On Monday morning, Attorney General William Barr announced that three major American cities, all run by Democrats – New York, New York, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington – were at risk of losing federal funding after the Justice Department labeled them as “jurisdictions that have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.”
A few hours later, New York State Attorney General Letitia James warned the Trump Admimistration that she is ready to sue if Barr follows through on his threat.
The president “is trying to distract the American people from his failures as a leader and is using the last few months of his presidency to sow more chaos, more hatred, and more fear,” James said in a statement.
“The president should be prepared to defend this illegal order in court, which hypocritically lays the groundwork to defund New York and the very types of law enforcement President Trump pretends to care about,” James added.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined James’ pushback against the administration, and expressed confidence that New York would prevail should the issue make it to court.
“The president is not above the law,” Cuomo said during a teleconference with reporters. “If they actually do this, we will challenge it legally, and he will lose once again, because we’ve seen this play before.”
Trump and Barr want to “manipulate and distort government agencies to play politics — which is what the Trump administration has done from day one,” Cuomo said, reminding the public that the power to spend money lies with Congress, not the Executive Branch.
“Congress appropriates funds with specific legal requirements,” Cuomo said. “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, basically say, ‘I control all the federal funding.’ He doesn’t control federal funding. The federal law controls federal funding, and the federal law is very specific.”
Barr was handed near-unilateral authority over national law enforcement by President Donald Trump through an executive order earlier this month.
“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.
“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.”
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.