Pittsburgh Police Preparing for Possible Riots if Trump Fires Mueller

Updated | Police in Pittsburgh are already preparing for potential protests should President Donald Trump fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

In an email to officers Wednesday, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Commander Victor Joseph wrote: "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." He said he had received information about a potential protest in the city.

The email continued, "Based on this information, beginning tomorrow, April 19, 2018, 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. We may need to assist in the event that there is a large scale protest."

Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV first reported about the email. Chris Togneri, a police department spokesman, confirmed to Newsweek the authenticity of the email.

Tim McNulty, a spokesman for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, told Newsweek that the mayor had also confirmed the authenticity of the email and that the mayor said that "it was purely precautionary."

In a phone call with Newsweek, Joseph directed questions to the police spokesman.

Related: If Trump fires Mueller, more than 170,000 will protest

Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the probe, said as recently as March 12, "I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel." White House lawyer Ty Cobb has said the administration is cooperating with investigators.

Special counsel Robert Mueller leaves after a meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 21, 2017. A police official in Pittsburgh has instructed detectives to begin carrying riot gear in case President Donald Trump fires Mueller and protests result. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

But in the past month, Trump has appeared to grow increasingly agitated with Mueller and the investigation and has started calling out Mueller by name. Following the FBI raid of his attorney Michael Cohen's office, home and hotel room—reportedly based on a referral by Mueller—Trump told reporters: "I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens…. Many people have said, 'You should fire [Mueller].'"

The day after Trump made those comments, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the daily press briefing that Trump "certainly believes he has the power" to terminate Mueller.

After police confirmed the email's authenticity, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said Wednesday in a statement, "The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police receives information daily that we evaluate and prepare for if the event should occur. Events can include anything from extreme weather to potential demonstrations. However, through an abundance of caution, we attempt to adequately prepare for an appropriate response."

Hissrich added, "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."

Peduto, the mayor, told WTAE-TV, "You want to be precautionary, especially on something that is unprecedented in American history."

As of February, more than 220,000 people in all 50 states had signed on through MoveOn.org to protest if Trump fires the special counsel. In Pittsburgh, as of Wednesday, 2,756 people had signed up.

This article was updated to include a response by Chris Togneri, a statement by Wendell Hissrich and a comment by Bill Peduto.