President Donald Trump briefly returned to a favorite target during his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, assailing gun violence in Chicago while pressing support for law enforcement to ensure public safety.
Trump said it was essential to "break the cycle of poverty" by also breaking "the cycle of violence."
"In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone — and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher. This is not acceptable in our society," Trump said to applause.
"Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job. But to create this future, we must work with — not against, not against — the men and women of law enforcement," he said.
A Chicago Tribune tally showed that there were 4,367 shooting victims in the city last year, and 518 shooting victims so far this year. There were 785 homicides in the city last year and 103 so far in 2017, up by one from this point last year.
Since the campaign, Trump repeatedly has noted Chicago's gun violence both on Twitter and in his remarks. At one point, he offered to "send in the Feds," but didn't explain the specifics behind his Twitter comment.
The president's frequent references to Chicago crime have brought criticism from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was a prominent backer of Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, as well as top Chicago Police Department officials who have asked for increased federal assistance and resources — not only for law enforcement but for economic programs in high-crime areas.
On Tuesday night, Emanuel issued a statement reiterating that wish list and jabbing at Trump.
"Because this is so important, I'll always be ready with this list whenever the president asks. The better question, I'd suggest, is whether the president cares enough about violence in our city to do more than talk or tweet about it," Emanuel's statement read in part.
The Tuesday speech marked the second time in as many days that Trump brought up Chicago crime in a public setting. A day earlier, speaking to the nation's governors, the president asked, "What's going on in Chicago?" as he vowed a fight against violent crime that "we will win."
Not present was Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who skipped the meeting. Rauner, who has avoided appearing in public with the president and often avoids saying his name, said this week that his administration has had communications with the White House on "violence issues."
The governor didn't offer any specifics about who he had spoken to in the Trump administration or what policy was being considered.
"The folks who are developing the policy — different from, you know, media discussion — the policy that we're actually going to implement, we're in conversations, I'm personally in conversations with folks developing that," Rauner said Monday.
Earlier in Trump's speech, the president cited Chicago during a portion devoted to what he called "the mistakes of recent decades past."
"We've financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land," he said.
Trump's latest reference to Chicago came hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled the Justice Department may not pursue a consent decree to lock in reforms with the Chicago Police Department, vowing to "pull back" on federal civil rights probes of police departments.
Sessions said he was concerned that police are more reluctant to do their law enforcement duties because they worry about getting in trouble if they make a mistake.
"We need to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness, and I'm afraid we have done some of that," Sessions told a gathering of state attorneys general.
Sessions' latest comments echoed a theme he broached Monday when he declined to say whether his Justice Department would commit to seeking a federal consent decree with the CPD.
"One of the things that has to be done in any settlement is to make sure we advance good policing strategies and not undermine them," the attorney general said Monday.