Pittsburgh PD calls for riot gear if Mueller fired

Pittsburgh's police department found itself in the spotlight Thursday because of a few key words in an email from a head detective: President Donald Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller and riot gear.

The email, sent Wednesday by Major Crimes Commander Victor Joseph, asked detectives who wear plain clothes to bring uniforms and "riot gear" to work in case President Donald Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller and detectives are needed to help monitor possible protests. The email was reported by WTAE and confirmed by Pittsburgh's mayor.
The email

"We have received information of a potential large scale protest in the Central Business District," the email from Joseph begins.

"There is a belief that President Trump will soon move to fire Special Prosecutor Mueller. This would result in a large protest within 24 hours of the firing," Joseph wrote. Because of this, "all Major Crimes detectives are required to bring a full uniform and any issued protective equipment (riot gear) with them to work until further notice," he wrote.

The measures were precautionary, Joseph wrote. "We may be needed to assist in the event that there is a large scale protest," he said in the email.

The department, backed by the mayor's office, said it has no inside knowledge of whether the president might fire special counsel Robert Mueller. But social media filled with questions on specifically what protest - and on what day - the Pittsburgh police were preparing for.

"We receive information regularly about potential events and/or threats, assess the credibility of the information and plan for a potential event. In this case, we have not assessed the credibility of the potential for disturbances, and we do not have any knowledge of the President's decision-making process," Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich clarified in a statement.

The department also emphasized that it "receives information daily that we evaluate and prepare for if the event should occur," including anything from extreme weather to protests.

"Often the events we prepare for do not occur. However, through an abundance of caution, we attempt to adequately prepare for an appropriate response," the statement said.

Though the department didn't cite a specific protest, the progressive organization MoveOn.org does have plans for nationwide demonstrations in the event the president fires Mueller. In a statement, a campaign director said MoveOn has "laid the groundwork for more than 900 non-violent and lawful protests nationwide, including one planned in the Pittsburgh area."

More than 350,000 Americans are signed up to participate across the country, according to MoveOn.org.

In his statement, campaign director David Sievers also emphasized that the protests would be nonviolent. "We hope such protests are never triggered, but if they ever are, police everywhere have an obligation to respect Americans' right to peacefully protest," he said.

The social media circulation

On social media, news quickly circulated that a commander with the city's police force was calling for riot gear, citing a "belief" that Trump would soon fire the special counsel leading the investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign and potential involvement with Russia.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto responded from his own Twitter and called for an end to the "conspiracies."

"This is an internal email from a Commander to his plainclothes Detectives. It doesn't claim to know what the President will do. It doesn't say people can't lawfully assemble. It says you may be needed to help, bring your uniform," he tweeted.

The mayor, who runs his own Twitter account, had a little fun with his responses to various Twitter users alleging different backstories. One said Peduto was trying to scare his constituents into thinking Trump was firing Mueller.

Communications director for the mayor, Timothy McNulty, described the directions in the email as "fairly normal operating procedure."

"I don't have every last police memo that was issued but I know for a fact that detectives work protests wearing uniforms, it's very common," McNulty said.

Tension surrounding the investigation

The email came in the midst of building tensions in the investigation - which the president has repeatedly called a "witch hunt" and a "hoax."

Last week, the residences and office of the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was raided by the FBI. The president called it "an attack on our country, in a true sense" and said the situation was "now on a whole new level of unfairness."

But on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thwarted a bipartisan measure to protect Mueller's job. It would not be necessary, McConnell said, because Trump would not fire Mueller.

A day later, the president responded to questions about Mueller and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation. "They've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months. And they're still here," Trump said during a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.
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