- The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is investigating the actions of federal law-enforcement agents in Portland, Oregon, this month.
- President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr deployed more than 100 unidentified federal agents to the city to tamp down on what they characterized as violent crime in the area.
- The agents’ actions sparked widespread alarm after they were spotted driving unmarked vans and pulling protesters off the streets.
- Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz also announced his office was looking into “events in Lafayette Square on June 1” in Washington, DC.
- Horowitz’s investigation will likely draw scrutiny from Trump and Barr, both of whom have praised law enforcement and characterized protesters as thugs and anarchists.
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The Justice Department’s internal watchdog announced Thursday that it opened an investigation into the actions of federal law-enforcement agents in Portland, Oregon, this month.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced that his office launched the probe in response to requests from Democratic lawmakers and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General will coordinate its investigation with the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, Horowitz said.
“In addition, in response to requests from Members of Congress and members of the public, the DOJ OIG is initiating a review to examine the DOJ’s and its law enforcement components’ roles and responsibilities in responding to protest activity and civil unrest in Washington, DC, and in Portland, Oregon, over the prior two months,” he said. “The review will include examining the training and instruction that was provided to the DOJ law enforcement personnel; compliance with applicable identification requirements, rules of engagement, and legal authorities; and adherence to DOJ policies regarding the use of less-lethal munitions, chemical agents, and other uses of force.”
Horowitz specifically referenced “events in Lafayette Square on June 1” and said his office would work with the Department of Interior’s inspector general on the matter. He was likely referring to when police used teargas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, in early June to pave the way for President Donald Trump to hold a photo op with a bible.
Horowitz also left open the possibility that his office may expand its review to other issues that may arise throughout the course of the investigation. The inspector general’s announcement will likely draw scrutiny from Trump and Attorney General William Barr, both of whom have praised law enforcement and characterized protesters as thugs and anarchists.
Portland has made headlines over the past several days following the appearance of over 100 unidentified federal agents who have been seen driving unmarked vans and pulling protesters off the streets. Trump said he sent agents to the city to tamp down on violent crime and suggested it was linked to demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd.
Politico reported Wednesday that the 114 federal agents in the city appeared to be part of a Rapid Deployment Force from the Department of Homeland Security.
Over the weekend, Rosenblum said her state was suing the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, and other federal agencies to “stop the federal police from secretly stopping and forcibly grabbing Oregonians off our streets.”
Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden also spoke out against the events and described agents patrolling the streets of Portland as a paramilitary force.
On Wednesday, Trump announced he would deploy federal agents to other US cities, including Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a dramatic escalation of the White House’s crackdown on anti-racism demonstrations in the wake of Floyd’s death.
Both Trump and Barr linked the recent uptick in violent crime to the protests, but neither provided any evidence to support their claims.