Trump declares War on Anarchy: POTUS says he will cut off federal funds for cities run by 'weak mayors'
POTUS also signed a memo in which he ordered all federal agencies to report to the office of Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, on federal funds that can be redirected
With unrest continuing in several cities, including the Big Apple, President Donald Trump has initiated steps to cut off federal fundings for the cities he considers are being pushed into “anarchy”. The Republican president has been lashing out at Democrat-ruled states and cities over their endless protests and violence in recent times, fuelled time and again by instances of racist attacks. Cities like Portland, Oregon, Kenosha and Wisconsin have been in the news for the wrong reasons and Trump has been critical of the local authorities.
In a tweet on Wednesday, September 2, Trump said: “My Administration will do everything in its power to prevent weak mayors and lawless cities from taking Federal dollars while they let anarchists harm people, burn buildings, and ruin lives and businesses. We're putting them on notice today.” He tagged Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in his tweet.
My Administration will do everything in its power to prevent weak mayors and lawless cities from taking Federal dollars while they let anarchists harm people, burn buildings, and ruin lives and businesses. We’re putting them on notice today. @RussVought45— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2020
The same day, the president also signed a five-page memo in which he ordered all federal agencies to report to Vought’s office on federal funds (going to the cities under scanner) that can be redirected, the New York Post reported. Besides New York City, Washington DC, Portland and Seattle have also been included as initial targets as the president makes “law and order” a key plank of his re-election campaign in the wake of months-long violence that has spread since the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
In the memo, Trump warned that his administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to support cities that “allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones”. It also mentioned New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio’s a couple of times. “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, it is imperative that the Federal Government review the use of Federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America’s cities,” he added.
According to the Post report, the federal agencies have to detail “all Federal funds provided to Seattle, Portland, New York City, Washington, DC.” Besides, Attorney General Bill Barr must develop within two weeks 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. The memo, however, does not require Barr to include the four mentioned cities, perhaps for legal reasons. The memo also asks Vought to issue guidance within a month starting Wednesday “to the heads of agencies on restricting the eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of Federal grants.”
Violence in cities irked Trump administration
Trump’s decision to defund the cities could see a massive monetary impact on the cities mentioned. NYC, for instance, gets around $7 billion a year in federal aid. NYC has seen a spike in criminal activities in recent months and its authorities’ decision to slash funds of the New York Police Department has irked the Trump administration. The memo has said, “in New York City, city officials have allowed violence to spike”. “In light of this unconscionable rise in violence, I have offered to provide Federal law enforcement assistance, but both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have rejected my offer,” the president said.
“While violence has surged, arrests have plummeted. In a 28-day period during the months of June and July, [New York City] arrests were down 62 percent from the same period in 2019. Amidst the rising violence, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council agreed to cut one billion dollars from the New York Police Department (NYPD) budget, including by canceling the hiring of 1,163 officers.” It has also cited the NYPD commissioner disbanding its plainclothes units, a move which police officers feel have contributed to the rise in violence.
The memo has also targeted Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, accusing the Democrat of allowing rioters to carry on violence and destruction and it forced Trump to call in the National Guard to maintain law and order in the national capital. Portland has also been facing Trump’s ire over its continuing violence. The president slammed Mayor Ted Wheeler, also a Democrat, and the latter hit back at him, accusing him of creating hate and division. He also refused Trump’s offer of federal assistance. Trump’s decision to deploy federal agents in the Oregon city met a fierce backlash as it was alleged that the agents were picking protesters in unmarked vehicles and driving away.
Seattle has also faced Trump’s criticism for allowing a long-running “autonomous zone” to occupy several city blocks for almost a month. It was eventually dismantled following deadly shootings in June. Earlier that month, Black Lives Matter protesters forced the local police department to abandon the city’s East Precinct building and set up the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" or CHAZ in the surrounding areas.
Seattle is on the list largely for tolerating a long-running “autonomous zone” that ultimately was dismantled due to violent crimes, including shootings nearby. “On July 1, Seattle declared the protest zone dismantled. But such failed leadership continues to harm the people of Seattle as, in recent weeks, rioters have engaged in violence and destruction of property across Seattle, resulting in at least 59 police officers being injured and multiple businesses and vehicles vandalized,” the memo said. In June, Trump threatened to intervene in Seattle to restore order if the local authorities, including Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, did not do it, sparking a war of words.
Meanwhile, Vought welcomed the review and told the Post: “American taxpayers who fund the great programs that our cities rely on deserve to be protected by their local city officials.” “We are taking action by exploring all options to ensure federal resources flowing to lawless cities aren’t being squandered. The lack of law and order surrounding these riots, and response from local leadership, is a dereliction of duty. Our men and women in blue cannot be handcuffed by local leadership in their efforts to respond to riots and protect their fellow citizens,” he said.
Recently, Indiana’s Republican Representative Jim Banks introduced the “Support peaceful Protest Act” that would require rioters who were caught indulging in destruction and violence to be made ineligible for federal unemployment assistance.