Ken Cuccinelli defends deployment of federal agents in Portland

The Acting Deputy Secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security discussed whether agents will come to other U.S. cities and said that, contrary to protester claims, the agents are clearly identifiable.
5:22 | 07/22/20

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Transcript for Ken Cuccinelli defends deployment of federal agents in Portland
Now to more on the mounting questions over the federal agents in Portland. Are their action against protesters constitutional? And as the president hints, these agents may be coming to more cities. What's the message of the deployment. I spoke to Ken cuccinelli. Mr. Cuccinelli, thank you so much for joining us. Just want to start off right with the idea that in the past, we've seen federal agents go into cities to work local authorities whereas now it seems they're brought in to work independent from local authorities. Is that constitutional? Absolutely. When we're acting on our own, we're enforcing federal law. Take the Portland situation. We have, since the building of the Hatfield courthouse, the federal protective service, which is the base dhs agency there has protected that facility. So this is 23 years of effort in just for that facility. So this is a long-established federal practice. It's well within the authority of the federal government. Whether the local authorities or the local city wants the help or not. Well, there's a federal courthouse and a federal building in the middle of Portland. And so, with that comes federal authority to protect that facility and the people in and around it. So we always prefer to have law enforcement relationships be partnerships with localities and states. And over the vast majority of America, that's what happens, even when there are political differences among the leadership, but that is unfortunately an exception in Portland, though there are other cities that we have tenuous political relationships with that have very good law enforcement relationships Speaking of Portland, there are several reports that show over the past week federal agents in camouflage and tactical gear have made targeted arrests, in one case using an unmarked car. Why is that action necessary? Sure, great question. So after 35 or 40 straight days of violence in Portland, we obtained intelligence that federal areas were going to be targeted and we'd see directed violence at those facilities. So we advanced other officers in to help the base officers who are already present and have been present for many, many years there to protect those facilities. In fact, that intelligence was and over the July 4th weekend when we had advanced other officers to Portland, there were additional assaults on individuals and facilities themselves. And that's continued. And as long as the violence continues at that level associated with federal facilities, we'll have to maintain our elevated presence. Have you considered at all putting them in uniforms that might make them more identifiable as federal agents? Well, actually, they've been there for weeks wearing the same uniforms, and the same protesters are coming night after night. They all recognize them by uniform, and all of our agents that you've seen interact with any of these crowds have their insignia on their sleeves, they're identified as police front and back. So department of homeland security, federal protective service, they're all clearly marked. They all identify themselves to individuals with whom they're interacting, for instance, if they're seizing someone who matches the description of assaulting a federal officer they identify themselves as agents immediately. Civil rights lawyers have said that the actions taken by your agents violate protesters first amendment right to free speech. Is the protection of property more important than rights? All of us protect the constitution and we're trying to balance the importance of protecting sincere peaceful protesters, protecting them from violent act tors and the facilities from the same violence. It's a very difficult line to walk, but we try to do it aggressively and appropriately. The president suggested he does plan to send agents to other cities like New York and Philadelphia. How many other cities are considered and should we expect similar actions from those agent there? I'm not prepared to speak to particular numbers of cities. But certainly as the president has made clear, we are looking at where we can have effect by advancing additional law enforcement officers to pursue either our federal missions or to partner with local and state authorities to help them bolster them in achieving their goals in ways that are within our legal boundaries of operation. We appreciate your insight, thank you so much for your time. Pleasure to be with you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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