Appearing on Fox News Tuesday night, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf — who has not been confirmed to his position by the Senate — made a damning admission about his department’s conduct in Portland.
Federal officials in Portland have prompted a fierce backlash for aggressive and legally dubious tactics against protesters in the city. Local officials have demanded that the federal officials, some of them using unmarked vehicles and wearing camouflage without identifying insignia, leave and let police handle law enforcement. But President Donald Trump and Wolf seem intent on using the Homeland Security forces to intimidate, rough up, and apprehend protesters to make the federal government appear tough.
And while he was speaking to Fox Host Martha MacCallum on Tuesday, Wolf seemed to confirm what many had accused his agency of doing: making unlawful arrests.
“The department, because we don’t have that local support, that local law enforcement support, are having to go out and proactively arrest individuals,” Wolf said. “And we need to do that because we need to hold them accountable. This idea that they can attack federal property and law enforcement officers and go to the other side of the street and say ‘you can’t touch me’ is ridiculous.”
Watch the clip below:
Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wold says the actions of his department in Portland are "proactive" arrests of individuals and argues that his stormtroopers aren't bound by the physical jurisdiction of federal property. pic.twitter.com/tIkcSTSmKf
— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR) July 21, 2020
By saying that his officers are proactively arresting people, Wolf suggests that they’re making arrests before people have committed crimes. This, of course, would be an unlawful arrest — you can’t arrest someone just because you think they might commit a crime.
Some could argue this is an unfair reading of Wolf’s remarks because his remarks referred to people who committed crimes, such as assaulting federal officers. The problem is that there have been multiple incidents of federal officials sweeping people off the streets despite no clear evidence or reason to believe they were involved in a crime. One person, Mark Pettibone, was reportedly detained by agents and eventually released without ever being charged with a crime.
So the seemingly “unfair” reading of Wolf’s remarks actually seems to accurately reflect what is happening on the ground in Portland.