Tension between state and federal officials ratcheted up Wednesday as President Donald Trump announced the deployment of federal law enforcement agents to Albuquerque and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned she will call for prosecutions if they commit any civil rights abuses in New Mexico.

Trump said at a White House news conference a federal crime-fighting program called “Operation Legend” will be expanded to include Albuquerque, with U.S. Attorney General William Barr adding 35 federal law enforcement agents will be sent to the state’s largest city as part of the effort.

In his comments, the president singled out Albuquerque as a city that he said needs assistance but is too “proud” or “political” to ask for it.

“Other cities need help, they need it badly,” Trump said. “They should call, they should want it. They’re too proud. They’re too political to do that. One of them is Albuquerque, New Mexico.”

Just before the briefing in Washington, Lujan Grisham and state Attorney General Hector Balderas said they would “welcome the conversation” if the Trump administration wanted to aid local authorities with “their regular community-policing activities” or with “data-driven crime-fighting initiatives.”

But the governor said the state will pursue litigation against the federal government if agents “overstep their authority” or if there’s any “clandestine authoritarian attempt to usurp local or state law enforcement operations in our state.

“If the Trump administration wishes to antagonize New Mexicans and Americans with authoritarian, unnecessary and unaccountable military-style ‘crackdowns,’ they have no business whatsoever in New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said.

Trump has vowed to deploy federal law enforcement officers to Democrat-led cities across the nation, which have in turn pushed back and threatened legal action.

Oregon’s attorney general has requested a restraining order against federal agents sent to Portland, charging they’ve arrested people there with no probable cause and rounded up protesters in unmarked cars.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would take the federal administration to court if Trump sent law enforcement to his city, while Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is open to working with federal law enforcement but wary about potential federal abuse of power.

The husband of Jacqueline Vigil, an Albuquerque resident killed last year, spoke in support of the federal deployment to Albuquerque at the news conference in Washington. Vigil, who was a 55-year-old mother of two state police officers, was fatally shot in November in her driveway as she was about to go to the gym.

“Every time I go to the driveway, that memory comes back and it haunts me,” Sam Vigil said Wednesday, standing at a podium next to the president. “It’s been eight months since my wife died and there’s been no arrests at all.”

The FBI’s Albuquerque office said Wednesday it is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of Vigil’s killer.

Barr said Wednesday that Operation Legend, which has already sent some 200 federal agents to Kansas City, Mo., will be expanded to deploy a similar number of agents to Chicago and the 35 agents to Albuquerque.

He said the operation consists of “classic crime-fighting” and is different from the federal presence in Portland, where protesters have been staging nightly demonstrations since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide unrest in May.

The federal effort in Albuquerque will include deploying investigators from the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

They will be led by John Anderson, U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico, and will work in conjunction with the Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.

The Justice Department also is granting some $1.5 million to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office to hire five deputies and giving $9.7 million to the Albuquerque Police Department to pay for the hiring of 40 officers.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller on Wednesday called Trump’s announcement a “political stunt.”

“If this was anything more than a political stunt, the president would support constitutional crime-fighting efforts that work for our community, not turning Albuquerque into a federal police state,” Keller said.

The Albuquerque Police Department said that while it cooperates with federal officials every day, it had not received details about the expansion of Operation Legend to the city or signed a memorandum of understanding.

“Until we have something in writing that confirms this will have nothing to do with immigration, protests, or racial profiling, we will not be working together,” said spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.

In his comments, the president repeatedly criticized “extreme politicians” for joining an “anti-police crusade” that he said has caused an increase in crime in cities across the country. He did not name specific elected officials.

“For decades, politicians running many of our nation’s major cities have put the interests of criminals above the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Trump said. “These same politicians have now embraced the far-left movement to break up our police departments, causing violent crime in their cities to spiral.”

Barr claimed a recent increase in violent crime in certain large U.S. cities is the “direct result” of efforts to defund police forces since Floyd’s killing. He called such efforts an “extreme reaction that has demonized police.”

APD said it does not agree recent protests had led to an increase in crime in Albuquerque.

“Protests have been mostly peaceful in Albuquerque and much less violent and destructive than other cities because of our focus on reform and community policing,” Gallegos said.

Asked about the president’s comments Wednesday, the Governor’s Office said Trump doesn’t know “the first thing about the issues facing” Albuquerque or the state.

“The president couldn’t find Albuquerque on a map,” said Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki. “He can shut up and try doing his job. In the absence of the latter, he can just shut up.”

Stelnicki added the Trump administration had not contacted the Governor’s Office “in any manner whatsoever” regarding the deployment of federal agents to Albuquerque.

A chorus of New Mexico Democratic Party officials lashed out at the federal announcement Wednesday.

New Mexico’s two U.S. senators joined some two dozen Democratic senators in writing a letter to Barr and acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, suggesting federal officers have used “inappropriate interference” and “legally questionable activities” to hamper the First Amendment rights of protesters in cities such as Portland.

“Critically, it remains unclear what legal authorities the federal government has invoked for its militarized interventions in American cities,” U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich wrote along with 25 other senators.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is running for U.S. Senate, called on Trump to invest in community policing, universal background checks and educational opportunities for New Mexico’s youth.

“But if his intent is to re-create the scenes out of Portland — with anonymous federal agents rounding up residents in unmarked vehicles — I will do everything I can as a member of Congress to hold him accountable,” Luján said.

On Tuesday, Heinrich and Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales exchanged a war of words over the then-rumored deployment of federal officials to Albuquerque.

In a rare move, Heinrich called for Gonzales to resign for “inviting the President’s stormtroopers into Albuquerque.”

Gonzales shot back the senator “couldn’t be more political and out of touch with the local social problems.”

Gonzales, a Democrat, was in Washington on Wednesday and planned to meet with Trump. He had already been a source of frustration for Democratic officials and authorities in Albuquerque as he has refused to have his deputies wear body cameras.

In a statement, Gonzales said he would provide more details on his meetings at a later date, but he said his condolences continue to be with the Vigil family.

“Today’s announcement from the federal government speaks for itself, and the local FBI also made it clear what Operation Legend special agents will do: combat Albuquerque’s out of control crime crisis and solve homicides,” he said.

Reporter

Jens Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

(56) comments

Saint Stephen

Trump has done such a stunningly remarkable job with Covid 19, nobody has ever done anything like it, who could have known how muchwinning it would be? Many people, important people say so.

No one has ever seen anything like it. Ever. Not the scientists, doctors, beauty contestants or WWE heroes. No one.

Hear that a lot. Everywhere.

Surely sending anonymous armed military agents to Democratic cities will be another spectacular winnnn!!!

Are we tired of winning yet?

I am

patricia miskovich

Follow the money. Wuhan-Grisham and Keller are both bought and paid for. Drain the swamp.

jeff jones

Albuquerque is arguably the worst city in America, there is so much drugs crime r*pe murder death destruction, mr. Keller has filled Albuquerque and every single way as has our governor, I really don't care if there's federal agents on the street, there's already federal agents all over the place in Albuquerque, and clowns on the left think this is the installation of secret police, really secret police make their presence known on National media to the entire country? Tim Keller and the governor need to shut their mouths, they are in no position to talk they are no better than mr. Trump

Carolyn DM

Mr. Trumpf got his border control toy soldiers rounded up and dressed them up in cammoflauge and formed his very own Gestapo and is sendnig a few of them to Albuquerque because Phoenix, Houston and Dallas couldn't possibly have more crime. Surely it has nothing to do with him sending his little army to only cities in states with Democratic governors. LMAO!! And who was the fool saying the Dems were politicizing this BS?!

Graham elliott

This is great! Our lazy worthless politicians haven’t done anything about the crime here. All they do is make promises and investments for their own personal gain. Let’s welcome these new officers with open hearts and arms! ❤️

Khal Spencer

Good article.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/23/upshot/portland-protests-federal-response.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

“Indeed, we can think of no better example of the police power, which the Founders denied the national government and reposed in the states, than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims.” -- Former CJ William Rhenquist

Lee DiFiore

Those calling for more gun control in the comments, Chicago (and IL) and New York City (and NY) have some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country. How's that working our for those folks so far? Law abiding citizens are the only ones without guns in those cities.

Stefanie Beninato

I wish there was an investigation to see how many white supremacy/alt-right groups have incited the violence and property destruction. When it first started in MN, most of the violence came from these groups according to several news stories. Where is the followup on this aspect?

Robert Bartlett

You cannot follow up on a lie.

Khal Spencer

I expect the usual Pavlovian response out of Dems. Given that the Feds and the Federal DoJ have a long (and checkered) history of working with local LE in Albuquerque, let's see what exactly happens next. Plenty of eyes will be on them.

Mike Johnson

Yes, but wouldn't it be grand if they could flush some of these anarchist cockroaches that destroyed downtown ABQ (all windows still boarded up and looks like a combat zone) out of the woodwork to be "handled"?

Thomas Carlson

The simple fact is, Trump’s private army is an illegal, illegitimate militia deployed in direct violation of the US Constitution. It’s not bound by the rule of law or any other legal constraints and is actually Trump’s vain attempt at being the “law and order” president.

It is being used in Portland to put down legitimate protests and is being met by dozens of protesting mothers, arms linked, to separate these goons from the protesters. I hope the same thing happens in Albuquerque.

Robert Bartlett

Marxists want to destroy America. We understand.

Louis Smith

So, many of you see this as help for the police dept. concerning crime in Abq. These troopers are not detectives and investigators coming to stop crime. They are coming to intimidate our citizens, I mean for crying out loud Albuquerque, if the sheriff that you elected to do the job isn’t up to the task then kick him out like Espanola has!

Khal Spencer

Seriously? What rock have you been hiding under, Louis? The Feds have stepped in several years ago to see that the "worst of the worst" (not my phrase) criminals in Albuquerque are prosecuted in Federal court because if tried in state court, they get the catch and release treatment. A Federal presence in Albuquerque is nothing new, as long as it keeps in its proper swim lane.

Stefanie Beninato

I believe that DOJ intervened--not the president sending in military storm troopers.

Mike Johnson

The force sent to ABQ has many FBI and ATF agents, who do you think the FBI and ATF works for??? Yes, DOJ......this is the same.

Khal Spencer

The conversations were joint with DOJ. Calling them storm troopers is kinda juvenile.

Richard Reinders

The County has not given the Sheriff enough resources to fight all the crime in the County, that is why he is reaching out. FBI can help with investigations, Marshall can help serving warrants DEA can help with intelligence and so on working hand in hand with the Sheriff who has the control over these agencies in his district. Also the crime in ABQ is international with Cartels and car theft rings out of Mexico with a substantial foot hold in New Mexico, (shh don't tell the Governor) By the way the Rio Arriba sheriff is still on the job.

Mark Ortiz

How are we supposed to trust Law Enforcement? This little Napoleon complex Sheriff refuses to hold his Deputies accountable by prohibiting the use of lapel cameras. Lea County Sheriff's department is violating gathering and mask orders by going out ten strong to eat in a restaurant, without any concern, under the guise of supporting local business. Order carry out Sheriff Helton. 80% or more of Police Departments around the country are fighting ANY kind of police reform. The supposed untainted apples are covering for the bad apples. There is no national database to track unethical Law Enforcement officers who move from Department to Department, otherwise known as Gypsy or Wandering cops. Police Unions shield their members from any repercussions from all levels of misconduct, even murderer WITH the help of State, City, and County administrations. This profession is notorious for drawing a significant percentage of men and women who feel they are above the law and this is the perfect place for them to treat fellow citizens as less than. And by the way, not one mention in this story, not even from the Governor's office that APD is under a consent decree, maybe because they and the Albuquerque City Administration has fought tooth and nail, through the courts to get out of it. Look, I get it's a career, job, responsibility that I could NEVER understand. I would never want to do it but in my 52 years I've seen generation after generation of too many really bad cops and when I see this, my heart feels for the really good ones, who beside have to deal with the communal residue of us who have dealt the @$$hole ones. If the powers that be want support from the community, be transparent, have some manners, do the right thing, not the things you think comes with being a macho jerk cop, all while feeling you are above the law. The sad thing about Sheriffs like Gonzales is he was probably bullied and now he's the bully who has ALL the power and like his idol 45 in the White House, still acts like a victim. "Power tends to corrupt: absolute power corrupts absolutely."

John Wilson

Trump has no more concern for the well being of New Mexicans than a rat in a dumpster fire. This is a publicity stunt to catch the attention of his supporters in the same way you would distract a cranky baby with a set of jingling car keys.

Jeff Varela

Here comes another political standoff while crime in ABQ continues to escalate. Sick and tired of these public officials who seek political promotion. Stop the bleeding before you start the healing. Crime in ABQ is bleeding!

Peter Romero

When MLG sent in 100 or so state police officers in the spring that was ok, now the president wants to send in 35 federal officers to help with investigations it an bad thing. [angry]

This is a total political hack job by the states democrats, our citizens deserve better. I wonder if the democrats in New Mexico are ever going to get tired of being last in everything good and first in everything bad. Que lastima !!

Stefanie Beninato

Help with investigations? These federal police are storm troopers. They are not here to investigate anything. They are here to harass immigrants and crack heads.

BOB SCHWARTZ

i am sure that trump and the feds are shaking in their boots at you mlg. No prosecution for the thugs who destroyed the city and monuments but threatening federal officers who would have to go to fed court, like they would be convicted.

Judith Senda

If libs were only as eager to prosecute actual criminals as MLG and Balderas are to prosecute the Justice Department, none of this supplemental law enforcement would be necessary.

And Kerry Halasz, Donald J. Trump *is* President. It’s time you get that through your head; stop with the snarky quotation marks. Maybe you’ll finally figure it out over the next four years.

Christian Vanschayk

There are two basic issues: The underlying causes of the high crime rate and keeping us safe. Trump and the GOP have pursued policies that enrich the rich and starve social support resources. As to what a few federal police can do to reduce crime, is questionable. At best it would have a temporary marginal impact. However given Trump's disastrous management of the Covid19 crises, we shouldn't be optimistic. Much more effective would be to provide additional resources for community policing and social and public health support agencies.

Nancy Murata

Totally sensible. Cant see how the storm troopers are going to "solve" crimes!

Lynn k Allen

We need our Governor to issue an Emergency Decree mandating

All police, Law Enforcement, and Paramilitary acting in New Mexico to wear clearly visible Identification registered in NM indication their legal authority or be arrested for impersonating Law Enforcement and be immediately arrested and detained for minimum of 5 days awaiting trial for impersonating Law Enforcement Officers.

Kerry Halasz

It seems the "president's" supporters love to jump in and comment as quickly as possible on any piece that mentions him and his cronies. Federal agents in Albuquerque are not the answer. Poverty and racial issues need to be addressed. We desperately need gun control measures country wide. He should be supporting legislation for health care for all. People are protesting nationwide because they want to be heard. Make school funding more equitable. Teach students the true history of the US. Ensure access to healthy food for everyone. Our problems stem from all of these inequities and more. A con man sending federal troops into as a political ploy will not help anyone. He aspires to be a dictator. Watch out.

Lynn k Allen

We need our Governor to issue an Emergency Decree mandating

All Police, Paramilitary and other groups acting in New Mexico to wear clearly visible Identification showing their commanding officer & legal authority or be arrested for impersonating a law enforcement officer.

Jim Clark

Meet the Feds at the airport detain them for 14 days.

Emily Koyama

Law enforcement are exempt from quarantine, dimwit.

Cleve Spence

Every American, every New Mexican, every veteran should be angry and fear for their country. Unidentified, military equipped, camouflaged storm troopers in unmarked cars attacking American citizens! Shades of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco Brown Shirts!

Nancy Murata

So sad!

Miranda Viscoli

Operation Legend is a load of &%$#. If Trump wants to reduce gun violence in Alb. maybe he should: support gun violence prevention legislation, work to end food and housing insecurities

create jobs for our youth, help our schools, build our neighborhoods, put money into gang intervention efforts and drug rehabilitation and mental health programs. That’s the short list. FYI Manny, you are quarantined for two weeks after your ten minutes of fame with the president.

Stefanie Beninato

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Joan Conrow

Manuel Gonzales needs to go, both for refusing to have his deputies wear body cameras (what are they trying to hide?) and inviting in federal officers at such a volatile time, especially in light of what’s happening in Portland.

Lynn k Allen

Fire Gonzales now !

Charlotte Larragoite

[thumbup]

Ted Nugent

Albuquerque/Rio Rancho armpit of NM. I'm no Trump supporter, but I say send the entire Federal law enforcement authority there if that's what it takes to clean that place up. Just let me know when so I don't have to be anywhere near that yucky place. Start with the SW portion and move up to NW. If you still have anyone left willing to remain there, move on to SE.

Dan Chase

All our democrats are making it more political than it needs to be. They claim to support LE but I guess that only applies when it’s not Trump related? Why not welcome more assistance rather than threaten LE with prosecution? That’s ridiculous...

Lynn k Allen

These are tactics of third world dictators.

Now is the time to enforce out Construction before it is a piece of forgotten history.

T’s every action is to weaken an and every part of America as Putin has asked.

Charlotte Larragoite

[thumbdown]

Richard Reinders

Everyone for gets they were invited by the Sheriff, any excuse to blame Trump ,it isn't about Trump it is about crime in New Mexico and we have plenty.

Lynn k Allen

Crime is a result of poverty & drugs. Cure poverty & you will cure crime.

Angel Ortiz

Maybe instead of wasting salaries for these 35 agents, the state could get federal assistance in form of better testing, PPE, social service assistance? 35 feds are not going to make a difference in the crime of Albuquerque and i doubt solving crimes is high on their priority list. More empty actions from POTUS.

Charlotte Larragoite

[thumbup]

Stefanie Beninato

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Maxwell Vertical

MLG is a Chihuahua barking at a semi. It’s 35 agents to protect federal property. Calm down governor.

Charlotte Larragoite

[thumbdown]

Katherine Martinez

It's the sad truth about crime in Albuquerque and an embarrassment. Besides ranking in the top 5 for auto theft in the nation every year, yes indeed there is a very real problem with crime in that city. I avoid going there at all costs.

Pam Walker

So before they even get here you are starting to turn everyone against them. It is about time for Albuquerque to get some help. The crime statistics are getting pretty ugly if you haven't noticed.

Robert Bartlett

Grisham would love the opportunity to blame Albuquerque's crime wave on President Trump rather than her progressive pals.

Charlotte Larragoite

[thumbdown]

Carolyn DM

Bwahahahahaaa!! Good one!!

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