Donald Trump Just Handed Attorney General William Barr Absolute Power Over Law Enforcement in the United States
President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued an extraordinary edict instructing the Justice Department to “review the use of federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America’s cities” in a “Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities.”
The edict is Trump’s latest authoritarian-esque plot to punish local governments for, as he sees it, failing to keep the peace as civil unrest escalates across the country due to police abusing their power, frequently resulting in violent clashes between peaceful protesters and Trump’s white supremacist supporters.
“My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones. 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,” Trump wrote. “It is also critical to ensure that Federal grants are used effectively, to safeguard taxpayer dollars entrusted to the Federal Government for the benefit of the American people.”
Trump named several cities – Seattle, Portland, New York, and Washington DC – that he has deemed unworthy of aid. All of them are run by Democrats, whom Trump has falsely accused of inflaming social tensions.
“Within 14 days of the date of this memorandum, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shall issue guidance to the heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) for each agency to submit a report to the Director of OMB detailing all Federal funds provided to Seattle, Portland, New York City, Washington, D.C., or any components or instrumentalities of the foregoing jurisdictions,” Trump declared.
Make no mistake. The Trump memo is nothing short of a so-called ‘enemies list’ – subject to the whims of Attorney General William Barr, Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf, and Russell Vought, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget – and accountable to no one.
“Within 14 days of the date of this memorandum, and updated as appropriate but no less than every 6 months thereafter, the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of OMB, shall publish on the Department of Justice website a list identifying State and local jurisdictions that have permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities (anarchist jurisdictions),” the president said.
“In identifying anarchist jurisdictions, the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of OMB, shall consider, as appropriate:
(i) whether a jurisdiction forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction;
(ii) whether a jurisdiction has withdrawn law enforcement protection from a geographical area or structure that law enforcement officers are lawfully entitled to access but have been officially prevented from accessing or permitted to access only in exceptional circumstances, except when law enforcement officers are briefly withheld as a tactical decision intended to resolve safely and expeditiously a specific and ongoing unlawful incident posing an imminent threat to the safety of individuals or law enforcement officers;
(iii) whether a jurisdiction disempowers or defunds police departments; and
(iv) whether a jurisdiction unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government.”
But the real kicker is an arbitrary and nebulus standard that effectively grants Barr total power over law enforcement in the United States based solely upon “any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate.”
These provisions hold eerie resemblances to the 1933 Enabling Act in Germany, which was enacted when 441 members of the soon-to-be defunkt Weimar parliament permitted Chancellor Adolf Hitler to consolidate power unto himself and the Nazi Party.
The Anne Frank House provides a breakdown of how Hitler was able to kill democracy through democracy:
“The fire in the Reichstag, the parliament building, was a key moment in this development. On 27 February 1933, guards noticed the flames blazing through the roof. They overpowered the suspected arsonist, a Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe. He was executed after a show trial in 1934. Evidence of any accomplices was never found.
The Nazi leadership was quick to arrive at the scene. An eyewitness said that upon seeing the fire, Göring called out: ‘This is the beginning of the Communist revolt, they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be lost!’ Before he could go on, Hitler shouted: ‘There will be no mercy now. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down.’
The next morning, President Von Hindenburg promulgated the Reichstag Fire Decree. It formed the basis for the dictatorship. The civil rights of the German people were curtailed. Freedom of expression was no longer a matter of course and the police could arbitrarily search houses and arrest people. The political opponents of the Nazis were essentially outlawed.
On 23 March 1933, the Reichstag met in Berlin. The main item on the agenda was a new law, the ‘Enabling Act’. It allowed Hitler to enact new laws without interference from the president or Reichstag for a period of four years. The building where the meeting took place was surrounded by members of the SA and the SS, paramilitary organisations of the NSDAP that had by now been promoted to auxiliary police forces.
In his speech, Hitler gave those present the choice between ‘war and peace’. It was a veiled threat to intimidate any dissenters. The process was by no means democratic. With 444 votes in favour and 94 against, the Reichstag adopted the Enabling Act. It was to form the basis of the Nazi dictatorship until 1945.”