WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump plans to deploy federal law enforcement to Chicago and threatened on Monday to send agents to other major cities — all controlled by Democrats.

Governors and other officials reacted angrily to the president’s move, calling it an election-year ploy as they squared off over crime, civil liberties and local control that has spread from Portland, Oregon, across the country.

With camouflage-clad agents already sweeping through the streets of Portland, more units were poised to head to Chicago, and Trump suggested that he would follow suit in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and other urban centers. Governors and other officials compared his actions to authoritarianism and vowed to pursue legislation or lawsuits to stop him.

The president cast the confrontation in overtly political terms as he seeks an issue that would gain traction with voters at a time when many of his own supporters have soured on his leadership amid a deadly pandemic and economic collapse. Trailing badly in the polls with just over 100 days until the November election, Trump assailed the “liberal Democrats” running American cities and tied the issue to his presumptive fall opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”

The president portrayed the nation’s cities as out of control. “Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left,” Trump said. He added: “If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”

Democrats said the president was the one out of control. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said he would introduce legislation to limit the role of federal agents in cities like Portland. “This isn’t just an Oregon crisis,” he said. “It’s an American crisis. We need to stop Trump before this spreads.”

He added, “We won’t let these authoritarian tactics stand.”

Federal agents in Portland have snatched protesters off the streets and thrown them into unmarked vehicles without explaining why they were being detained or arrested, according to some of those who have been seized. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has called it “a blatant abuse of power,” and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called it “an attack on our democracy.” The state attorney general has filed a lawsuit seeking a restraining order against the federal agents for what she called unlawful tactics.

The Trump administration now plans to deploy about 150 Homeland Security Investigations special agents to Chicago in the coming days, according to an official directly involved in the operations. The special agents, known for conducting long-term investigations into serious crimes like human trafficking and terrorism, are expected to be in the city for at least 60 days to help combat violence and would be under the direction of the Justice Department.

Few are denying the city has a violent crime problem. Sixty-three people were shot in Chicago over the past weekend, 12 of them fatally. The White House referred questions to the Department of Homeland Security, which declined to comment, as did the Justice Department.