Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The escalating war of words between President Trump and Democratic big-city mayors — brought it to a head by confrontations in Portland and Seattle — is a preview of what's to come in the months leading up to November.

The big picture: Trump is using Democratic mayors as the foils for his law-and-order reelection message, while they've called his deployment of federal agents in their cities "a step short of martial law" and heightened their criticism of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It's the latest clash between Trump and liberal mayors, who've been convenient contrasts on a host of issues including immigration, homelessness and public health.

What they're saying: Mayors have called for the removal of federal officers, investigations into their tactics, and congressional legislation to restrict their authority to operate in cities.

  • "We've been forced to take these extreme actions in the face of unwarranted, and we believe unconstitutional, abuse of federal power," Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said earlier this week while speaking with other members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on a press call.
  • He added that the "federal occupation of our streets" only heightened tensions with protesters. "Escalation has been met with escalation."
  • Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called the deployment of federal law enforcement for political purposes "a step short of martial law."

The latest: The administration has since agreed to a "phased withdrawal" of federal troops from Portland, and Washington State officials said on Tuesday that the federal agents who arrived in Seattle last week would be departing.

  • “As the President and Secretary Wolf have both made clear, federal law enforcement officers will not leave until the seat of justice in Portland is secure," said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews in a statement.

Yes, but: Despite the federal pullback from Portland and Seattle, mayors are warning of "unprecedented" and "dangerous" use of federal law enforcement as tensions rise across the country.

  • The Justice Department has expanded its "Operation Legend" program aimed at combating violent crime into Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee.

What we're watching: Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the city will collaborate with federal law enforcement as long as there's a clear understanding of the mission and parameters of those efforts, which are usually laid out in an official agreement beforehand.

  • That did not happen with Operation Legend, he said.
  • "Contrary to all our other interactions with federal law enforcement, we were given no notice at all," he said.

Go deeper: Trump bends the Department of Homeland Security to his will

Go deeper

Updated Oct 1, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The major police reforms enacted since George Floyd's death

Federal officers in Portland, Oregon on July 21. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Nationwide Black Lives Matter protests sparked by George Floyd's killing have put new pressure on states and cities to scale back the force that officers can use on civilians.

Why it matters: Police reforms of this scale have not taken place since the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, following George Zimmerman's acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager.

Supreme Court blocks Alabama curbside voting measure

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday evening blocked a lower court order that would have allowed voters to cast ballots curbside at polling places on Election Day.

Of note: The court voted 5-3 against the measure, with liberal justices dissenting.

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: New York reports most COVID cases since MayStudies show drop in coronavirus death rate — The next wave is gaining steam.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.
  5. World: Spain becomes first nation in Western Europe to exceed 1 million cases.