Mayor Ted Wheeler pushed back against allegations that he has hindered Portland police at a press conference Friday morning.
Wheeler had particularly harsh words for the union that represents federal immigration officials, which has called on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to open criminal investigations into Wheeler's actions after a 39-day protest camp outside of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building.
"I guess they want me to have the investigation the Supreme Court nominee didn't have," he said. "I am very confident that if they investigate they will find nothing."
Wheeler says the allegations the National ICE Council has made against him have wilted under scrutiny.
"Every example that they have put forward so far as an example of 'proof,'" the mayor said while miming quotation marks with his hands, "that I somehow directed police to engage or disengage in certain tactics has proven to be false."
He pointed specifically to the allegation that police refused to intervene when an ICE employee called 911 after protesters surrounded his vehicle. The 911 tapes, first reported by KGW, showed that Portland police responded to the call but did not immediately intervene because they were outnumbered. Eventually, the ICE employee found a way to drive out of the lot.
Wheeler says the union's call for investigations are political. He implied that the lawyer for the union, Sean Riddell, is more interested in swaying public opinion than a judge.
"Why is he making his case on conservative talk shows as opposed to a court of law?" the mayor asked. "I say bring it on. It's politics."
Riddell says he welcomes the mayor to debate the issue with him and his clients.
"My clients and I are in still in the investigatory phase of our litigation strategy and exploring all our options," Riddell says in response to the mayor's comments. "My clients also believe that this is a matter of public concern, and the people of Portland have a right to know, question and openly criticize Mr. Wheeler as a public officer. Open discussion of this matter is why the First Amendment exists. I invite Mr. Wheeler to join me at the public forum of his liking to debate his actions."
Wheeler also struck back at claims on Fox News and Breitbart this week that Portland had descended into chaos after videos of protesters blocking traffic and harassing drivers inspired panicked discussions of "mob rule" on the streets of Portland. Police did not intervene in the two encounters between motorists and protesters.
"I was appalled by what I saw in the video, but I support the Portland Police Bureau's decision not to intervene," he said. "I'm willing to take criticism all day long from Fox News, but I am not willing to accept criticism from Fox News of the men and women of the Portland Police Bureau."