Trump Reproaches Chicago’s Top Cop, Who Boycotted President’s Speech

Trump Chicago
President Donald Trump speaks at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago on Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Trump Chicago
President Donald Trump speaks at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago on Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Trump Reproaches Chicago’s Top Cop, Who Boycotted President’s Speech

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Updated at 2:09 p.m. Oct. 28

See photos from President Donald Trump’s visit to Chicago here. And get the latest on the downtown protests here.

President Donald Trump, in his first official visit to Chicago, used a speech before an international group of police chiefs to harshly and repeatedly rebuke Chicago’s own police superintendent, Eddie Johnson.

Johnson boycotted Trump’s speech “because the values of the people of Chicago are more important than anything he would have to say,” Johnson wrote in a statement.

Trump spent a significant portion of his opening remarks to the International Association of Chiefs of Police throwing those words back in Johnson’s face.

“I want Eddie Johnson to change his values and change them fast,” Trump said.

Johnson’s police chief colleagues laughed and applauded as Trump continued to criticize Chicago and Johnson.

“It’s embarrassing to us as a nation. All over the world they’re talking about Chicago. Afghanistan is a safe place, by comparison. It’s true,” Trump said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded via Twitter: “Our city and our police department will not be lectured on our duty to ‘serve and protect’ by someone who puts children in cages” and “It is ironic that you have chosen to speak at a law enforcement conference after you have demonstrated zero respect for the rule of law and actively work to destabilize communities.”

And Johnson calmly responded to the president during a Monday afternoon news conference: “This president is known for doing a lot of talking about the city of Chicago, but if he’s truly ready to roll up his sleeves to partner with us, so are we. As long that partnership reflects who we are as Chicagoans.”

“The national narrative that Chicago is a city on fire is just simply not true,” Johnson said. “We have our challenges on the south and west side. But I want to remind people that we also have 17 neighborhoods in this city that are safer than Manhattan and LA.”

Trump was in Chicago to address the IACP, which is holding its annual conference of law enforcement officials from around the world at McCormick Place. Trump’s speech was not open to the public.

In his speech, Trump addressed Chicago’s image as a violent city, signing an executive order that establishes a commission to study the root causes of crime. He thanked Chicago FOP President Kevin Graham, the only Chicago official to greet Trump when he arrived at O’Hare International Airport.

Trump executive order
President Trump signs an executive order establishing a commission to study the root causes of crime at a police chiefs conference in Chicago. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Trump also made fun of Empire actor Jussie Smollett, whose allegations that he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago led to widespread disdain when those claims did not hold water.

“Then you have the case of this wise guy, Jussie Smollett, who beat up himself,” Trump said.

Trump suggested Smollett’s claim that he was attacked by Trump supporters was the hate crime.

“It’s a real big scam just like the impeachment of your president is a scam,” Trump said to cheering and applause.

This is hardly the first time the Republican president has used his bully pulpit to attack the heavily Democratic city. He has regularly lambasted Chicago on Twitter, and has previously threatened to “send in the Feds” to deal with the city’s gun violence.

“What the hell is going on in Chicago?” Trump said at a 2017 rally. “There are those who say that Afghanistan is safer than Chicago, OK? … You know what’s wrong with Chicago? Weak, ineffective politicians. Democrats that don’t want to force restrictions [on illegal immigration.]”

And speaking at the same conference of police chiefs last year in Florida, Trump criticized the police consent decree that the city was negotiating with the Illinois attorney general in the fallout of the Laquan McDonald murder.

“I’ve told them to work with local authorities to try to change the terrible deal the city of Chicago entered into with [American Civil Liberties Union], which ties law enforcement’s hands; and to strongly consider stop-and-frisk. It works, and it was meant for problems like Chicago,” Trump said then.

Yet the city is also home to Trump International Hotel and Tower downtown, where the president had a high-end fundraiser Monday. That event was expected to raise about $4 million for Trump Victory, a fund that benefits both Trump’s reelection efforts and the Republican National Committee, according to a Republican official.

Trump was infamously a no-show at a March 2016 campaign rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which was open to the public. Protesters clashed with supporters as they awaited Trump’s arrival, and the event was canceled due to “security concerns.”

Other Democratic leaders around Illinois criticized Trump ahead of Monday’s visit.

“I stand four-square against his racist, xenophobic style of leadership, his rhetoric and his actions that are racist, xenophobic, homophobic and mysoginistic,” Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker told reporters Monday from Springfield. “I hope he doesn’t demonstrate any of those things in our state.”

Trump thanked Illinois GOP congressmen Darin LaHood, Mike Bost and Rodney Davis for joining him at Monday’s speech. Trump notably did not mention Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who has criticized Trump on Twitter.

Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. The Associated Press and WBEZ’s Shannon Heffernan contributed to this report.