Barr DOJ Targets Three Democratic-Led Cities as “Anarchist Jurisdictions”
The Trump Administration’s Justice Department today threatened to cut federal funding to the cities of New York, Seattle and Portland, Ore., labeling them “jurisdictions that have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.”
Attorney General William Barr issued a statement Monday morning indicating that his targeting of the cities, all led by Democratic mayors, was in response to Trump’s Sept. 2 “Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities.”
In announcing the list, Barr said, “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.”
The DOJ lists a number of criteria for how it determines which jurisdictions to target for funding cuts, including the ominously worded entry: “any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate.”
Trump has openly feuded with the mayors of those three cities which, like municipalities and states nationwide, already are struggling financially due to their massive expenditures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this month: “I believe the President is fundamentally a bully, which I’ve said too many times, and I’ve known him very well for a very long period of time. It doesn’t work in New York because you can’t bully New Yorkers. We just don’t get bullied.”
Through his spokesperson, Mayor Bill de Blasio had a similar reaction:
As much as Donald Trump wants New York City to drop dead, we will never let this stand.
This has nothing to do with "law and order". This is a racist campaign stunt out of the Oval Office to attack millions of people of color. https://t.co/w7tzJxc8wW
— Bill Neidhardt (@BNeidhardt) September 2, 2020
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called the threatened funding cuts unconstitutional:
Now, instead of leadership from the White House, we are faced with new attacks that are unlawful, unconstitutional and will be undoubtedly defeated in court.
— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) September 3, 2020
Here’s Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s response at the time:
This is the latest attempt to distract from the fact that COVID-19 has infected over 6 million Americans, killed 185,000 people, and destroyed the American economy.
The only anarchy zone in America, where the rule of law is disregarded, is at the White House. https://t.co/5NxUw6gGKU
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) September 3, 2020
Among the types of federal aide Trump could be looking to cut are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Title I Education, Child Care and Development Block grants and Section 8 housing funds.
It’s not clear exactly under what mechanism Trump and Barr could follow through on their threat since the amount and manner in which federal funds are spent is determined by Congress.