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Chicago's Violent Crime Is 'Driven By Morality,' Says White House Spokeswoman

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 30, 2017 8:42PM

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, June 29 / Getty Images / Photo: Alex Wong

There are a variety of underlying causes of violence in Chicago, from disinvestment from neighborhoods of color to a fractured gang culture to a broken school funding system.

But when White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked on Friday about another commonly cited cause—easy access to illegal guns—she said "morality" was the driving factor.

"I think that the problem there is that it's a crime problem. I think crime is probably driven by morality more than anything else," Sanders said, according to CNN.

The comment came the same day that Donald Trump called out Chicago's shooting totals to date, saying crime had reached "epidemic proportions," ahead of the official announcement of a new Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force.

The new strike force brings 20 extra permanent Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents to Chicago to partner with police. The federal resources also include six intelligence research specialists, 12 Chicago Police Department task force officers, two task force officers from the Illinois State Police, and four ballistics specialists, according to the Department of Justice. Officials announced on Monday that the ATF's advanced ballistics van was on the ground in Chicago.

The strike force has been in operation since June 1, the DOJ said.

The office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel was pleased to see the new initiative to help combat Chicago violence, which has long been a talking point for Trump and various conservatives. "Six months ago, we made it clear that we would welcome additional federal support, and six months later we appreciate the 20 new ATF agents that are now arriving," said spokesman Adam Collins.

The Department of Justice on Friday meanwhile also took the announcement of federal resources as opportunity to again take a dig at Chicago's sanctuary-city status—which Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other local politicians in the face of Trump's anti-immigration and tough-on-crime rhetoric.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement:

"The Trump administration will also continue to pursue every avenue available to ensure that states and cities comply with federal immigration law and protect our citizens—rather than protecting the criminal illegal aliens who prey upon them. So-called "sanctuary" policies tie the hands of law enforcement by rejecting common sense and undermining federal laws that would remove criminal, illegal aliens from the streets and remove them from this country. These policies are opposed by some 80 percent of the American people because they endanger us all by letting dangerous criminals stay in this country that are due to be removed."

(Politifact noted that responses on public support of sanctuary cities varied widely based on the phrasing of the question by pollsters.)

Meanwhile, the blowback to Sanders' comments was full-throated and pointed. New Yorker contributor Clint Smith cut to the chase: