12 senators call for investigation into ICE spokesman's resignation over 'misleading facts'

Former Northern California ICE spokesman James Schwab.

A dozen U.S. senators, including Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both of California, wrote to the Inspector General this week asking him to investigate the resignation of the Northern California ICE spokesman who resigned over the agency’s “false and misleading” public statements about Operation “Keep Safe,” the letter stated.

“We have serious concerns that Trump administration officials are misrepresenting the facts and statistics surrounding this enforcement action for political purposes,” the senators wrote. “Public politics and law enforcement operations must be informed by facts, not the fabricated overstatements or distortions of political officials.” 

Schwab turned in his resignation letter on March 9, saying that he did not feel it was proper to blame Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for an unspecified number of undocumented immigrants who escaped capture because of her public warning to her city before the sweep. Schwab did not immediately return an email from KTVU on Friday regarding the call for this investigation.

Acting ICE director Thomas Homan, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions all intimated that Schaaf was the reason that a portion of the “864 criminal aliens” intended to be arrested as part of the operation escaped because of her. Schwab said that wasn’t true: The number of people arrested was more than the agency had hoped for. He left the office so as not to “perpetuate misleading facts,” the letter states. Agents arrested 232 people during the operation that began on Feb. 25 and lasted several days.

After the operation, Sessions told the public: “ICE failed to make 800 arrests that they would have made if the mayor had not acted as she did. Those are 800 wanted aliens that are now at large in that community.

Trump referenced the number the next day, which he said was "close to 1,000."

In their letter, dated on Thursday, the senators are seeking all communications to and from Schwab regarding the operation, the total number of people arrested and their location of arrests during the operation, the number of targets of the operation and whether any public officials within the Department of Homeland Security knowingly made false statements relating to the operation, among other things.

The letter is addressed to Inspector General John Kelly and is also signed by Democratic senators Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin, Patty Murray, Robert Mendendez, Mazie Hirono, Edward Markey, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal and Catherine Cortez Masto. 

After Schwab resigned, ICE spokeswoman Liz Johnson said in an email to KTVU that "even one criminal alien on the street can put public safety at risk and as Director Homan stated, while we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact.” 

Sarah Isgur Flores, the spokeswoman for Sessions, issued the same statement to KTVU on Friday as she did after Schwab resigned almost two weeks ago:  "Does anyone seriously dispute that the mayor attempted to thwart the efforts of federal law enforcement to apprehended wanted aliens in Oakland--many of whom had previously been arrested or convicted for crimes ranging from drug trafficking, to domestic abuse, to child pornography? But if the anyone wants to have a public argument over precisely how many dangerous criminal aliens alluded arrest because of the mayor’s irresponsible actions, we are happy to have that debate. We believe in the rule of law and one criminal alien victimizing residents of Oakland is one too many.”