This story has been updated with Clinton’s call for a federal investigation.
Hillary Clinton called for a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department Wednesday night as her longtime ally, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, faces demands for his resignation over an alleged cover-up of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police.
“Hillary Clinton is deeply troubled by the shooting of Laquan McDonald and the outstanding questions related to both the shooting and the video,” said Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon. “Mayor Emanuel’s call for a task force to review practices of the Chicago Police Department is an important step, but given the gravity of this tragic situation, she supports a full review by the Department of Justice.”
Emanuel, who has been in the Clinton orbit for more than 20 years, said earlier that he opposes a federal investigation, preferring to focus on the task force he created to look into the shooting. ”I think an additional layer prior to the completion of this, in my view, would be misguided,” he said Wednesday during an event in Chicago hosted by Politico.
He also said he has no plans to step down and added that he believes Clinton still has his back. “I still support her, and that question of whether I continue to have her support is up to her, but I feel pretty confident I do,” he said.
Her campaign has not said whether she believes Emanuel should stay in office. Clinton herself ignored a question about Emanuel from a CNN reporter as she worked a rope line after an event in Florida Wednesday afternoon.
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder last week — more than a year after he shot 17-year-old McDonald 16 times and just one day before the police department finally released video of the incident, which seemed to contradict earlier police accounts of the event. On Tuesday, Emanuel fired the city’s police commissioner, saying he had become a “distraction.”
But the arrest did not satisfy activists and some city leaders, who accuse Emanuel of covering up the racially charged incident to protect his reelection bid. Emanuel has unusually close to ties to Washington Democrats, including to President Obama and both Bill and Hillary Clinton. He served as a top aide to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and then in the White House, and he has become a major backer of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid.
Meanwhile, Clinton has made criminal justice reform and police accountability a central pillar of her campaign, and some Black Lives Matters activists expressed frustration earlier Wednesday that Clinton hadn’t taken a harder line sooner.
Before Clinton called for a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department, Sam Sinyangwe, one activists who met with Clinton in Washington two months ago, told MSNBC she should go farther and demand Emanuel’s resignation. “If the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton want to show that they are committed to the value of black lives, these sorts of behaviors from the mayor of a large city cannot be tolerated,” he said.
“It remains to be seen what her commitment level on this issue is,” Sinyangwe added.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Wednesday seemed to distance the president from his former chief of staff. Asked if the mayor should step down, Earnest said “that’s a decision for Mayor Emanuel and the voters of Chicago to make.”
In a scathing editorial Wednesday, The New York Times said Emanuel had perpetrated a cover-up. “Mayor Rahm Emanuel demonstrated a willful ignorance,” the left-leaning editorial board wrote Wednesday. “He showed a complete lack of comprehension on Tuesday when he explained that he had decided to fire his increasingly unpopular police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, not because he failed in his leadership role, but because he had become ‘a distraction.’”
A week ago, when the video of the killing was made public, Clinton said in a statement that McDonald’s family and the people of Chicago “deserve justice and accountability.”
“As criminal charges proceed in this case, we also have to grapple as a country with broader questions about ensuring that all our citizens and communities are protected and respected,” she said. “The mothers I met recently in Chicago are right: We cannot go on like this.”