As President Donald Trump argued during Tuesday night’s debate that vast numbers of law enforcement officials are supporting his campaign, he began listing the locations of his alleged police backers.
“I have Florida, I have Texas, I have Ohio,” he said. “Excuse me, Portland, the sheriff there just came out today and said, ‘I support President Trump.’ “
Not so, says the sheriff in the Portland area, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, who quickly took to Twitter on Tuesday night to forcefully deny any affinity for the president.
“In tonight’s presidential debate the President said the ‘Portland Sheriff’ supports him. As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him,” Reese tweeted.
In fact, as Trump has seized on unrest in Portland as a campaign issue and sent federal agents to the city for weeks of violent standoffs with protesters, Reese has regularly criticized the president’s handling of the situation.
Reese became sheriff in 2016 when the previous top cop in Multnomah County resigned amid a rising tide of scandals over his spending and allegations of bullying and sexism. As sheriff, Reese has backed policies shared by many Democratic politicians, including embracing Portland’s status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.
As he campaigned to keep his seat as sheriff in 2017, he blasted then-U. S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for demanding that local police help with immigration enforcement. “As Multnomah County Sheriff, I am personally committed to serving this community and defending its values of equality and inclusion,” he tweeted at the time.
Reese won the nonpartisan sheriff’s election in 2018. This summer, he’s pushed back against Trump’s decision to flood Portland with federal agents. When Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, sought a meeting during a Portland visit, Reese turned him down, saying that Wolf’s statements had made it “clear law enforcement in the City of Portland was becoming highly politicized.”
He also lashed out at federal agents in July after they used tear gas and less-than-lethal munitions on protesters.
“The actions by out-of-state federal agents last weekend failed to display good decision-making and sound tactical judgment,” Reese said in a statement at the time. “The use of force did not appear proportional to the actions of the demonstrators.”
So Reese was apparently as surprised as anyone listening to the debate to hear Trump’s claims that he had just publicly endorsed the president.
It’s still not clear what Trump was referring to; his campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the claim. (For the record, Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin J. Joyce, the sheriff representing the Portland, Maine, region, also does not appear to have publicly endorsed Trump.)
On Tuesday night, Reese reiterated that he believes Trump’s actions in Oregon have only made police-work more challenging.
“Donald Trump has made my job a hell of a lot harder since he started talking about Portland, but I never thought he’d try to turn my wife against me!” he tweeted.