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The divide between President Trump and local leaders in places where he has deployed federal agents is widening. This week, 15 mayors asked Trump to withdraw federal forces from their cities, citing “fundamental constitutional protections.” Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he disavows Trump's action.
The divide between local leaders and the president has only grown by the day.
This week, mayors of 15 major cities asked the president to withdraw federal forces from cities and to not deploy similar federal agents without a request. They called the federal action in Portland and threats elsewhere a violation of fundamental constitutional protections.
Tom Ridge was the first secretary of homeland security during the George W. Bush administration. He is also the former governor of Pennsylvania. And he joins me now.
Governor Ridge, thank you so much for being here.
So, the Trump administration is saying these cities can't control the violence on their streets, and, therefore, the federal government has to get involved. What do you say to that?
Well, I would say to the president, you might want to ask your vice president, who has been a very loyal supporter, whether or not he thinks that an uninvited, unsolicited intervention by the federal government, as well-intentioned as it might have been, would have been welcomed in Indiana, without much closer collaboration, setting priorities, and working together in partnership to address the issues that not only the president's concerned about, the citizens and the communities are concerned about.
But this intervention, this spontaneous and probably very temporary intervention, isn't really going to solve the problems that the mayors and the governors and the local community want resolved.
You called it, at one point, a reality TV approach. What did you mean by that?
I meant that it just seems that there's going to be some reporting on it. There will be some video cameras there. It will make the nightly news.
And then it will kind of drift away, and there will be another presidential priority. And what has happened is, you have held the spotlight on for an hour. It's like being on "Apprentice." You have got an hour, and then there would be another story later down the road.
It's a reality TV approach to a very serious, serious problem. You need sustained commitment. There are economic and social issues involved. And you cannot address them, let alone resolve them, unless you have the kind of partnership and the collegial and the cooperation that is so critical. And that's why the federal government exists.
And, by the way, I must say, when we were leading DHS, it was my great pleasure to connect with governors and with mayors and to have different law enforcement agencies work together to combat certain threats in their communities.
And, by the way, the last time I checked, that worked out pretty well.
Is there ever a time when federal agents — when it would be appropriate for federal agents to go into a city?
Well, I think I personally believe there are probably multiple occasions. They certainly ought to go in to protect federal buildings. There are certainly legitimate reasons to go in to execute laws.
But there's no conceivable scenario that I think that this massive invasion, basically, should be done or can be done effectively without local support. And that means you have got to pick up the phone and rally and pull people together.
And the other thing that is really disturbing to me is, I don't care whether you're Republican or Democrat. There's a lot of men and women and families of both political persuasions in these communities.
And the purposeful denigration and the dismissive nature, oh, they're Democrat governors to me, it's very unappealing to me.
My two biggest cities in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were run by Democrat governors. You know what? We got a lot done together. That's the point.
I think he ought to look to his own vice president, a loyal man, and very loyal to the president, and say, how would you handle this? And I would dare say — I'm not going to speak for him — he might suggest more cooperation, rather than this unilateral effort on the part of the federal government.
I may be wrong, but I…
Governor Ridge, what's the larger risk here? I mean, what is the concern, that if the federal agents are used to go in a situation like this, what is the concern, that this could lead to a greater violation of citizens' rights?
I think it is — it corrodes the federal system of government we have, the republic.
Remember, it's a republic, if you can keep it. And it is 50 states. We have to be mindful of that. We have to be mindful that I think you're bumping up against the Constitution.
And the other fact is that I know some people say, well, they have the authority to do it. Well, you may have the authority. I had the authority to go 70 miles an hour across the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and I could do it in a blizzard if I want. But I'm not sure I want to do it.
Police have the authority to chase convicted felons and murder suspects and draw their firearms to defend themselves, but they're probably not going to do it, even though they have the authority, if that suspects blends into a civilian population.
So, saying, well, I have technically — technically the authority to do it doesn't mean that you're seriously addressing the problem and doesn't even come close to guaranteeing you're going to achieve the outcome. These are serious problems. They're economic. They're social.
And it's only a sustained effort — I was looking at Chicago, 13,000 police. They will send in 200 agents. How long are they going to be there? It's a reality TV show. I do a couple press conference, send in troops.
By the way, the good men and women from these departments will do all they can to help, but they're not going to be there permanently. They may make a few arrests. Be good for TV. Move out. And the mayors and the governors and the attorneys and law enforcement officials are going to have to deal with it all over again.
It's not a serious effort, long-term effort to deal with the problem of lawlessness.
Governor, I know you're aware President Trump responded on Twitter to what you had said and called you a never-Trumper, said you're a failed Republican in name only.
The argument that they fall back on is that this is about law and order. So, when they say that, what is the comeback to that?
Well, Mr. President, I had a pretty good record as governor. I was a pretty good prosecutor.
But you know what I really fall back on, Mr. President? My dad told me a long time ago, before you get excited about a critic, take that measure of that person.
And I took the measure of this man, my president — he is my president — in 2015. And my opinion hasn't changed. He's got me right.
And, by the way, Mr. President, I would say, you may call me a RINO. I'm a lifelong Republican. You were a lifelong Democrat. So I'm not sure you questioning — if you're questioning pedigree, you ought to look inward, rather than outward.
Former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, the first secretary of homeland security, thank you very much for talking with us.
Very nice to be with you. Thank you, Judy.
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