President Donald Trump has moved to defund what he called “anarchist” U.S. cities over their handling of racial justice protests and crime.
The order: Trump signed a memo on Wednesday ordering all federal agencies to report to the White House any funds that can be redirected from four Democratic-run cities: New York City, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
- The move — which puts billions of dollars a year on the line — is necessary to “ensure that Federal funds are neither unduly wasted nor spent in a manner that directly violates our Government’s promise to protect life, liberty, and property,” Trump says in the memo.
- “My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”
Trump gives the White House budget director Russ Vought 30 days to get back to the agency heads with guidance on defunding “or otherwise disfavoring to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of Federal grants.”
- Attorney General Bill Barr must within 14 days develop a list of “anarchist jurisdictions” that “permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures” to restore order.
“We’re putting them on notice today,” Trump said in a tweet later Wednesday targeting the “weak mayor and lawless cities.”
In the five-page memo, Trump criticizes the Democratic mayors of each city as well as state leaders for rejecting his offers of federal law enforcement assistance while failing to crackdown on protests and cutting police budgets.
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, are faulted for rejecting Trump’s offer of federal law enforcement assistance.
- Meanwhile, Trump notes, New York City in July saw a 177% spike in shootings compared to the same month last year and approved a budget that cuts $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s $6 billion annual budget.
- Seattle and Portland are also among the major U.S. cities that have recently seen rises in violent crime.
According to the New York Post, which broke the news of Trump’s order, New York City receives about $7 billion a year in federal funding, while Portland, the smallest city on the list, got more than $252 million in the previous fiscal year, including for police operations.
The response: The Democrats singled out by Trump responded with outrage, saying the president lacked the legal authority to follow through on his threats.
Cuomo said at an emergency press briefing about Trump’s order on Wednesday: “It’s cheap, it’s political, it’s gratuitous and it’s illegal,” adding that Trump “better have an army if he thinks he’s going to walk down the street in New York.”
De Blasio said at a press conference on Thursday that “the president of the United States can’t interfere with federal funding for cities and states just because he feels like it. We have laws in this country. So, if you persist in trying to deny the funding that’s keeping New York City going in the middle of this crisis, we will see you in court, and, once again, we will beat you in court.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement on Wednesday: “President Trump cannot defund Seattle – it is unlawful. Surely the Attorney General has advised the President of the United States that he does not have the power to decide who gets funding based on his political interests.”
“The only anarchy zone in America, where the rule of law is disregarded, is at the White House,” she added.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement on Wednesday: “This illegal memorandum is a sham. It is just the latest baseless, petty and divisive move by President Trump to distract from his abject failure to protect Americans from COVID-19. With more than 185,000 lives lost on his watch, we won’t forget.
Inslee continued: “The president cannot and will not defund us. He is not a dictator and laws still apply to him.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a series of tweets on Wednesday, “This is a new low, even for this president.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has yet to respond to Trump’s order and her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.