Trump calls Pritzker, Lightfoot failures on gun violence
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Trump calls Pritzker, Lightfoot failures on gun violence

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President Donald Trump speaks with reporters Tuesday before departing on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House.

CHICAGO — Republican President Donald Trump lashed out Friday night at Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot over Chicago’s gun violence, saying the two had put their “own political interests” ahead of the lives of residents and insisting that “law and order” was needed.

In a letter, Trump also used the violence issue as a jumping off point to attack the state and city for high taxes and burdensome regulations, contending Pritzker and Lightfoot’s “insatiable appetite” for taxes has led people to flee Illinois.

A Pritzker spokeswoman said Trump’s letter was a “press stunt” aimed at serving as a distraction “from his long list of failures, especially his response to the deadly coronavirus and nationwide calls for racial justice.”

And Lightfoot, who delights in blasting Trump, responded with a statement saying she doesn’t “need leadership lessons” from Trump and accusing him of using victims of gun violence to try to score “cheap political points.”

Trump said in his letter that while he has been “heartened” at a reduction of crime on a national level, he has been “horrified by the continued violence in this great American city.” He said the violence was “disproportionately harming young African Americans,” calling it “tragic and unacceptable, particularly on such a shocking scale.”

“Your lack of leadership on this important issue continues to fail the people you have sworn to protect. I am concerned it is another example of your lack of commitment to the vulnerable citizens who are victims of this violence and a lack of respect for the men and women in law enforcement,” Trump wrote of Pritzker and Lightfoot.

“Unfortunately, you continue to put your own political interests ahead of the lives, safety, and fortunes of your own citizens,” he wrote. “The people of Chicago deserve better.”

Trump, who has been a frequent critic of the city’s leadership in dealing with gun crimes throughout his presidency, referenced last weekend’s gun violence when at least 106 people were shot in Chicago, 14 of them fatally, from mid-afternoon Friday through early Monday, according to authorities and Tribune data.

It was the most people shot in one weekend since at least 2012, but not the deadliest this year when more than 20 were killed over the last weekend in May, data compiled by the Tribune showed.

Trump once again sought to compare Chicago to the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, a day after saying in a Fox News town hall from Green Bay that the city’s gun violence was “worse than Afghanistan.”

“More Americans have been killed in Chicago than in combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq combined since Sept. 11, 2001, a deadly trend that has continued under your tenure,” Trump wrote, echoing rhetoric he’s used for several years.

Statistics show more Americans have been killed in Chicago than the two war zones since October 2001, but that number is dwarfed by local police, military and civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Trump has been a strong supporter of law enforcement, while police tactics have come under national scrutiny spurred by the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody last month. On Thursday, Trump again backed “stop and frisk” policing for cities, though the policy has been abused in other cities and raised constitutional concerns.

The president said he was “willing to tackle unsolved challenges” like Chicago’s violence “unlike previous administrations of both parties.” But, he had a caveat.

“If you are willing to put partisanship aside, we can revitalize distressed neighborhoods in Chicago, together. But to succeed, you must establish law and order,” the president said.

“If you are interested, I am willing to ask members of my Cabinet to meet with you and help devise a plan to make Chicago safe, since a successful formula has escaped both you and your predecessors,” he added.

Trump also took a shot at the state and city’s finances. Offering a list of federal funding for law enforcement in the city, Trump said the money was in addition to dollars “collected through your combined insatiable appetite to tax the people of Illinois and Chicago” while vulnerable communities continue to “deteriorate.”

Trump’s letter comes after Lightfoot late last month ripped the president over his Floyd remarks, saying “what I really want to say to Donald Trump. It’s two words. It begins with F and it ends with U.”

For his part, Pritzker has elevated his national profile during the pandemic by criticizing Trump for his response to COVID-19 and for directly confronting the president on his Floyd comments during a White House call with governors.

Both Lightfoot and Pritzker said Trump was attempting to use gun violence to distract from his handling of the coronavirus, as new cases spike in states that loosened guidelines to open their economy early.

“As our police officers, street outreach workers and residents continue to work tirelessly to keep our communities safe, he’s using the victims of gun violence in our city to score cheap political points, spew racist rhetoric, and ignore the impact of COVID across this country,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “It is despicable, disgusting and all too typical. Same old tired playbook. How about some leadership not steeped in the divide and conquer tactics?”

Pritzker spokesman Jordan Abudayyeh said Trump was trying to turn attention away from his “failure” as a leader.

“The people of this state and this nation have unfortunately come to expect his unhinged attempts to politicize tragedy with his predictable and worn-out strategy to distract, distract, distract. The governor stands with the mayor in working to accomplish meaningful change,” the statement read.


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