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Oregon governor says ‘Trump troops’ in Portland are escalating tensions, not easing them

Kate Brown is governor of Oregon, where ongoing protests over race and police violence have attracted federal attention. Some agents deployed to Portland have refused to identify themselves to protesters, and their tactics have drawn criticism -- and even provoked a lawsuit. Gov. Brown joins John Yang to discuss her concerns about lack of communication and what she considers “political theater.”

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  • John Yang:

    Responding to that report today, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her city doesn't need federal agents without insignias taking people off the streets.

    We're joined by Kate Brown. She is the governor of Oregon. She is joining us from Portland.

    Governor Brown, thanks so much for being with us.

    You heard President Trump in that tape spot saying that the reason the federal forces are in Portland are to restore order. And late this afternoon, DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted out that Portland is rife with violent anarchists assaulting federal offices and federal buildings.

    What's your response?

  • Gov. Kate Brown:

    Well, unfortunately, things were calming down when Trump's troops appeared on our streets.

    I was really clear when I spoke with the secretary of homeland security last week. I asked them to leave, and that their presence here was not needed.

    The challenge is, their presence here is escalating an already challenging situation. Things were beginning to calm down. Then Trump's troops arrived. And it's simply like pouring gasoline on a fire.

  • John Yang:

    Have you had any more conversations with Secretary Wolf since then?

  • Gov. Kate Brown:

    No, I haven't.

    The harsh reality is, this is about scoring political points with their base. This is about political theater. If they were really interested in problem-solving or in public safety, they would be willing to de-escalate and engage in dialogue.

    Instead, they bring more troops to the streets. They take peaceful protesters off into unmarked cars. And, unfortunately, last weekend, they almost killed a peaceful protester. This is absolutely outrageous. It is a violation of the principles on which this country was founded.

  • John Yang:

    We should note, almost killed a peaceful protester. The protester was hit by a nonlethal projectile fired by someone. I believe it was the Marshals Service. Or — and the U.S. attorney has referred that to DHS inspector general for investigation.

    The — we have heard DHS talk about the assaults and the attacks on the federal building, but the Federal Protective Service, which is part of DHS, does have the authority, the responsibility of protecting the federal building, where all this is going on.

    How can you argue that you don't want them in the city?

  • Gov. Kate Brown:

    Look, there's no question about their legal authority to protect public buildings.

    But this is substantially more than that. If you are interested in resolving a crisis, wouldn't you call the elected leaders involved? Wouldn't you see how you could help?

    The irony of this entire situation is that we do need help. Like all states, Oregon is substantially in need of financial assistance. We need help with testing supplies and equipment. This is a challenge. And the Trump troops in Portland are exacerbating an already challenging situation on the streets.

    Look, this is distraction for the Trump administration. They're wanting to distract from the challenging job they have done, the failure to lead this country through a national pandemic. There is no national response and there is no leadership out of the Trump administration.

  • John Yang:

    You talk about, if they were interested in trying to resolve this problem, they'd talk to the local and state officials.

    Usually, in these situations, there is coordination between federal, state and local officials. Has that been the case in this instance?

  • Gov. Kate Brown:

    Absolutely not.

    Both the mayor and myself, in speaking with the secretary of homeland security, said, we do not want you here. Please leave. They came in without talking to us, and now they are staying without our permission.

    And I have to say, elected officials at the local level, at the state level and at the federal level, we are all united against the presence of these Trump troops here in the streets of Portland.

    Last night, we had hundreds of mothers from around the city putting their bodies, putting their lives between protesters and federal officers. This is a very serious situation. The federal troops need to pack up and go home, and let us manage the situation.

  • John Yang:

    Have you been hearing from any of your colleagues, any governors from other states worried about that — what might happen in their states?

  • Gov. Kate Brown:

    Yes.

    I spoke to two governors yesterday. Folks are extremely concerned. A couple of weeks ago, on a call with the White House, the president said, we needed to be dominating the streets, we needed to have our National Guard, our military out patrolling the streets.

    That's not how we do things here. But governors from around the country are concerned, particularly Democratic governors, that the president will bring troops in and increase the level of tension and increase the level of violence.

    Look, the violence is absolutely unacceptable. There's no question about that. The violence is a distraction for the incredibly important work that we need to do to eradicate racism in our criminal justice system, in our health care system and, of course, in our education system.

    But the Trump administration is not interested in problem-solving. The Trump administration is not interested in public safety. They are interested in political theater and scoring points with their base.

  • John Yang:

    Oregon Governor Kate Brown from Portland tonight, thank you very much.

  • Gov. Kate Brown:

    Thank you.

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