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Trump threatens to ‘send in the feds’ to address Chicago ‘carnage’

President-elect Donald Trump speaks at the Chairman's Global Dinner in Washington last week. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

President Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday night to re-up the idea of sending federal law enforcement to Chicago if the city’s homicide rate doesn’t come down.

“If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on,” Trump wrote, “I will send in the Feds!”

He said in his tweet that 228 shootings and 42 homicides have been recorded in Chicago since the start of the year — figures higher than the comparable period during 2016, which was a particularly bloody year for the city.

Trump has raised the prospect of Washington intervention in Chicago before. His latest musings on the subject came just a day after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) criticized the Republican president for focusing so much on the size of the crowd at his inaugural ceremony and failing in his speech to appeal to “our better angels as a country.”

On Jan. 20, 2017, President Trump pledged to embark on a strategy of "America first." Here are key moments from that speech. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post, Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Trump sent out a similar tweet on Jan. 2, criticizing the year-end murder count in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city. “If Mayor can’t do it he must ask for Federal help!” Trump said in that tweet.

It’s unclear what exactly Trump is suggesting. There is a precedent for embedding FBI agents with local police, as happened in Prince George’s County, Md., after a spike in killings years ago.

A spokesman for Emanuel on Tuesday night pointed to a local television interview with the mayor before Trump's tweet, when he was asked what the Trump administration could do to help fight the violence.

“There's a lot the federal government can do,” Emanuel said in the interview with WTTW. As examples, he cited federal help tracking illegal guns and prosecuting such cases, increased gun control and “help [paying for] additional police officers.”

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Eddie Johnson, the Chicago police superintendent, echoed Emanuel's points in a statement late Tuesday, following Trump's tweet.

“As the mayor said just a few hours ago, the Chicago Police Department is more than willing to work with the federal government to build on our partnerships with DOJ, FBI, DEA and ATF and boost federal prosecution rates for gun crimes in Chicago,” Johnson said.

Trump has repeatedly weighed in on the violence in Chicago, which dramatically spiked last year after also going up the year before.

During his campaign, Trump recounted meeting “a top police officer in Chicago” during a visit there and said this officer assured him he could solve the violence “in one week.” Trump also said police could stop the bloodshed by being “much tougher than they are right now." (Police in Chicago said Trump did not meet with anyone from the department's senior command staff, and the Trump campaign declined to identify the man Trump said he was quoting.)

On the campaign trail, Trump also backed the use of the controversial stop-and-frisk tactic, saying “Chicago needs” it.

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The city's embattled police force has blamed illegal guns and gang activity, among other things, for the spike in bloodshed. Last year, Chicago had 762 homicides, the city's deadliest year in two decades, along with more than 4,000 shooting victims. Chicago had more homicides last year than the two larger cities — New York and Los Angeles — combined.

The Trump administration will soon have an opportunity to weigh in on Chicago's policing practices.

Following a sprawling federal investigation, the Justice Department and city officials announced in the final days of the Obama administration plans to seek a court-enforceable agreement to reform the city's policing practices. But it is not clear what the future of that agreement will be if Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump's pick for attorney general and a critic of such agreements, is confirmed.

Trump's tweet Tuesday night followed a discussion of Chicago's homicide numbers on “The O'Reilly Factor” on Fox News. During the segment, a guest specifically used the word “carnage,” which Trump later cited in quotation marks in his tweet.

O'Reilly's show appeared to be using statistics collected by the Chicago Tribune, which reported 44 homicides through Tuesday. The newspaper also reported Monday that 228 shootings have occurred so far this year, up slightly from last year, and that homicides this year were up 24 percent.

The newspaper's tally differs from official Chicago Police Department statistics, because the Tribune includes other killings such as justifiable homicides and shootings on the expressway that the police do not include.

According to a police department spokesman, there have been 38 killings through Tuesday night, up from 33 at the same point last year. Shootings were even, with 182 shootings through this date both years.