As President Trump deploys federal agents to Portland, Oregon, and threatens to send more to other cities, his re-election campaign spends millions of dollars on several disturbing TV commercials that encourage fear and align with his message policy of “law and order. “
The influx of agents into Portland led to scenes of clashes and chaos that Mr. Trump and his White House aides reported as they attempted to misrepresent elected Democrats allowing protesters dangerous to create general chaos.
The Trump campaign makes that message stand out with a new ad that attempts to tie its grim portrayal of Democratic-run cities to Mr. Trump’s main rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr. – with exaggerated images meant to persuade viewers that the lawless anarchy would prevail. whether Mr. Biden won the presidency. The ad simulates a break-in to an older woman’s home and ends in an attack as she waits for a 911 call, as dark and gloomy intruders flash in the background.
So far, the campaign has spent almost $ 20 million in the past 20 days on this ad and two similar ones, more than Mr. Biden spent on his total TV budget in the same amount of time. , and a relatively large sum for this step. of the race. Although the announcements predate federal actions in Portland, they convey a common theme of anarchy under Democratic leadership.
In recent days, the Trump administration has focused on Portland, where nightly protests have been held for weeks to expose systemic racism in the police. In recent days, federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the US Marshals, traveling in unmarked cars, have driven protesters off the streets without explaining why, in some cases detaining them and in other cases letting them go. because they really weren’t. suspects. The protests have grown since the arrival of federal officials.
Mr. Trump’s deployment of federal law enforcement is highly unusual: he acts despite local opposition – city leaders are not asking for help – and his actions go beyond emergency measures taken by some former American leaders like President George HW Bush, who sent troops to suppress Los Angeles in 1992 at the request of the California authorities.
On Tuesday in Washington, Department of Homeland Security officials held a press conference for the first time on increasing federal deployment to Portland, defending tactics and agent training. Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary, said a federal law allowed officers to walk away from the courthouse they were told to defend, to investigate crimes against property and federal agents, even if it resulted in the detention of a protester.
Another senior official, Mark Morgan, disputed allegations that officers did not have adequate badges, showing reporters a camouflaged ballistic vest labeled “POLICE.” Mr Wolf also blamed local authorities for the unrest in Portland. “I asked the mayor and the governor, how long do you expect this to continue?” Mr Wolf said. “We are ready. I am ready to withdraw my officers from there if the violence stops.
The president said he could then deploy federal agents to Chicago, and listed other cities where a similar enforcement could take place, including New York but also Philadelphia and Detroit, urban centers in two battlefield states. . White House officials said the deployments resulted from meetings between administration officials after protests in Washington, DC, in late May and early June.
The White House has defended the recent measures.
“Whatever the objective standard, the violence, chaos and lawlessness in Portland are unacceptable, but Democrats continue to put politics above peace as this president seeks to restore law and order.” White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said in a briefing Tuesday morning. She listed a series of articles she said protesters threw at law enforcement.
Trump administration officials and campaign aides have woven together the protests that began after George Floyd’s murder in May to try to bolster their claim that under Mr. Biden, the police would be “struck off.” While Mr. Biden has followed a cautious line and has explicitly stated that he does not support disassociating policing, the Trump campaign has continued to claim otherwise.
The most recent Trump campaign ad, depicting the burglary in a woman’s home, has a singular purpose: to terrify viewers into believing this claim.
The audio for the announcement includes a news broadcast that talks about Seattle’s “pledge to dissolve its police department,” referring to another progressive city that Mr. Trump has had an argument with.
The location fits Mr. Trump’s long-standing preference for messages that encourage fear and division, dating back to the first ad of his 2016 presidential campaign, which portrayed immigrants as criminals. The campaign has already spent nearly $ 550,000 on its new ad, which was released on Monday.
Describing his opponents as supporting violence while portraying the police in glowing terms has been a mainstay of Mr. Trump’s public discourse since the late 1980s.
Protests across the country have been largely peaceful, with peaks of conflict usually occurring during clashes with law enforcement. As polls show a majority of voters support the Black Lives Matter movement, Mr. Trump and some of his advisers are banking on a so far nonexistent backlash with white voters in the fall rising. the president’s numbers.
“Obviously what they’re looking to do here is scare the hell out of the elderly,” said Pia Carusone, a Democratic advertising designer. But, she said, Trump’s new publicity fails to be believable. “You make the assumption that the voter you hope to convince will identify himself and think that it could happen. And then you have to take the leap to blame Biden or the Democrats or whoever it is. And I think it fails this first test.
Stuart Stevens, a Republican strategist who now works with the anti-Trump group known as the Lincoln Project, said Mr. Trump’s team is focused on an issue that does not rank high on voters’ concerns.
“I would bet a lot that the actress they hired for this is more worried about Covid-19 than a fake threat against the cops,” Stevens said.
Of the $ 24 million the Trump campaign has spent on TV ads in the past 20 days, about $ 20 million has gone to ads that focus solely on the police issue. About 70% of that $ 20 million was spent on a single ad that shows a split screen: one side represents an empty 911 call center, with an answering service asking callers to select their urgency, and the other displays violent scenes of protests.
Trump’s digital device also released a torrent of ads warning of a country in crisis: “Dangerous crowds of far-left groups are running through our streets causing utter chaos,” reads an ad with 308 variations : “They destroy our cities and riots. “
The Trump team has spent at least $ 2 million in the past two months on Facebook ads with similar themes, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking company.
The advertisements are on a political track. But for former homeland security officials who served the first year of the Trump administration, seeing footage of federal forces on the streets of American cities was agonizing.
“People like me, who have served for a long time, have to look very long and hard to understand who these people are,” said Col. David Lapan, a retired sailor who served in the Trump administration in 2017 in as the spokesperson for the ministry. internal security. “To the average citizen, it seems the military is being used to suppress American citizens. Even if it is not, and it is law enforcement, it gives the impression that the military is being used.
In a statement Tuesday night, Mr Biden drew a parallel with the largely peaceful protesters who were evacuated from a park near the White House on June 1 by armed law enforcement using chemical irritants before the Mr Trump’s photo shoot outside a historic church. .
“They brutally attack peaceful protesters, including a veteran of the United States Navy,” Biden said of the force used in Portland. “Of course, the US government has the right and the duty to protect federal property. The Obama-Biden administration has protected federal property across the country without resorting to these blatant tactics – and without trying to stoke the fires of division in this country. In response, Mr. Trump’s campaign accused Mr. Biden of attacking law enforcement officials.
Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania who was the first person to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security, also condemned Mr. Trump’s actions.
“The department was created to protect America from the pervasive threat of global terrorism,” Ridge, a Republican, told radio host Michael Smerconish. “It has not been established that this was the president’s personal militia.”
Mr Ridge has said it will be a “cold day in hell” before he has consented as governor to what is going on. “I want the president to take a more collaborative approach to tackling this anarchy than the one-sided approach he has taken,” he said.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting. Jack Begg and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed to the research.