By ALLISON PECORIN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she might be willing to work with federal officers to combat crime in the state if they are cooperative with local efforts, but cautioned that protecting the First Amendment rights of New Mexico’s residents remains a focus.
“If we are cooperatively working to address violent crime and gun violence — absolutely,” she told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. “If we’re going to try to incentivize unrest than that’s something all together different.”
Lujan Grisham said that New Mexico requested federal agents to assist with police and crime investigations earlier in the administration and was not provided with funding.
“So the timing of their efforts remains to be a bit suspect,” Lujan Grisham said.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced that he would be surging federal agents into certain American cities as part of “Operation Legend,” a federal effort to combat violent crime. The initiative was first announced by Attorney General William Barr in an exclusive interview with ABC News earlier this month.
Trump said federal forces would be sent to cities including Albuquerque, New Mexico, as part of the new effort.
While Trump and Barr have said that federal agents will focus on working with existing forces to assist in investigations of illegal gun sales and other crimes, some mayors and other state leaders have expressed concern that the deployment of federal agents could be seen as an occupation and have a chilling effect on protests.
On This Week, the governor was also asked by Stephanopoulos to respond to recent Trump campaign advertisements and political attacks suggesting that America will be made unsafe due to efforts by former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats to “defund the police.” Biden himself has stated that he does not support those initiatives.
Lujan Grisham told Stephanopoulos that these attacks are ill-conceived and said they are part of Trump’s effort to divert attention away from his administration as the election nears.
“It is really about stoking fear … and there isn’t anything else you could point to 100 days out where you’ve succeeded,” Lujan Grisham said. “We are seeing a failure in leadership, so let’s go to making people fearful.”
Lujan Grisham also slammed the administration for their failure to lead on combating the novel coronavirus as cases rise in New Mexico. She acknowledged that the number of cases were “way too high” when challenged by Stephanopoulos about whether it was time to do more to slow the spread in her state, but argued that New Mexico wasn’t immune to what was happening elsewhere in the country.
“What’s going on around the country affects everyone in the country … there is no national strategy,” she said.
She also called Trump’s response “the worst abdication of a national response and responsibility to protect Americans” she had ever seen in her career.
Lujan Grisham has gained attention as a contender to join Biden as a running mate on the presidential ticket. When asked by Stephanopoulos about whether she’d been vetted to join the campaign as his vice president, she declined to answer, but acknowledged she has spoken with his team before.
“I have only been in touch with the campaign. And while it’s incredibly flattering, I have got a full-time job right here, right now,” she said.
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