CPD’s Johnson defends himself, record against Trump’s scathing criticism

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CHICAGO — President Donald Trump launched a scathing attack on Chicago and its police chief on his first visit to the city while in office.

Comparing the city to Afghanistan, he spoke at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference at McCormick Place Monday.

"It's embarrassing to us as a nation," Trump said of Chicago in his speech. "All over the world they're talking about Chicago. Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison."

Trump has frequently slammed Chicago for its crime problems and status as a sanctuary city, one of scores of cities around the country that refuse to work with federal authorities to round up people who are living in the U.S. illegally.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, the host of a gathering of police chiefs from around the country, did not attend the speech because he said he opposes the administration's immigration policies.

Trump called out Johnson in his speech saying "more than anyone else" Johnson should be at the conference because "maybe he could learn something." Trump said he wants Johnson "to change his values and change them fast."

Johnson defended himself and his record at an afternoon press conference.

“The national narrative that this is a city is on fire is just not true,” he said. “We have our challenges, on the South and West Side. But I also want to remind people we have 17 neighborhoods safer than Manhattan and L.A.”

Johnson laughed off some of Trump’s insults aimed at him and his city.  Johnson said that just means he doing something right. He even agreed with the president who said nationally crime numbers are down.

“Those crime numbers were driven by Chicago,” Johnson said. “We've had double-digit reductions in crime for the past three years. That's almost an impossibility.”

Johnson also said facts matter when it comes to being a Sanctuary City and the fact is violent crime in Chicago is not driven by immigrants but people from Chicago.

“This administration has hurt many communities in Chicago. The CPD is here and will always be here to stand up for them.”

The city's mayor, Lori Lightfoot, also refused to meet with Trump. She's criticized him in the past for proposing a rule that would allow federal contractors to make employment decisions based on religious convictions, and she's pushed back against tweets from the president's daughter Ivanka Trump about the Chicago's gun violence.

"It's no surprise that @realDonaldTrump brought his insulting, ignorant buffoonery to Chicago," Lightfoot said in a tweet Monday afternoon. "Luckily, in this city, we know the truth and we will not let anyone — no matter how high the office — denigrate who we are as a people or our status as a welcoming city."

The president also brought up actor Jussie Smollett, who police said staged a homophobic attack by Trump supporters.

"Then you have the case of this wise guy, Jussie Smolllett, who beat up...himself. And he said MAGA country did it. It's a hate crime...and it's a scam. It's a real big scam. Just like the impeachment of your president is a scam," Trump said.

Also during his speech, Trump said the Justice Department will begin a stronger crackdown on violent crime in the United States.

"Let's call it a surge," he said.

Trump said the crackdown will be announced by Attorney General William Barr in the next few weeks. Barr was also in attendance at Trump's address to the police chiefs. Trump said the best way to combat gun violence is to put criminals with firearms behind bars.

Trump concluded his speech by signing an executive order creating  a commission to study the root causes of crime and implement best ideas immediately.

Following his speech at McCormick Place, Trump attended a fundraiser at Trump Tower that will be hosted by Todd Ricketts, the Republican National Committee Finance Chair, and part owner of the Cubs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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