Milwaukee’s Federal Deployment Will Not Be Like Portland, U.S. Attorney Says
Matthew Krueger, U.S. Attorney for Wisconsin's Eastern District, details the upcoming deployment of federal agents to Milwaukee as part of Operation Legend during a Wednesday police conference. (Screenshot via WITI)

The new description is at odds with President Trump’s announcement.

The upcoming deployment of federal agents to Milwaukee will not look like the chaotic scenes in Portland, Oregon, U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger of Wisconsin’s Eastern District said Wednesday.

The clarification was issued in a press conference a week after the White House announced the deployment, a move panned by elected officials in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. Concern quickly spread that the deployment would see militarized federal agents swooping into the city to quash protests against police violence and systemic racism as has been done in Portland this month.

“Operation Legend is not aimed at local protest activity or civil disturbances,” Krueger said. “Operation Legend differs entirely from the operation in Portland, Oregon.”

However, in announcing the so-called Operation Legend last Tuesday, President Donald Trump explicitly connected “radical” protests with “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders, and heinous crimes of violence” across major American cities. Protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have taken place every day for two months straight in Milwaukee, with no significant violence or property destruction since the first few days of marches.

“You will not see federal agents amassing on the streets of Milwaukee,” Krueger said.

Between 25 and 30 federal agents from the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. Marshals will take part in the operation, Krueger said. Ten of those agents are already in Milwaukee, with the rest to come over the next year. 

The investigators will focus primarily on gun violence and drug trafficking, Krueger said. Homicides in Milwaukee have drastically spiked so far this year, nearly doubling the total at the same time in 2019. That spike in deaths can be partially credited to the Feb. 26 mass shooting that killed five at the Miller Brewery and a domestic mass shooting with five fatalities in April. 

While Operation Legend involves the Department of Homeland Security, Krueger said that department will not have a presence in Milwaukee.

The new agents “will work just like the existing agents on existing task forces to investigate crime,” Krueger said.

Attorney General Josh Kaul last week and again this Sunday threatened legal action against the Department of Justice if the agents began acting like those in Portland. Before the clarification was made, Kaul called the deployment “fascist.”

Gov. Tony Evers in a letter to Trump last week wrote the deployment “is not welcome in Wisconsin,” particularly because it was unrequested by the state, City of Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Police Department. MPD said in a statement last week that it “respectfully declines” the deployment.

The White House apparently announced the Milwaukee deployment before DOJ was ready to officially say agents would be coming to Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Detroit. Trump originally identified Chicago, Albuquerque, and Kansas City as targets for the operation but left out the three other cities.

The operation’s expansion was initially detailed in the White House’s newsletter called 1600 Daily last Wednesday, but Krueger emphasized that this week’s press conference was the “official” announcement.

Krueger said the deployment in Portland is not part of Operation Legend.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who was one of a number of elected Wisconsin officials to raise alarm over the deployment, said during a separate virtual luncheon on Wednesday that she supported the deployment as long as it stays within the bounds that Krueger described.

“I think that that is an important cooperation and collaboration that needs to happen,” Baldwin said, noting the “very significant uptick in crime, especially homicides,” in Milwaukee