The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday defended his response to riots in Portland, Oregon.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf ranked the unrest in downtown Portland as among the top threats facing the United States.
“Let me be clear. Those who seek to undermine our democratic institutions, indiscriminately destroy businesses, and attack law enforcement officers and fellow citizens are a threat to the Homeland,” Wolf said in a “State of the Homeland” speech that spelled out the department’s priorities.
Trump last month nominated Wolf to be the head of the department, but it’s not yet clear when the Senate will take up the nomination.
DHS is the third-largest agency in the federal government. It includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Protests and riots have occurred in downtown Portland since late May. Wolf deployed DHS officers and agents to protect the federal courthouse at the center of much of the violence.
The deployment came shortly after Trump issued an executive order to protect federal buildings and monuments amid nationwide unrest.
Wolf, speaking at the DHS campus in Washington, D.C., dismissed his critics as “a vocal and ill-informed minority.”
He noted that 240 federal officers have been injured in riots and disputed that the demonstrations have been largely peaceful.
“There is no constitutional right to burn cities to the ground and assault the men and women of law enforcement,” he said.
Wolf also detailed other DHS initiatives, including efforts by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to protect the 2020 election from interference by Russia and other nations, and the work of CBP to secure the border.
He also discussed the threat from extremists, singling out “lone offenders and small cells of individuals” without characterizing their possible affiliation.
“DHS stands in absolute opposition to any form of violent extremism whether by white supremacist extremists or anarchist extremists,” he said.
“We will continue our daily efforts to combat all forms of domestic terror.”
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