CHICAGO – U.S. President Donald Trump came not to praise Chicago but to condemn it – and did he ever.
In remarks to a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Trump said Chicago with its high rate of murders compared unfavorably with Afghanistan, where the United States has been at war since an invasion triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“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,” said Trump.
Trump also blasted Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who had refused to attend the event to express opposition to the Republican president, who was making his first trip to the heavily Democratic city since taking office in early 2017.
“Here’s a man that could not bother to show up for a meeting of police chiefs – the most respected people in the country – in his hometown and with the president of the United States. And you know why? It’s because he’s not doing his job,” Trump said of Johnson.
Somewhat overstating the case, Trump contrasted Chicago’s strict gun laws with its crime rate.
“Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the United States,” he said. “That doesn’t seem to be working too well, does it?”
Homicides in Chicago in 2018 numbered 561, down from 653 in 2017. The Chicago Tribune said 436 homicides had been recorded so far in 2019 in the third most-populous U.S. city.
On the subject of crime, Trump mocked actor Jussie Smollett, whom authorities have alleged staged a hate crime against himself, saying that he “beat up himself.”
“And he said MAGA country did it,” Trump said. “It’s a real big scam, just like the impeachment of your president is a scam.”
When Donald Trump does Chicago
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, responded to Trump on Twitter, saying it was no surprise that Trump “brought his insulting, ignorant buffoonery to Chicago.”
“Luckily, in this city, we know the truth and we will not let anyone — no matter how high the office — denigrate who we are as a people or our status as a welcoming city,” she said.
It's no surprise that @realDonaldTrump brought his insulting, ignorant buffoonery to Chicago. Luckily, in this city, we know the truth and we will not let anyone — no matter how high the office — denigrate who we are as a people or our status as a welcoming city.
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) October 28, 2019
A few thousand people rallied outside of Trump Tower in Chicago, where Trump was inside raising about $4 million for his 2020 re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.
They held signs protesting Trump and his presidency, banged on drums and blew whistles. “Impeach and convict” read one sign.
Retired suburban teacher Claudia Feeney, 68, said Trump should be impeached.
“He’s a disgrace to the presidency and a danger to the country,” she said.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper, Brendan O’Brien and Karen Pierog; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney; Pluralist contributed to this report)