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Homeland Security officers remaining in Portland, acting secretary says

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defended the department's response to unrest in Portland, Oregon, saying that violence in the city directed at f...

Posted: Aug 6, 2020 10:40 AM

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defended the department's response to unrest in Portland, Oregon, saying that violence in the city directed at federal property and personnel eventually required him to deploy supplemental law enforcement officers.

Testifying Thursday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Wolf sought to draw a distinction between the peaceful protests in Portland and the violence directed at the federal courthouse and police officers.

"The department is aware of the national dialogue taking place around racism and law enforcement practices, and we continue to support and defend every American's right to exercise their First Amendment rights," Wolf said.

Wolf blamed local and state officials for providing "little to no" support for DHS officers protecting the federal courthouse.

DHS and Department of Justice officers were "abandoned" due to the dangerous policies by local officials, Wolf said.

The acting secretary testified that DHS personnel remain in Portland as a precaution.

"As of today, the full-augmented DHS law enforcement posture remains in Portland. They will continue to remain until we are assured that the Hatfield federal courthouse, as well as other federal facilities in Portland will no longer be violently attacked," he said.

Making the case to keep officers in the city, Wolf said, over the past seven days Portland police have declared a riot on four occasions, adding that lasers have been directed at officers and "numerous arrests" have been made.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, began the hearing cataloging violence across the US in recent weeks, tying it to anti-police rhetoric and protests that spread across the country.

Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, accused the Trump administration of escalating conflicts. He said the "heavy handed" tactics used by the department caused additional chaos. Peters also raised concerns that the "singular focus on protecting federal property is distracting the department from addressing the threat posed by domestic terrorism."

"The decisions this administration has made in recent months has put DHS personnel at unnecessary risk and because you chose to escalate conflicts, you not only risked our officers' safety, you risked the safety of American civilians," he said.

Peters said he hoped to hear testimony from Portland officials to get their side of the story.

DHS has also faced criticism for recent actions taken by the department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis related to the protests. A week ago, The Washington Post reported that DHS' intelligence office had sent Open Source Intelligence Reports to federal law enforcement agencies summarizing tweets sent by two journalists who had published leaked unclassified government documents while covering the unrest.

Wolf told the lawmakers he was informed of three instances of information being distributed as part of the DHS "Open Source Reporting Program" that also identified members of the press.

Wolf said he stopped the practice and removed the head of the office, Brian Murphy, after being informed of the incidents.

The department's watchdog -- the Office of the Inspector General -- is now managing the investigation into the incident, Wolf said.

Current and former DHS officials have criticized the department's role in Portland, arguing that the administration's actions are eroding the public's trust in DHS, a department formed in the wake of 9/11 to combat terrorism and enhance coordination among agencies.

Former secretary of Homeland Security under President George Bush, Michael Chertoff, recently said the department's actions are putting "public trust at risk" and that its response in Portland shows no respect for or coordination with local authorities, Peters said, questioning Wolf.

"On this point, he is dead wrong," Wolf said, arguing that he had tried to coordinate with local officials.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32820

Reported Deaths: 543
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7184138
Marion468394
Washington451960
Umatilla297641
Clackamas240861
Malheur162723
Lane121017
Jackson11485
Deschutes84012
Yamhill75713
Jefferson5348
Polk53015
Linn52213
Morrow4996
Lincoln48213
Union4462
Benton3106
Wasco2923
Klamath2802
Hood River2510
Douglas2324
Clatsop2120
Josephine1982
Columbia1711
Coos1570
Baker942
Crook621
Tillamook530
Lake330
Curry310
Wallowa311
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant100
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 809890

Reported Deaths: 15606
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2678016514
Riverside581781189
San Bernardino54478925
Orange533151216
San Diego46610776
Kern31947369
Fresno28336382
Sacramento22269406
Alameda21189406
Santa Clara21153312
San Joaquin20194441
Contra Costa16572205
Stanislaus16452354
Tulare15970263
Ventura12729150
Imperial11835317
San Francisco11143101
Monterey988471
San Mateo9843150
Santa Barbara9061113
Merced8872142
Kings756980
Sonoma7412122
Marin6716118
Solano630963
Madera448165
Placer357745
San Luis Obispo354629
Butte282744
Yolo280355
Santa Cruz23589
Sutter170511
Napa168113
San Benito134511
Yuba11537
El Dorado11274
Mendocino93118
Shasta85617
Lassen7400
Glenn5783
Tehama5605
Lake54911
Nevada5347
Colusa5296
Humboldt5017
Calaveras31714
Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18715
Mono1652
Siskiyou1650
Del Norte1391
Mariposa752
Plumas500
Modoc270
Trinity160
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
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