CHICAGO — In the face of scathing criticism and threats of a federal intervention from President Trump, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he would welcome greater federal involvement – and dollars – to help solve Chicago’s surge in violence.
Emanuel’s comments came a day after Trump warned that if Chicago does not stem the violence that has plagued the city, he stands ready to call for federal intervention.
“Chicago, like other cities that are dealing with gun violence, want to partner with federal law enforcement entities in a more significant way than we are today—whether that’s the FBI, the DEA, and the ATF,” Emanuel said. “I still firmly believe that part of that solution is resources to police and resources that can come in technology and that space. Over the years, the federal government when it comes to after school (programs), summer jobs and investment in kids has walked away, while we’ve had to step up and take responsibility.”
Chicago recorded 762 murders and 4,300 shooting victims in 2016 — the deadliest in nearly two decades for the city. The nation’s third largest city is now off to a bloody start in 2017. The city had recorded at least 42 murders through Monday — compared to 34 murders at the same time last year.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly slammed Chicago and the mayor over the surge in crime, and took aim again from his Twitter account on Tuesday evening.
“If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!” Trump wrote on his personal Twitter account in his latest salvo.
On Wednesday, the White House offered spare details on what a potential federal intervention might look like. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the latest comments were spurred by the president's concern over "turning on the television and seeing Americans get killed by shootings."
"There’s no one thing," Spicer said. "There can be aid that can be, if it was requested up through the governor, through the proper channels, that the federal government can provide (to) law enforcement...There’s other aid that can be extended as well, either through the U.S. Attorney’s office or other means that will ensure that the people of Chicago have the resources to feel safe."
Both Emanuel and members of Chicago's city council said dispatching National Guard troops to the streets of Chicago would be inappropriate and they would oppose such a move.
Emanuel noted that a majority of the guns recovered from the streets of Chicago are illegally purchased by repeat offenders who come to Chicago from Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin.
“The federal entities are set up to deal with that, and they do,” Emanuel said. “We’d like an increase in that partnership.”
Trump and Emanuel are also at odds over Chicago’s status as a so-called sanctuary city, one of dozens of cities across the U.S. that in some way limits cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents. Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order directing the government to identify federal money it can withhold to punish sanctuary cities.
Emanuel said he was waiting to read Trump’s order. But the mayor was not ready to flinch.
“I want to be clear,” Emanuel said. “We’re going to stay a sanctuary city.”
The mayor, however, did not respond to questions from reporters about how Chicago would manage to weather a slashing of federal funding.
Trump met with Emanuel in New York during the transition. The president expressed concern to the mayor about the violence and his desire to work with Emanuel to find solutions, Spicer said. But Spicer added, thus far, there’s been no follow up from the mayor.
Emanuel, however, said he had a private meeting with Vice President Pence in the days before he was inaugurated last week. The two spoke about the problems of gangs and violence in Chicago, Emanuel said.
Several members of the Chicago city council also called on Trump to back up his social media rhetoric with funding.
A disproportionate amount of the violence in the city occurs in a few neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West Sides, predominantly black and Latino enclaves where poverty is a persistent problem.
Alderman Sophia King, who represents a ward on the city’s South Side, said if Trump is going to have the federal government intervene, “he better come with a big bag. “
“We welcome the federal government, but he needs to come with money for jobs, money for neighborhood schools, money for economic development in these communities and then we can address the disparity,” King said. “There is a direct correlation between poverty and crime.”
Other council members were more hostile to Trump’s suggestion that he stands ready for federal intervention.
“He didn’t mean the resources of the federal government coming in to create jobs on the South or West Side of Chicago, to create jobs for people of color, to take the guns out of people’s hands and put them to work,” said Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa of Trump’s comments. “You know what he meant. He meant locking up more black and brown folks, just like Republicans, right-wingers, have always done.”
Contributing: Gregory Korte and Donovan Slack in Washington
Follow USA TODAY Chicago correspondent Aamer Madhani on Twitter: @AamerISmad