ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Two announcements by President Trump put him at odds with leaders in the nation’s third most populous city, Chicago. First, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, “If Chicago leaders can’t reduce the violence in the city,” he’d, quote, “send in the feds.” There were 4,000 shootings and nearly 800 gun homicides there last year. Then, he signed an executive order withholding federal grant money from so-called “sanctuary cities” like Chicago, that limit cooperation with federal authorities on detaining immigrants.
To discuss both of these issues, I’m joined from Chicago by “USA Today” reporter Aamar Madhani.
Aamar, to describe what was going on in Chicago, President Trump used the word “carnage”, which quite literally means large-scale killing of people. So, in this instance, it might actually be the accurate word to use. What is unique about Chicago that we’re having these kind of numbers?
AAMAR MADHANI, USA TODAY: Well, what’s unique about Chicago is that I think sort of some of the structural problems that we saw in the ‘90s and late ‘80s, in the midst of the crack cocaine epidemic, a lot of the structural problems that caused those spikes in violence that have gone down elsewhere in big cities like New York and L.A., they haven’t been totally addressed here.
STEWART: Nobody is really disputing that it’s a horrible situation. The thing that upset people was President Trump’s potential solution.
MADHANI: It’s really vague. You know, he says, “I’m going to send the feds in.” Does that mean I’m going to order National Guard troops in the streets? Does that mean I’m going to rush a bunch of federal money to your city? Does it mean something else? So, there’s a little bit of bewilderment and confusion.
STEWART: The murder rate now is not as high as it was in the ‘90s, but there was a dip, sort of around 2005-ish to 2013-ish, where it went down quite a bit. What was going on there and can it be replicated?
MADHANI: Well, you know, I think that dip replicated what you saw in a lot of cities. There’s a dynamic in Chicago with a demolition of housing projects and how that has sort of disjointed gangs in the city, and it’s been much more difficult to get a handle on.
The other aspect in Chicago as well has been the release of the Laquan McDonald videos. There’s always been tension in the African-American community and the police, but that tension was exacerbated after that. The other aspect that politicians here would also talk about is that the gun laws, they feel, are weak.
STEWART: Let me talk to you about sanctuary cities. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Nope, Chicago, we’re going to stay a sanctuary city,” rejecting President Trump’s stance. Was that wise, given the financial predicament Chicago is in right now?
MADHANI: Basically, everyone, except in Miami, every big city, a mayor, county official, has more or less taken the Emanuel position. And they think this is a court fight. You know, they think this is a starting point. And, also, I think there’s this element, well, that this can’t be done without Congress going along with it. And you might be a Republican congressman, but are you going to strip federal funding from your big city in your state?
STEWART: Aamar Madhani, from “USA Today,” in Chicago — thank you.
MADHANI: Thank you.