Portland mayor responds after Trump says city 'lost control': 'A direct threat to our democracy'

The presence of federal agents in Portland "is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism," Wheeler told CNN's "State of the Union."
Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 29, 2020.
Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 29, 2020.Alex Milan Tracy / Sipa USA via AP

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Allan Smith

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said President Donald Trump doesn't have a clue about what's going on in his city, adding that the Trump administration's tactics in the area "are abhorrent."

"Well, the president has a complete misunderstanding of cause and effect," Wheeler said in responding to Trump's Sunday morning tweet about Portland. "What's happening here is, we have dozens, if not hundreds of federal troops descending upon our city. And what they're doing is, they are sharply escalating the situation."

"Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism," he continued. "And it's not helping the situation at all. They're not wanted here. We haven't asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave."

The president earlier Sunday tweeted that his administration is "trying to help Portland, not hurt it."

"Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators," he wrote. "They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!"

The tweet comes as the increased federal presence in Portland has come under intense scrutiny following videos posted online showing agents, who were not clearly identified, hauling away protesters in unmarked vans. Videos on social media also showed federal officers in camouflage aiming weapons and using smoke against protesters.

Portland has seen sustained protests since the police killing of George Floyd in May. Portland police said protesters tried to set fires and hit police with bottles and other objects on Thursday. The U.S. attorney in Portland, Billy J. Williams, said Friday that federal buildings have been under siege by protesters and that the federal agents in town are protecting taxpayers' property.

Speaking Sunday, Wheeler said he believes the Trump administration is breaking the law with its usage of a federal policing force in his city.

"The tactics that the Trump administration are using on the streets of Portland are abhorrent," he said. "People are being literally scooped off the street into unmarked vans, rental cars, apparently. They are being denied probable cause and they're denied due process."

"They don't even know who's pulling them into the vans," he continued. "The people aren't identifying themselves. And, as far as I can see, this is completely unconstitutional."

Wheeler said he and other top Oregon officials are pushing the administration to "take these people out of our city."

"They are not helping us. They are hurting us," he said. "They're escalating an already dangerous situation. And what I want to do is raise awareness nationally. This could happen in your city. And what we're seeing is a blatant abuse of police tactics by the federal government, by a Trump administration that's falling in the polls. And this is a direct threat to our democracy."

He said that before federal agents arrived, violence and vandalism tied to the protests had decreased considerably.

"Our local and state law enforcement officials had contained the situation," Wheeler said. "The energy was coming out of the demonstrations. We had hoped they would end within a matter of days. And what happened instead is, the federal troops came in. They used their unconstitutional tactics. They injured nonviolent demonstrators, and the whole thing blew up again like a powder keg."

Wheeler expressed fear that a resident or a local or state law enforcement officer "is going to get killed" because of the Trump administration's efforts.

Democratic members of Oregon's congressional delegation said Friday they will demand a federal investigation into the situation, saying that the deployment of federal officers has inflamed tensions and led to violent confrontations and questionable arrests. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has called for the federal officers to leave Portland.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies Friday over the deployment. The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a lawsuit on Friday to protect journalists from police tactics.

On Sunday, the three Democratic chairs of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Homeland Security committees called on the inspectors general from the Justice Department and Homeland Security to open an immediate investigation into the Trump administration's tactics against protesters in Portland, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told NBC News that their agents have been in Portland to guard federal facilities following Trump's executive order protecting monuments and other government property.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted Democrats "will destroy our Country as we know it."

"Unimaginably bad things would happen to America," he said of if he loses this fall. "Look at Portland, where the pols are just fine with 50 days of anarchy. We sent in help. Look at New York, Chicago, Philadelphia. NO!"