WASHINGTON — House Democrats have asked for internal investigations into the use of federal police by Attorney General William Barr and the acting secretary of the Homeland Security Department, Chad Wolf, to crack down on protests in Portland, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.
“The legal basis for this use of force has never been explained — and, frankly, it is not at all clear that the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary are authorized to deploy federal law enforcement officers in this manner,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter Sunday to the inspectors general of the Justice Department and Homeland Security Department.
“Citizens are concerned that the administration has deployed a secret police force, not to investigate crimes but to intimidate individuals it views as political adversaries, and that the use of these tactics will proliferate throughout the country,” according to the letter from Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, and Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney.
The move comes amid reports that federal police have been detaining protesters in Portland while not wearing name tags or identifying themselves in other ways, including arresting and searching individuals without properly reading them their rights, the lawmakers said.
Portland’s Democratic mayor, Ted Wheeler, said he believes the Trump administration is breaking the law in his city.
“The tactics that the Trump administration are using on the streets of Portland are abhorrent,” Wheeler said during an interview Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “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.”
The lawmakers also asked for an investigation into a June 1 incident in Washington, during which federal police used chemical agents and rubber bullets to forcibly remove largely peaceful protesters from a park near the White House. After the park was cleared, President Donald Trump walked to a nearby church to take photos while holding a Bible.