Police say actor Smollett staged Chicago attack to advance career

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks about the Jussie Smollett case at a news conference at Chicago Police headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

By Karen Pierog

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Actor Jussie Smollett paid two brothers thousands of dollars to beat him in a staged racist and homophobic attack because he was dissatisfied with his salary on the hip-hop TV drama “Empire,” Chicago’s police chief said on Thursday.

Actor Jussie Smollett, 36, appears in a booking photo provided by the Chicago Police Department in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., February 21, 2019. Courtesy Chicago Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Actor Jussie Smollett, 36, appears in a booking photo provided by the Chicago Police Department in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., February 21, 2019. Courtesy Chicago Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Smollett, who is black and openly gay, was arrested on Thursday and charged with lying to police in connection with the alleged attack on Jan. 29. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Thursday was visibly angered as he condemned his actions.

Police did not spell out how Smollett hoped to boost his salary by staging a supposed racist, homophobic attack by supporters of President Donald Trump. “Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson told a news conference, adding that the actor paid $3,500 to the brothers to stage the supposed hate crime.

“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with this salary. He concocted a story about being attacked,” Johnson said. “We gave him the benefit of the doubt.”

Police did not say anything about the amount of Smollett’s salary. If convicted, the 36-year-old actor could face a prison sentence of one to three years.

Smollett had claimed that two apparent Trump supporters had struck him and put a noose around his neck. It was initially reported that an unknown substance was poured over him, but Johnson on Thursday said that was unclear.

“@JussieSmollett – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

20th Century Fox Television, which airs “Empire,” said in a statement on Thursday: “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved felony criminal charges against Smollett for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report, police said on Wednesday. He has a bond hearing scheduled for later on Thursday.

A spokesman for the lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, said on Thursday in an email, “once we are ready to make statement we will do so.”

In a Wednesday statement, Smollett’s lawyers said they were conducting a thorough investigation to form an aggressive defense.

During the investigation, police interviewed more than 100 people, reviewed video from more than 55 police and private-sector surveillance cameras and executed more than 50 search warrants to determine their findings.

On Feb. 13, police arrested the two brothers who were recognized from surveillance footage of the area where Smollett said the attack occurred. One of the brothers worked with Smollett on “Empire,” according to police and their lawyer.

Near the end of the 48 hours in which police are allowed to detain potential suspects without charging them, the brothers “decided to confess to the entirety of what the plot was,” Johnson said. They became cooperating witnesses and were released two days later without charges.

Since the alleged attack, Smollett had received support on social media, including from several celebrities and Democratic presidential candidates. But others were skeptical of the incident, which Smollett said occurred around 2 a.m. on a Chicago street during one of the city’s coldest weeks in recent history.

In an interview with “Good Morning America” last week, Smollett said he was angry that some people questioned his story, and he suggested the disbelief might come from racial bias.

Johnson called for Smollett to apologize to the city.

“How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?” the police superintendent said.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago and Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Wis.; and by Gabriella Borter and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

Thousands brave freezing cold in vigil for Illinois shooting victims

Mourners attend a vigil for five people killed in a shooting incident at Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois, U.S. February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Robert Chiarito

By Robert Chiarito

AURORA, Ill. (Reuters) – More than 2,000 people braved icy rain in sub-freezing temperatures in Illinois on Sunday for a vigil paying respects to five people killed and five police officers wounded by a factory worker who opened fire on Friday after losing his job.

Solemn mourners stood before five white crosses with the names of the dead that became a shrine to the victims bearing pictures and hand-written remembrances outside the factory where the shooting took place in Aurora, about 40 miles (64 km) west of Chicago.

“My heart is broken again for the family members of the victims,” said Mary Kay Mace, mother of the late Ryanne Mace, who was killed 11 years ago in a mass shooting at Northern Illinois University.

“I’m living proof that you can survive it, however. It’s a hard, difficult trek but it can be done,” said Mace, 55, who drove three hours from Petersburg, Illinois, and wore a university pin to honor shooting victim Trevor Wehner, a 21-year-old intern from NIU who was on his first day on the job.

The other fatal victims were Josh Pinkard, the plant manager; Clayton Parks, the human resources manager; Russell Beyer, a mold operator and union chairman; and Vicente Juarez, a stock room attendant and forklift operator.

Mourners attend a vigil for five people killed in a shooting incident at Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois, U.S. February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Robert Chiarito

Mourners attend a vigil for five people killed in a shooting incident at Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois, U.S. February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Robert Chiarito

A sixth employee and five police officers responding to the scene were wounded. The gunman himself was slain about 90 minutes later in a gunfight with police who stormed the building.

Friday’s bloodshed marked the latest outbreak of gun violence in a nation where mass shootings have become almost commonplace and came a day after the first anniversary of the massacre of 17 people by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Several local pastors spoke and the vigil drew people of many ages.

Barbara Fultz, a 72-year-old retired woman who has been living in Aurora for more than 50 years, said her church, Main Baptist Church in Aurora, had told members about the vigil and she has a cousin who works at the Henry Pratt Company factory, a maker of industrial valves.

“It’s a tragedy all over,” Fultz said. “We’ve never had anything like this here. It’s so sad.”

Michelle Lamos, a 40-year-old healthcare worker, stood with her 14-month-old daughter.

“We need to come together. This is awful,” Lamos said.

The gunman was a violent felon who obtained a state permit to buy a firearm despite being legally barred from owning one, officials said.

(Reporting by Robert Chiarito; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Icy blast begins to ease in U.S. Midwest, Northeast

A worker from AAA aids vehicle trapped in snow during the polar vortex in Buffalo, New York, U.S., January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario

By Michael Hirtzer and Gina Cherelus

CHICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Frigid weather that paralyzed a large swath of the United States this week and caused at least 21 deaths began easing on Friday as an Arctic air mass pulled away, setting the stage for a warmer weekend in the Midwest and the Northeast.

Temperatures from southern New England to the Upper Midwest should reach the mid-40s to low 50s Fahrenheit through the weekend and Monday, forecasters said, after a record-breaking cold snap that stopped mail deliveries in some parts of the Midwest and shuttered schools and businesses.

In Chicago, which experienced temperatures as low as minus 22F (minus 30 Celsius) earlier this week, temperatures of 19F (-7C) on Friday morning felt positively balmy as a measure of normalcy returned to the nation’s third-largest city.

“It feels like summer,” said Dolores Marek, 57, as she got off her commuter train in Chicago wearing a long parka coat as set out on the 1.5 mile-(2.4 km) walk to the local college where she works. “This is much better than it was.”

Meteorologists linked the spell of brutal cold to the so-called polar vortex, a cap of icy air that usually swirls over the North Pole. Changing air currents caused it to slip down through Canada and into the U.S. Midwest this week.

Bryan Jackson, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the core of the vortex was pulling north into eastern Canada, though residual icy air was still pushing over to the U.S. Northeast.

Temperatures on Friday morning ranged from below zero Fahrenheit to the teens in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The Washington D.C. area, which had 20F (minus 7C) temperatures, was under a winter weather advisory until the afternoon as around one inch (2.5 cm) of snowfall accumulated during the morning.

“That cold air that was over the Great Lakes, over the Midwest, has shifted off. Now the high pressure is over Pennsylvania and New York,” Jackson said in a phone interview. “As it moves east, it’ll bring in air from the south and we do expect it to warm up over the weekend.”

Rachel Liao, 29, a student at the New School in New York, said she wished classes had been canceled due to the cold.

A woman takes a selfie in front of a mostly frozen Bryant Park fountain, as record low temperatures spread across the Midwest and Eastern states, in New York City, U.S., January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A woman takes a selfie in front of a mostly frozen Bryant Park fountain, as record low temperatures spread across the Midwest and Eastern states, in New York City, U.S., January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“I just want to stay inside,” Liao, a New York native, said. “I’m not used to this.”

Temperatures in the Upper Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, will reach well above zero F (minus 18C) on Friday, with highs making it into the teens and low 20s.

Even so, parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa were still experiencing temperatures in the negative single digits, Jackson said.

The lowest temperature recorded early Friday morning was minus 34F (minus 37C) in Stonington, Michigan, according to the National Weather Service.

By Saturday, highs will be in the 30s and even low 40s in the Midwest. The central Plains will be in the low 60s, nearly 20 to 25 degrees above normal, the weather service said.

More than 40 cold-temperature records were broken on Thursday, the coldest morning since the polar vortex moved in late on Tuesday. The mass of Arctic air had clung to a swath of the United States from Iowa and the Dakotas across the Great Lakes region and into Maine for days.

Officials across multiple states linked at least 20 deaths to the deep freeze. The death toll rose after at least nine more people in Chicago were reported to have died from cold-related injuries, according to Stathis Poulakidas, a doctor at the city’s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.

Amtrak train services that had been halted since Wednesday in Chicago’s hub resumed on Friday, as did U.S. postal service that was halted or limited in six Midwest states.

Thousands of flights were canceled and delayed earlier in the week, mostly out of Chicago, but on Friday the flight-tracking site FlightAware reported cancellations in the United States down to more than 400.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely and Gabriella Borter in New York and Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Larry King, Jonathan Oatis and Frances Kerry)

Heavy snow hammers U.S. Midwest after holiday weekend

A driver clears the snow off his car during an early season snowfall in the Boston suburb of Medford, Massachusetts, U.S., November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

(Reuters) – Commuters in Chicago and across the Midwest faced inches of heavy, wet snow as they headed back to work on Monday after the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, with the storm knocking out power, icing roads and canceling some flights.

The National Weather Service ended blizzard warnings early on Monday in northeast Missouri through the Chicago metropolitan area and northeast into Michigan, but noted strong winds of up to 45 miles per hour (72 kph) would continue to blow around drifts of the snow accumulated overnight.

“Snow will continue to taper off to flurries and then end this morning,” the service’s Chicago office said in a statement, warning drivers to take extra caution on slippery roads in low visibility.

“The drive into work was NASTY,” Diane Pathieu, an ABC7 Chicago news anchor, wrote on Twitter of her pre-dawn commute. “Roads barely plowed, wind blowing snow everywhere. Proceed with caution!”

North of Chicago, the city of Evanston’s police department said in a statement its power had been knocked out by the storm, although it was still able to receive 911 calls.

Dozens of school districts in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas canceled classes due to the weather. Chicago public schools were expected to open.

The storm canceled 1,270 flights on Sunday, a busy day for travelers trying to get home after the Thanksgiving weekend.

That included about 900 flights to and from Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway Airport and almost 200 flights at Kansas City International Airport.

On Monday morning, about 500 flights to and from O’Hare had been canceled, about 17 percent of all scheduled flights, according to the FlightAware flight tracking service.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Sunil Nair, Louise Heavens and Frances Kerry)

U.S. and Mexico to set up joint team to fight drug cartels

FILE PHOTO: An agent of the office of the Attorney General of Mexico carries a package of seized marijuana at the site of a passageway Mexican authorities on Thursday attributed to the cartel of fugitive kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in Tijuana, October 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes/File Photo

By Karen Pierog

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Mexico will set up a joint team in Chicago targeting Mexican drug cartels and their leaders and finances, to try to stem a flow of drugs that has led to a spike in U.S. overdose deaths, officials said on Wednesday.

DEA Chief of Operations Anthony Williams said at a joint news conference with Mexican government officials in Chicago that targeting cartel finances was key because “the sole purpose of these entities is one thing and one thing only – money.”

Mexico remains the principal highway for cocaine to the United States and has become the top source of heroin, which is fueling a surge in opioid addiction in the United States. It is also a major supplier of methamphetamines.

“It’s not just a Chicago problem, it’s a national problem. Actually, it’s an international problem,” Brian McKnight, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Chicago Field Division, said at the news conference.

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-leaning nationalist, has vowed to shake up Mexico’s war on drug cartels after he takes power in December. He wants to rewrite the rules, aides have said, suggesting negotiated peace and amnesties rather than a hardline strategy that critics say has only perpetuated violence.

However, a change of direction without the United States could increase friction between the neighbors, who have been often at loggerheads since Donald Trump became U.S. president.

Trump has irked Mexico with demands that it pay for a border wall and his comments that it does nothing to slow illegal immigration. He has also pushed to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to favor the United States.

But despite difference with the Trump administration on migration and trade issues, officials and security experts in the United States have applauded long-running bilateral efforts to crack down on drug gangs.

For the past 12 years, Mexico has fought the violent cartels by deploying thousands of police, soldiers, and intelligence officers.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog, Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Dave Graham in Mexico City, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Passengers recount escape from burning Mexican plane

Firefighters douse a fire as smoke billows above the site where an Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed in Mexico's northern state of Durango, July 31, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Proteccion Civil Durango/via REUTERS

By Julia Love and Daina Beth Solomon

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Shortly after boarding her flight in the northern Mexican state of Durango afternoon on Tuesday afternoon, Ashley Garcia had a premonition that something was wrong.

The 17-year-old high school student from Northlake, a suburb of Chicago, was one of 65 U.S. citizens among the 103 passengers and crew aboard the Aeromexico passenger jet that crashed near the runway shortly after take-off.

Settling into her seat, Garcia saw a storm was gathering fast in the distance, and by the time the aircraft began preparing for takeoff it was battered by strong winds, hail and rain. Garcia captured the scene through her window with her cellphone.

“I had a gut feeling: just record it, just record it,” said Garcia. “I was like, there’s no way we are taking off, it’s too risky.”

The flight crashed moments after taking off, skidding to a halt in scrubland near the runway, a wing in flames. Passengers described how they followed escape procedures, enabling everyone to evacuate without any fatalities.

“We had been told so many times what to do,” Garcia said of the safety protocol passengers around the world are taught every time they board a plane. “No one ever thinks it’s going to happen until it happens to them. We were there for each other… That’s how we were able to get off safely.”

Investigators found the Embraer passenger jet’s recorders on Wednesday and have still to determine the cause of the crash. Aeromexico said 64 people have been released from hospitals. Two people, including the pilot, were more seriously injured.

Garcia was returning to the United States with three cousins after a two-week trip to visit relatives, traveling from Durango to Mexico City to catch a connecting flight to Chicago.

Liliana Gallarzo, Garcia’s cousin, thought the bumpy take-off was turbulence until the aircraft began skidding and panic set in.

“We were screaming,” said Gallarzo, a 19-year-old college student from Chicago. “Everyone was trying to get away from the plane, trying to get out.”

They smelled the smoke right away. But the cousins were seated in the middle of the cabin, and passengers were exiting from the front and rear doors, as the emergency exits in the middle of the plane were unused due to the fire near the wing, Garcia said.

Filing behind fellow travelers, they made their way toward the rear as the aircraft filled with smoke. Garcia grabbed her phone but left her luggage behind, losing her glasses in the shuffle.

When they reached the exit, there were no emergency slides, meaning they had to jump, Garcia said. A trampoline was there to cushion their fall, and fellow passengers helped them make the jump.

Once off the plane, Garcia coughed and vomited, choking for air. A flight attendant directed the cousins to get as far away as possible from the plane, which was soon engulfed by the fire, leaving only smoldering wreckage after firefighters extinguished the blaze. They walked through the rain, their clothes soaked.

After waiting for further direction, they headed closer to the runway, where firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency personnel sprang into action, checking passengers for injuries. Suffering from minor scratches and bruises, Garcia was taken to the hospital, where she underwent X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before returning home that night.

She said the compassion shown to her by emergency personnel affirmed her desire to be a police officer. She has a flight home booked for Friday.

“I didn’t think I would be able to get back on a flight, but I have experienced the worst,” Garcia said. “So now, whatever happens, it’s meant to happen.”

(Reporting by Julia Love and Daina Beth Solomon; writing by Julia Love; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Chicago suburb bans ‘assault weapons’ after Florida massacre

FILE PHOTO - AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

(Reuters) – An affluent Chicago suburb has banned the possession, sale and manufacture of “assault weapons” and “large-capacity magazines” in response to the massacre at a Florida high school and other recent mass shootings in the United States.

Residents of Democratic-leaning Deerfield, located about 25 miles north of Chicago, have until June 13 to remove any firearms and magazines that fall outside the new restrictions or face a fine of between $250 and $1,000 per day, according to the ordinance passed by the town board on Monday night.

The ban quickly drew a legal challenge from gun-rights group Guns Save Life, with support from the National Rifle Association, on grounds it violated Americans’ Constitutional rights to own firearms.

The Deerfield ordinance said the ban was a direct response to the Feb. 14 killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the student-led campaign for tighter restrictions on guns inspired by the mass shooting.

“We hope that our local decision helps spur state and national leaders to take steps to make our communities safer,” Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal said in a statement.

The ban follows a similar 2013 measure enacted by the nearby suburb of Highland Park, located on Chicago’s North Shore, which withstood a challenge that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opponents were quick to take issue with the ban.

“Every law-abiding villager of Deerfield has the right to protect themselves, their homes, and their loved ones with the firearm that best suits their needs,” Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said in a statement.

Opponents of the ban said they fear Deerfield will try to outlaw other firearms.

“First it’s going to be assault rifles. There will be new bans in the future. It’s just a matter of time,” Deerfield resident Larry Nordal told the Chicago Tribune. Nordal did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The ban defines assault weapons as a range of firearms such as semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15, a gun similar to the one used in the Florida massacre. High-capacity magazines are defined as those holding more than 10 rounds.

Deerfield High School senior Ariella Kharasch, who supported the legislation, wants more action on local and national levels.

“This is our generation’s fight. We’re going to keep fighting and this is part of it,” Kharasch told the Chicago Tribune. “Change happens gradually step by step.”

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)

Storm to clobber U.S. Midwest with snow, wind and frigid temps

A jogger runs through the rain past the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., February 7, 2018.

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A storm is expected to clobber Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee with heavy snow, gusty winds and freezing temperatures that will slow travel for millions of commuters on Thursday evening and Friday.

The storm system that stretches from western Montana across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois and east into southern Michigan will drop as much 12 inches (30 cm) of snow and produce 35 miles per hour (56 kph) winds, the National Weather Service said in several advisories.

“Periods of snow will cause primarily travel difficulties. Be prepared for snow covered roads and limited visibilities,” the service said in an advisory for southern Wisconsin.

Wind chill temperatures were expected to drop below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 C) in many areas across the region on Thursday night and into Friday morning.

United Airlines said on Twitter the storm was expected to impact operations this week and that travel waivers were in effect for areas affected by the snow.

Winter weather across the United States over the last several days has killed several people in accidents in the Midwest since Monday, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Deadly winter storm delays travel in U.S. Midwest, Northeast

Weather conditions for winter storm 2-6-18 National Weather Service

(Reuters) – A winter storm will dump snow and freezing rain on the U.S. Midwest and the Northeast beginning on Tuesday after it caused several deaths as it snarled highways and spurred the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Chicago’s main airport.

The National Weather Service warned commuters in northern Texas, east through southern Illinois and Indiana, and New York and Massachusetts, to watch for icy road conditions, wind gusts and reduced visibility throughout the day and into Wednesday.

“The ice and snow will result in difficult travel conditions,” the NWS said in an advisory. “Motorists are strongly urged to slow down and allow plenty of time to reach their destinations.”

Winds of 40-miles an hour(65 kph) and as much as 4 inches (10 cm) of snow are expected across the affected regions, with parts of New York and Vermont getting as much as a foot of snow, the NWS said.

The storm was responsible for the death of six people on Monday in crashes throughout Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.

Two people also died in southwest Missouri and more than 70 others were injured after icy roads caused a high number of crashes, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

At Chicago’s busy O’Hare International Airport, the storm caused the cancellation of more than 460 flights, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Trump administration demands documents from ‘sanctuary cities’

People visit the Liberty State Island as Lower Manhattan is seen at the background in New York, U.S., August 17, 2017.

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday escalated its battle with so-called sanctuary cities that protect illegal immigrants from deportation, demanding documents on whether local law enforcement agencies are illegally withholding information from U.S. immigration authorities.

The Justice Department said it was seeking records from 23 jurisdictions — including America’s three largest cities, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as three states, California, Illinois and Oregon — and will issue subpoenas if they do not comply fully and promptly.

The administration has accused sanctuary cities of violating a federal law that prohibits local governments from restricting information about the immigration status of people arrested from being shared with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Many of the jurisdictions have said they already are in full compliance with the law. Some sued the administration after the Justice Department threatened to cut off millions of dollars in federal public safety grants. The cities have won in lower courts, but the legal fight is ongoing.

The Republican president’s fight with the Democratic-governed sanctuary cities, an issue that appeals to his hard-line conservative supporters, began just days after he took office last year when he signed an executive order saying he would block certain funding to municipalities that failed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The order has since been partially blocked by a federal court.

“Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Democratic mayors fired back, and some including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to skip a previously planned meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the White House with Trump.

“The Trump Justice Department can try to intimidate us with legal threats, but we will never abandon our values as a welcoming city or the rights of Chicago residents,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “The Trump administration’s actions undermine public safety by jeopardizing our philosophy of community policing, as they attempt to drive a wedge between immigrant communities and the police who serve them.”

IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN

The issue is part of Trump’s broader immigration crackdown. As a candidate, he threatened to deport all roughly 11 million of them. As president, he has sought to step up arrests of illegal immigrants, rescinded protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought into the country illegally as children and issued orders blocking entry of people from several Muslim-majority countries.

Other jurisdictions on the Justice Department’s list include: Denver; San Francisco; the Washington state county that includes Seattle; Louisville, Kentucky; California’s capital Sacramento; New York’s capital Albany, Mississippi’s capital Jackson; West Palm Beach, Florida; the county that includes Albuquerque, New Mexico; and others.

The Justice Department said certain sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia were not on its list due to pending litigation.

On Twitter on Wednesday, De Blasio objected to the Justice Department’s decision to, in his words, “renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities. It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values.”

“The White House has been very clear that we don’t support sanctuary cities,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, adding that mayors cannot “pick and choose what laws they want to follow.”

The Justice Department last year threatened to withhold certain public safety grants to sanctuary cities if they failed to adequately share information with ICE, prompting legal battles in Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

In the Chicago case, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction barring the Justice Department from withholding this grant money on the grounds that its action was likely unconstitutional. This funding is typically used to help local police improve crime-fighting techniques, buy equipment and assist crime victims.

The Justice Department is appealing that ruling. It said that litigation has stalled the issuance of these grants for fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Makini Brice; Editing by Will Dunham)