Tammy Duckworth Says She Won't Let President Trump 'Politicize Our Government'

Abigail Abrams

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said on Thursday that she views President Donald Trump sending federal agents to confront protesters in U.S. cities as an “abuse of power” and does not want federal forces intervening at demonstrations in her home state of Illinois.

“The abuse of power that we saw in Portland, that could happen anywhere should worry every single one of us,” she said during a TIME 100 Talks discussion. “It’s a continuation of the politicization of federal government that’s being carried out by President Trump.”

After the Trump Administration deployed federal law enforcement agents to Portland, Ore. to quell protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd earlier this summer, the President said July 22 he was sending hundreds more federal agents to Chicago and other cities to deal with increasing gun violence.

Chicago has seen a large increase in shootings this year, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot and local officials in the other cities Trump has targeted say they do not want federal law enforcement agencies stepping in without their consent. On Wednesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said that she had gotten the Trump Administration to agree to withdraw federal forces from Portland, following intense public backlash over the agents’ violent clashes with protesters.

“If they want to come to Chicago and work with local law enforcement and be supportive of our city, then they’re welcome,” Duckworth said on Thursday. “But I am not going to stand by. I am not going to stand by and let this president politicize our government, and to use our government against people who are peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights. Not on my watch.”

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Duckworth has been a vocal critic of Trump throughout his presidency, and said that she has been disappointed with many aspects of how he and Republicans in Congress have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Illinois Democrat slammed the Senate Republicans’ latest coronavirus relief proposal for not providing more assistance to frontline workers, unemployed Americans and those with disabilities, and said the bill would instead “give a helping hand to large corporations” by providing them with a liability shield from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

While the Republican bill would provide $70 billion in K-12 education funding, two-thirds of that would be directed to schools that plan to physically re-open, which Duckworth said puts teachers and families in a bind because the Department of Education has not put out guidelines on how schools should do this safely. Duckworth has been trying to teach her own daughter at home during the pandemic, but said the experience has shown her that teachers need more support now than ever.

“You know, I have a PhD, and I’m a U.S. Senator, and I can fly helicopters—but I am not trained or equipped to teach a single five-year-old,” Duckworth said during the TIME 100 Talks interview. “God bless our teachers out there and they need all the support that they can get to do the very difficult job that they’re doing.”

This summer, Duckworth has also emerged as a top contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate. If chosen, she would be the first Asian American woman on a major party ticket, a historic potential that Duckworth said she takes seriously.

As she has received more attention in recent weeks, she has already confronted nativist smears from Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Trump’s presidential campaign questioning her patriotism. Carlson called Duckworth, who lost both legs while fighting in the Iraq war, a “coward” and said she was among those who “actually hate America,” because she said she was open to dialogue about the idea of removing statues of George Washington, the United States’ first president and a slave owner.

“It is very significant for me to be on a national stage for other Asian Americans, because we often are the forgotten minority in this country,” Duckworth said. “We’re seen as the other, as you saw with the attacks on me by Tucker Carlson. You know, it’s easy to talk about Asians as the other and that we’re not truly Americans, when we’re just as American as anyone else, and love this country as much as anyone else.”

While the Senator declined to say what characteristics she views as most important for a vice president in 2020, she said Biden would need “a whole team around him” to address the multiple crises the country is facing.

“I do recognize my place on the national stage, and I’m very proud to represent Asian Americans,” she said. ‘But I’m also very proud to represent people with disability and working moms and veterans, and you know all of the great diversity that makes this country truly, truly unique and powerful in the world.”

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