Trump accused of playing 'cheap political games' as DOJ calls NYC, Portland and Seattle 'anarchist jurisdictions'
Cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted, AG William Barr says, raising serious concerns over the administration's financial support for the three cities
Days after President Donald Trump vowed to defund those American cities that he considered were being pushed into “anarchy,” the Justice Department reiterated the move. On Monday, September 21, the department announced cities like New York City, Portland, and Seattle as “anarchist jurisdictions” that could see their federal funding getting stopped on grounds of failing to maintain order. The department listed the three Democrat-run cities as those “that have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activity.”
Several cities across the nation have witnessed wide-scale violence and damage in the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of the cops in Minneapolis in May. While the White supremacists were targeted following the African-American man's death, the conservative camp retaliated saying anarchy took over in the name of protests for justice. President Trump even came close to deploying the military to quell protests in Washington DC but backtracked in the face of resistance from the establishment.
The justice department’s designation came in a document called ‘Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities’.
Earlier in September, Trump tweeted: “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 also tagged Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in his post.
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 president also signed on the same day 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 the scanner) that can be redirected, a report in the New York Post said. “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,” the president said in the memo. Vought welcomed the president’s move.
Trump is currently campaigning across the country and one of his major issues has been “law and order.” The Office of Management and Budget will take further decisions on the matter in the months to come and if the defunding happens, it could lead to huge financial consequences for cities like the Big Apple which is already grappling with a financial crunch. Federal grants make up NYC's $7 billion-plus annual budget in fiscal 2021 only or 7.5 percent of its total revenue.
Attorney General William Barr said in a statement: “When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest.
“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens.”
Barr recently visited Chicago, another city that Trump and the White House have repeatedly slammed over its unrest, and said that more than 500 people have been arrested in Chicago under “Operation Legend” since July to counter the nationwide advocacy for drastic police reforms.
Andrew Cuomo slams justice department
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded to the justice department’s assessment saying in a media conference call: “I understand the politics, but when you try to manipulate and distort government agencies to play politics, which is what the Trump administration has done from day one … this is more of the same. The president can’t supersede the law and say I’m going to make those funds basically discretionary funds, which is what he would have to do.” He added, “If they actually do this, we will challenge it legally, and they will lose once again.”
The department also criticized Portland over the way it handled 100 consecutive nights of protests and Seattle for allowing the demonstrators to set up a ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ downtown. However, the three above-mentioned cities do not rank close to some of the cities that are at the top of the list for their violent crime, Daily Mail reported, giving examples like Minneapolis or Kenosha that are located in key swing states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, respectively.
Three mayors issue joint statement
The assessment saw sharp reactions from the mayors of the three cities that came under the scanner. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio -- all Democrats who have had tussles with President Trump at some point of time -- came up with a joint statement accusing the president of “playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds.”
“Our cities are bringing communities together; our cities are pushing forward after fighting back a pandemic and facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, all despite recklessness and partisanship from the White House. What the Trump Administration is engaging in now is more of what we've seen all along: shirking responsibility and placing blame elsewhere to cover its failure,” they said.
The trio also called the entire episode a “recklessness and partisanship from the White House.”