Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf couldn’t answer lawmakers’ questions about his department’s response to the Portland protests, according to a letter from a key committee reviewed by POLITICO.
In the letter, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and 17 other Democratic members wrote that they are “profoundly troubled” by reports that DHS officials violated the constitutional rights of protesters in Portland, Ore., by illegally detaining them.
“Our concerns are only heightened by your inability to answer questions posed to you during a call on Saturday,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and the lawmakers wrote.
The letter noted reports of DHS officers seizing protesters off the streets in Portland without explanation. The city has had five weeks of protests, its mayor told NPR on July 19. The protests included a “small handful of people who were engaged in criminal activity,” he said, but appeared to be subsiding until federal officers intervened. The mayor, Ted Wheeler, said their presence made the situation worse.
The letter asks DHS for a host of new documents, including all DHS personnel communications about the deployment of officers to Portland. They also asked for documents on training DHS personnel received and on detentions. The committee’s deadline for DHS is July 27.
But officials likely aren’t holding their breaths; the letter also noted that the department ignored a previous missive about DHS’ response to nationwide protests that broke out after a white police officer in Minneapolis killed a Black man, George Floyd, by putting his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes.