Trump In First TV Interview as President: ‘Chicago is Like a War Zone'

Donald Trump, in his first television interview since becoming president, compared Chicago to a "war zone," continuing to shine a light on the city's violence, as he has repeatedly done in the early days of his presidency. 

"It is carnage. It's horrible carnage," Trump said in the interview. "This is, Afghanistan is not like what's happening in Chicago. People are being shot left and right. Thousands of people over a period -- over a short period of time." 

He cited the city's early 2017 shooting and homicide numbers, which have the potential to be record-setting. 

Anthony Guglielmi, a police department spokesperson, said January had seen 39 homicides as of Tuesday night -- but that number has grown in the days following. 

"They're not doing the job," Trump told ABC News' David Muir Wednesday night. "Now if they want help, I would love to help them. I will send in what we have to send in. Maybe they're not gonna have to be so politically correct. Maybe they're being overly politically correct. Maybe there's something going on. But you can't have those killings going on in Chicago. Chicago is like a war zone. Chicago is worse than some of the people that you report in some of the places that you report about every night."

Trump and his staff have repeatedly spotlighted the city's violence this week on a national level. He also consistently mentioned the city's rise in shootings during his campaign. 

The president tweeted Tuesday that "If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible 'carnage' going on" he will "send in the Feds."

"I don't want to have thousands of people shot in a city where essentially I'm the president," Trump said. "I love Chicago. I know Chicago. And Chicago is a great city, can be a great city."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded to the president's tweet Wednesday saying he would welcome a federal partnership to help quell the city's spiking violence. 

"Chicago, like other cities right now that are dealing with gun violence, wants the partnership with federal law enforcement entities in a more significant way than we’re having today," Emanuel said. 

He noted, however, that the move must come in partnership with local agencies, and not simply by replacing them.

Trump isn't the first to broach the idea that the U.S. government could do more to help stem predominantly gang-related violence on Chicago's South and West sides. But now, as on earlier occasions, what more the federal government can do isn't at all clear.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during his daily press briefing Wednesday that President Trump met with Emanuel previously and offered up federal resources, if asked for.

"That return call for help has not occurred," Spicer said.

He noted that if Gov. Bruce Rauner asks for it, other aid can be extended as well. 

“I think what the president is upset about is turning on the television and seeing Americans killed by shootings," Spicer said, adding that no American should feel unsafe or fear for their lives while walking down the street, but "too often that's happening in Chicago."

Data made available by the department show 2016 was one of the most violent years in the city since the mid '90s, with more than 750 murders reported. To combat the rise in violence, police aim to tailor response to different neighborhoods and crack down on repeat violent offenders.

Trump said in his latest interview the problem is "easily fixable."

"I want them to fix the problem," he said. "You can't have thousands of people being shot in a city, in a country that I happen to be president of. Maybe it's okay if somebody else is president. I want them to fix the problem. They have a problem that's very easily fixable."

Emanuel said there is no one answer to the city's unyielding violence, but said any solution would involve police training, supervision and pro-active policing. Emanuel has repeatedly spoken against the controversial stop-and-frisk tactics promoted by Trump during his campaign. 

"We need our police to have high professional standards, the training to support them in those high professional standards and the certainty to be proactively involved," Emanuel said. “If you look at the last year across the country and then say, ‘The only answer is to go to stop-and-frisk. That’s it,’ that’s not where the world is today.”

Emanuel and other area leaders, including Supt. Johnson and Sen. Dick Durbin, has also argued that stopping illegal guns from getting into the wrong hands is crucial to stemming area violence. He has repeatedly called for stiffer penalties for repeat gun offenders. 

But despite city offiicals saying they would welcome federal help, some activists have warned against it. 

Rev. Michael Pfleger, a renowned Chicago activist, posted a heated statement on Facebook shortly after Trump's tweet.

"If it's federal resources, don’t wait… SEND THEM NOW!” Pfleger wrote. “If he’s talking about federal troops, stop-and-frisk and militarized police, which I believe he is… ABSOLUTELY NOT!”

He added that all Chicago officials, police, business leaders, churches and communities need to “stop this or expect soldiers on our streets.”

A spokesperson for Rauner declined to comment on the president’s tweet, but when asked about bringing in the National Guard back in August, the governor ruled it out saying "no thoughtful leader thinks that's a good idea."

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