Protection -- part of the Department of Homeland Security -- is laying the groundwork for continued presence in the city on a rotational basis to relieve those agents who have been in Portland and who may be deployed in the near future.

The CBP email shows Border Patrol offices being asked for teams of about 20-25 personnel. Specifically, the agency is looking for agents of a special unit that has received tactical training and can be called upon to deploy immediately when needed. The email also calls for agents from another Border Patrol unit that provides search and rescue response and intelligence personnel.

Given how long the protests are going, the current roster of federal officers needs to be replaced, the agency says.

"With the current op tempo and hours the agents have been working, the need for additional and relief assets is rising," the email reads, adding that additional support has been requested for "the next 90 days."

"The rotations allow for an adequate overlap effecting a smooth transition," the email reads. The email was sent in mid-July, according to a source familiar with the planning. CBP plans to cycle agents through Portland with no net increase in personnel, according to another source familiar with planning.

"CBP can confirm that additional personnel were sent to Portland," the agency said in a statement to CNN Tuesday. "CBP remains fully committed to support the request from Federal Protective Services to protect federal buildings and property. The additional personnel will serve to maintain our current capabilities on the ground."

For several nights, protests demanding racial justice and an end to an influx in federal resources in the city have turned violent as a small subset of rioters have set fires and launched fireworks at the city's downtown federal courthouse.

Twenty-two people were arrested "for their roles" in protests over the weekend at the federal courthouse in Portland, the Justice Department said Monday.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said 20 federal officers were injured over the weekend as well, writing on Twitter: "Peaceful crowds don't commit federal crimes."

Portland city officials and members of the Trump administration continue to engage in a public war of words over who is to blame for the actions of rioters.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who has come under intense scrutiny by President Donald Trump, Wolf and others after weeks of protests in his city, is calling for an immediate meeting with the Homeland Security chief and DHS leadership.

In a tweet Monday night, Wheeler said he and Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty are calling for a meeting with DHS "to discuss a cease-fire and the removal of heightened federal forces from Portland."

Wheeler's demand for a meeting signals a shift in his previously entrenched public posture against reaching out to DHS.

The US Marshals Service has also started to identify 100 personnel that could be used "to relieve or supplement" personnel working in Portland, according to a statement to CNN. The Washington Post first reported on the possible deployment.

"The agency took steps to identify up to 100 personnel to send to the District of Oregon in case they were needed to relieve or supplement deputies permanently stationed in the district. They may also be used to rotate with personnel already sent there to support district operations during the civil unrest mission to insure the function and safety of judicial proceedings," said spokesman Drew Wade.

The protests in Portland largely began after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. A city known for its robust and spirited activism quickly joined other communities across the nation in taking to the streets to demand racial justice and police accountability.

Portland is different, however, in that the protest movement took on another cause after Trump sent in federal forces around the July 4 holiday in order to protect federal statues. That influx of federal agents was met with anger by many demonstrators, who viewed the move as an attempt by the US government to occupy their city.

Since that time, a federal building downtown has largely served as the epicenter for ongoing protests -- mostly peaceful, with periods of violence at night -- as demonstrators continue to demand the Trump administration remove federal officers from the city.

Current and former Homeland Security officials warn the increased politicization of law enforcement risks undercutting public trust in the department, which was established after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday that the presence of federal authorities in Portland is "not consistent" with the Department of Homeland Security's mission.

Ridge, the department's first leader, said the first words of the department's vision statement that he helped establish are "preserving our freedoms."

"When they appear to be quasi-military rather than law enforcement, I think it's like pouring a little bit of gasoline on the fire," Ridge told CNN.

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