In the first three weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, mayors across the country became some of his most vocal opponents and vowed to fight his discriminatory executive orders. But there’s at least one city leader who wants to work closely with the new administration: Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
On Monday, Emanuel sat down with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss “topics from public safety to public transportation.” According to the mayor’s office, Emanuel specifically asked for a federal crackdown on gun violence in the city.
“Public safety is a top priority for everyone, and over the course of the day the mayor reiterated his request for added federal resources including ex-offender programs, mentoring and increased federal gun prosecution in Chicago, as well as additional federal agents,” Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath said of the meeting.
The request comes three weeks after Trump spewed false data about Chicago gun violence and threatened to send “the Feds” to “fix the horrible ‘carnage,’” and two weeks after the mayor replied, “Just send them.”
If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible "carnage" going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
Trump has long skewed crime statistics and pointed to Chicago as a hotbed of violence to support his tough on crime agenda. Last week, he argued the city is rife with gang members who “are not even legally in our country” — a point disputed by the top commissioner in Cook County, where Chicago is located.
While gun violence did spike in Chicago last year, the meeting on Monday indicates that Emanuel’s solution is to work with people who have documented histories of racism.
Besides Trump’s recent Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policy decisions, Sessions made inflammatory remarks about communities of color in the past and launched a witch hunt against black civil rights organizers. And he has always been a supporter of the War on Drugs that landed millions of African Americans behind bars.
The meeting also indicates that Emanuel is backpedaling on his recent commitment to police reform and instead aligning himself with an administration that threatens police accountability and favors harsh criminal penalties — and, by extension, the culture of police violence that pervades cities across the U.S.
In recent years, Emanuel apologized for officer misconduct and scrambled to reform the Chicago Police Department (CPD) amid city-wide protests and calls for his resignation. Last month, following a damning Justice Department (DOJ) investigation that revealed a culture of police brutality and aggression in the city, he agreed to follow a consent decree if one were negotiated in the future. But Sessions opposes consent decrees, and has made no commitment to establish one in Chicago.
Emanuel’s meeting with the Trump administration is also a notable departure from the path chosen by his colleagues in other cities.
Few mayors have met with Trump and his team since Election Day. Five delegates from the U.S. Conference of Mayors sat down with Trump in December, but the organization, representing approximately 1,400 U.S. cities, later released statements opposing the executive order against sanctuary cities, as well as the Affordable Care Act repeal effort. The group also affirmed support for immigrants and refugees.
Along those lines, some mayors — including the leader of the country’s largest city, Mayor Bill de Blasio — defied Trump as soon as he issued the order against sanctuary cities. They opened their doors to immigrants and vowed not to use local law enforcement as immigration officers.
Emanuel made that promise, but his meeting with Sessions is a sign that he’s more inclined to work with the new administration than some of his peers.