After a summer where Chicago was menaced by frightening levels of gun violence, you might think public officials would jump at the chance to herald a reduction in the bloodshed.
You would be wrong.
"We're not going to stand up at a press conference and be used as a prop," Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters Wednesday at City Hall. "Not in this climate --- particularly, unfortunately, not in a way that the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Barr has been used, in effect, as an adjunct of the Trump re-election campaign."
Earlier, Attorney General William Barr held a news conference at the Dirksen Federal Building, updating the federal government's Operation Legend initiative, which sent hundreds of agents to Chicago to assist police in combating violent crime. At that event, Barr suggested it was the federal presence which had resulted in a drastic reduction in homicides since July.
"The results of those actions speak for themselves," Barr said. "Over the first five weeks of Operation Legend in Chicago, murders dropped by 50% over the previous five weeks. August ultimately saw a 45% decrease in murders compared to July, and 35% compared to June."
Federal prosecutors and representatives of the FBI and ATF stood at Barr's side. But in a stark departure from past federal events heralding crime-busting efforts, no one from the Chicago Police Department was present.
"They were certainly invited and could have attended," Barr said. "But one of the odd things about our program in this city and some of the politics involved---I'm sure that was an element of it."
When Lightfoot was asked about CPD's absence, she made clear that yes, there was a political motive for the city's no-show status.
"It was politics that made us decide not to be there," she said. "We are never going to be used as a prop. Never."
But if Lightfoot was angered by the attorney general's effort to take credit for the reduction in violence, there was similar angst in the federal corridors as well.
"I know the city has put out information on the drop in crime and has credited a number of factors," Barr said. "Absent among those factors is the federal contribution. So -- that's just the way things roll in Chicago."
To that, Lightfoot was unapologetic.
"We started seeing a downward trend in shootings and homicides really beginning in late July," she said. "The first federal agents who came to Chicago as part of Operation Legend, didn't really get here until Aug. 3."
On its face, it all looks like a rather massive disconnect between a Democratic mayor and a Republican administration over the serious life-or-death business of reducing violence. But at the A.G.'s press event, U.S. Attorney John Lausch stepped to the microphone to emphasize a harmonious relationship among those actually fighting the criminal element.
"To be very clear, there is no disconnect between federal law enforcement and the Chicago Police," Lausch said. "We work together all the time. They are very supportive of all of our efforts and we are thrilled to help them fight violent crime."