President Donald Trump’s top federal prosecutor in Philadelphia launched an extraordinary attack on the city’s elected district attorney on Thursday, just hours after a drug suspect shot and wounded six of the city’s police officers.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain issued an unusual and inflammatory statement slamming Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a civil rights attorney elected in 2017 who has become one of the faces of the prosecutor movement in the U.S. McSwain said the shooting was “precipitated by a stunning disrespect for law enforcement” that is “promoted and championed by District Attorney Larry Krasner.”
McSwain claimed that Krasner, who litigated cases against the Philadelphia Police Department before his election, engaged in “vile rhetoric” that endangered police, and accused him of “lawlessness” and “making excuses for criminals.”
At a press conference outside the Philadelphia federal building, McSwain said he would be looking very closely at Krasner’s office and providing “adult supervision.”
Krasner, in a statement issued to HuffPost after the press conference, suggested McSwain’s attacks were inappropriate.
“The U.S Attorney is not a political elected office. I’m surprised that William McSwain would seek to detract from the great collaborative work of law enforcement last night ― for which bipartisan leaders in City Hall just minutes ago had nothing but praise, and rightly so ― for his own political agenda and personal gain,” said Krasner, who spoke with the shooting suspect, 36-year-old Maurice Hill, during the standoff with police.
“Thank you for your question but I will not be part of a distraction from the serious work before law enforcement in Philadelphia, which is to fully investigate this assault on our police officers and neighbors, and to bring the perpetrator ― and any co-perpetrators ― to justice,” Krasner added.
McSwain’s statement and press conference mark a remarkable escalation in the war of words between McSwain and Krasner. It comes days after Attorney General William Barr spoke before the Fraternal Order of Police, where he slammed “anti-law enforcement DAs” who “style themselves as ‘social justice’ reformers” and “spend their time undercutting the police, letting criminals off the hook, and refusing to enforce the law.”
“It’s unfortunate to see this type of rhetoric and messages from a law enforcement leader,” Miriam Aroni Krinsky, the founder and executive director of the group Fair and Just Prosecution, told HuffPost of McSwain’s statement. “But perhaps not surprising given the tone that’s been set by some of our federal leaders.”
Krinsky said McSwain’s statement was “an attack on law enforcement, an attack on our communities, an attack on voters who are making different choices about how they envision safer and healthier communities.” Using a shooting to launch a political attack “based on no facts at all,” she said, is “nothing short of outrageous.”
Roy Austin, a former Obama administration official, said Barr’s speech was “an interesting attack coming from a Republican whose party once seemed to believe in local rule and autonomy.”
“If the people elect prosecutors to change the way things have always been done, who is Barr to criticize?” he asked.
This article has been updated with Austin’s comments.