Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf Monday rejected claims made by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and others that federal law enforcement officers are escalating the violence in the troubled Oregon city and insisted his agency will continue to protect federal property from harm.
"We are not escalating," Wolf said on Fox News' "Fox and Friends." "We are protecting again federal facilities and it's our job and what Congress told us to do time and time again, so we're going to do that. We're going to investigate and we're going to hold those accountable and arrest them and hold those accountable that are doing this destruction."
Wheeler said this weekend that "what we're seeing is a blatant abuse of police tactics by the federal government. The Trump administration is falling in the polls, and this is a direct threat to our democracy."
Wolf called Wheeler's comments "completely irresponsible."
"Before July 4, where we saw an escalation of violence in Portland, before that time there was violence going, ongoing and DHS had had very few officers in the city," said Wolf.
Wolf also said that the DHS officers are not going "anywhere near" other parts of Portland where destructive acts are taking place, but complained that Portland has fostered an environment that "They congregate around midnight and they go until about 4 - 4:30 a.m.," said Wolf. "What we're not going to do is allow them to attack a courthouse and simply step across the street on to city property and say, 'You can't touch me.' That's not how this works."
Wolf also denied any action is being taken against peaceful protesters, which is "perfectly legal," while not speculating on whether President Donald Trump will enact an executive order concerning the matter of violent acts in the nation's cities.
"He's not going to stand for this and we're going to continue to look at what we can do, surge resources into these resources to make them safer," said Wolf. "At the end of the day it's about protecting Americans in these cities from criminals and criminal acts and we'll continue to do that along with the Department of Justice and other federal entities."
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