EXCLUSIVE: CBP’s Morgan: Federal Agents Have Authority to Protect Federal Property, Quell Violence

PORTLAND, OREGON - JULY 27: Federal police face off with protesters in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland as the city experiences another night of unrest on July 27, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. For over 57 straight nights, protesters in downtown Portland have faced off …
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Mark Morgan, chief operating officer and commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), told Breitbart News on Wednesday that the federal government has authority and, in the case of protecting federal property and agents, is required by statute to enforce federal law and quell violence in cities across America.

“What’s going on in Portland is very narrow, meaning that our presence there is because of the attack on the courthouse,” Morgan said. 

Morgan said that for more than 60 nights “violent opportunists, anarchists” have tried to breach the barricades and fencing protecting the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse while federal officers are stationed inside. The ongoing riots come in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in May, and have devolved into destructive riots across the country.

Morgan also said the federal officers stay inside the building unless a crime is committed.

“We are not out there patrolling the streets of Portland,” Morgan said, adding that officers only leave the premises if a crime is committed and they need to investigate or make an arrest.

On Wednesday, Oregon Mayor Kate Brown announced that federal law enforcement is leaving the city starting on Thursday. She tweeted:

After my discussions with VP Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland. They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.

But shortly after Brown’s tweet, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf responded on Twitter:

As I told the Governor yesterday, federal law enforcement will remain in Portland until the violent activity toward our federal facilities ends. We are not removing any law enforcement while our facilities and law enforcement remain under attack.

Wolf also released a DHS statement that said, in part:

President Trump and this Administration have been consistent in our message throughout the violence in Portland: the violent criminal activity directed towards federal properties and law enforcement will not be tolerated, state and local leaders must step forward and police their communities, and the Department of Homeland Security will not back down from our legal duty to protect federal law enforcement officers and federal properties in the face of such criminal behavior.

Breitbart News asked Morgan about the Trump administration’s plan to deploy federal law enforcement to other cities that are experiencing violent riots and high crime rates.

Morgan said federal agencies are in cities across America every day protecting the estimated 9,000 federal properties across the nation.

And Morgan said the federal government is within its authority to increase the presence of federal law enforcement to quell violence, including “under the umbrella of Operation Legend.”

“They’re going to send additional law enforcement, federal agents to these areas where they’re seeing a significant spike in violent crime and they’re going to work with the city and state law enforcement officials in a task force environment to really try to attack and address the violent crime that’s going on in these cities right now,” Morgan said.

“To surge federal law enforcement agents to high crime areas, this is nothing new,” Morgan said. “I’ve participated in multiple federal law enforcement surges over the years. This is common practice when we see an increase of violent crime.”

In fact, the Department of Justice announced today what cities will see an increase of federal officers. The announcement said, in part:

Today, the expansion of Operation Legend was announced in Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Operation Legend is a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime. The Operation was first launched on July 8 in Kansas City, Missouri, and expanded on July 22, 2020, to Chicago and Albuquerque.

Operation Legend is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City. The first federal arrest under Operation Legend was announced on July 20.

“The most basic responsibility of government is to protect the safety of our citizens,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Today, we have extended Operation Legend to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee, three cities that have seen disturbing increases in violent crime, particularly homicides. For decades, the Department of Justice has achieved significant success when utilizing our anti-violent crime task forces and federal law enforcement agents to enforce federal law and assist American cities that are experiencing upticks in violent crime. The Department of Justice’s assets will supplement local law enforcement efforts, as we work together to take the shooters and chronic violent criminals off of our streets.”

Morgan told Breitbart News that the idea that the protests in Portland are mostly peaceful is “outrageous.” He said peaceful protesters would not be armed with baseball bats, rocks, sledge hammers, and commercial-grade fireworks.

“It defies logic,” Morgan said.

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