CHICAGO — Before her inauguration as Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot visited the White House to meet with Ivanka Trump and begin building a relationship that she hoped could lead to help in solving some of the city’s deepest problems.
But this week, Lightfoot engaged in a public battle of words with the president’s powerful daughter, who in a series of tweets on Tuesday drew attention to the city’s gun violence and provoked an angry response from Chicago’s mayor.
Early Tuesday, Ivanka Trump drew renewed national attention to Chicago’s problems with gun violence by writing, “As we grieve over the evil mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, let us not overlook that Chicago experienced its deadliest weekend of the year.”
“With 7 dead and 52 wounded near a playground in the Windy City — and little national outrage or media coverage — we mustn’t become numb to the violence faced by inner city communities every day,” she tweeted.
Lightfoot took exception to the remarks and made her feelings known during a news conference after her so-called Accountability Tuesday meeting with Chicago police brass to review the city’s police strategies and response to violence.
A livid Lightfoot said Trump got key facts wrong in her online comments and falsely implied that all the injuries happened in one incident. If Ivanka Trump cared, Lightfoot said, she should have reached out to city officials.
“It wasn’t a playground, it was a park. It wasn’t seven dead. It wasn’t 52 wounded in one incident, which is what this suggests. It’s misleading,” Lightfoot said. “It’s important when we’re talking about people’s lives to actually get the facts correct, which one can easily do if you actually cared about getting it right.”
Asked about the tweet’s reach, which included thousands of retweets and likes, Lightfoot said, “That’s the danger of somebody with a platform and audience … that doesn’t know what they’re talking about and getting the fundamental facts wrong that they can easily figure out if they had the decency to actually reach out to us if they wanted to be a constructive and engaged partner.”
Lightfoot, who harshly criticized President Donald Trump earlier this week, said she doesn’t know whether her previous remarks prompted Ivanka Trump’s tweets.
“What I’m focused on is actually helping run the city of Chicago and working hard every day with the superintendent and his leadership team to keep people in our city safe,” Lightfoot said. “I’m not going to be distracted by nonsense tweets from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.”
The mayor visited Washington in May, where she met with Ivanka Trump in the West Wing. They discussed workforce development and criminal-justice reform, Lightfoot said at the time. They also took a photo together that was criticized by progressives and some Chicago residents, though Lightfoot backers said it’s important for the mayor to meet with anyone who may be able to help the city with its myriad problems.
“Ivanka has appreciated getting to know Mayor Lightfoot, respects her commitment to addressing this issue and looks forward to continuing the conversation around this issue, workforce development and economic opportunity for all,” a spokeswoman for Ivanka Trump said Tuesday in a statement. “To the extent that her quote was misleading in implying that all of the shooting incidents occurred in one location, it remains important to note that there were 7 deaths and 52 wounded across the city, resulting in one of the deadliest weekends in the city this year. Her point remains the same, we cannot ignore the gun violence that happens in cities across this country on a daily basis.”
Ivanka Trump’s comments Tuesday followed a weekend mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 dead and 26 wounded, and another just hours later in Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were killed and 27 wounded. Her comments on Twitter also come amid an increasing national drumbeat for Congress to enact new gun restrictions following the bloody weekend in Texas and Ohio.
In Chicago, 55 people from ages 5 to 56 had been shot over the weekend, seven of them fatally, according to the Chicago Tribune’s count. Nearly all of the gun violence occurred on the West and South sides.
At least 1,600 people have been shot in Chicago this year and there have been at least 300 homicides, according to data kept by the Tribune. Both numbers are below those from this time last year.
Chicago’s gun violence has been a frequent target for conservative critics who use it to attack the Democratic Party.
Ivanka Trump’s comments also follow pointed remarks Lightfoot made Monday calling for President Donald Trump to set “a better, clearer moral tone” as the nation’s leader and to back expanded gun control.
“What he’s been doing is blowing every racist, xenophobic dog whistle and when you do that, when you blow that kind of dog whistle, animals come out,” Lightfoot said Monday, referring indirectly to Trump’s incendiary tweets and campaign speeches that have included calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.”
Trump should use “his weight in Congress to move forward on common-sense gun reform,” the mayor said Monday.
“If the president weighs in, if he shows these Republicans that they can actually have courage, we can get this done,” she added. “But if he stands back and continues to do what he’s been doing and he just tweets and he demonizes and he skims the surface, it matters not.”
Lightfoot and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth attended an anti-violence National Night Out event in Chicago on Tuesday evening.
Duckworth, a Democrat, said the mayor is “absolutely right” about the president.
“This president continues to talk down to major cities in this country. He does nothing to help,” the senator said. “If he had concerns about Chicago, then come do something about it.”
Duckworth said Trump could help curb violence by promoting community investments through federal funding and supporting gun control legislation.
A former federal prosecutor and corporate attorney, Lightfoot campaigned on reducing crime and made it a top priority in her inaugural address, declaring that there is “no higher calling than restoring safety and peace in our neighborhoods.” The city has seen mixed results in reducing crime early in Lightfoot’s administration.
Police have touted lower shooting rates compared with last year, but Lightfoot has repeatedly decried the city’s violence. Early on in her administration, she began convening a weekly gathering of police brass for what she first called “Accountability Mondays,” where they discuss crime-fighting strategies and assess the weekend’s results.
Those meetings have since moved to Tuesday.
Ahead of the July 4 holiday, Lightfoot was asked if she’s satisfied by the fact that crime is down year over year, and she said she wasn’t “because there’s still so much more that we need to do.”
“We are ahead in violent crimes. We’re down in homicides, we’re down in shootings, and that’s because people are working really, really hard,” Lightfoot said. “Our Police Department absolutely is doing a yeoman’s job. There’s more work to be done.”
The mayor has frequently said the city needs more investment on the South and West sides and that crime can’t be lowered by police work alone.
On Tuesday, she also stepped up her criticism of Cook County judges for allowing people arrested with guns and ammunition to pay low bonds and go free.
Standing next to police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Lightfoot held a photo of assault weapons and a drum magazine that can hold more than 200 bullets. A judge set bond for a man who was arrested with the weapons at $10,000, meaning he could pay $1,000 to get out of jail on electronic monitoring.
“I need to understand from the judges who think that these people are not dangers to the community, how I explain that to people on the West Side and on the South Side who in many instances are living in a war zone, how do I explain to them that this is a justified use of bail?” Lightfoot said. “It’s hard to fathom the circumstances.”
The suspects in the case that Lightfoot and Johnson drew attention to were arrested Friday. One received $10,000 bond and has not yet paid, while the other was held without bond as he was being held on an extradition warrant.
Lightfoot said the decision to give bond to someone with those weapons “doesn’t make any sense.”
Echoing the mayor, Johnson also held up a photo of the seized weapons.
“This is ridiculous,” Johnson said. “You’re telling me it’s OK for somebody that possesses something like this to be right back out in a day? I don’t think so.”
Bond reform has been a point of contention nationwide and in Cook County, where Chief Judge Timothy Evans in 2017 entered an order meant to prevent people from being locked up in jail for small crimes just because they can’t afford bond.
But critics say the system has overcorrected and allows potentially violent offenders to go free.
Pat Milhizer, a spokesman for Evans, released a statement reiterating the judge’s argument that bond reform has not harmed public safety.
Instead, the statement said, “judges have strengthened community safety, deeming more felony defendants a danger to the community and holding them without release.”
“Judges issued eight times the number of no bail orders in felony cases since Chief Judge Evans’ bail order took effect,” the statement said. “There were 267 no bail orders entered in the 15 months prior to the order (July 2016 through September 2017), and 2,192 no bail orders issued in the 15 months after the order (October 2017 through December 2018).”
The vast majority of felony defendants released on bail — 99.8% — don’t receive “charges of new gun-related violent crime while their cases are pending,” the statement said.
But this isn’t the first time Lightfoot has been critical of how judges handle gun cases.
Last month, after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle accused Johnson of misleading the public about crime, Lightfoot read statistics about the arrests for gun offenses in Chicago over the July 4 weekend.
Of the 76 arrestees, 18 were repeat gun offenders, the mayor said. Of those 18, 10 went to Cook County court and judges set some kind of bond to give them a chance to get out of jail, Lightfoot said.
(Chicago Tribune’s Jessica Villagomez contributed.)
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