President Trump has ordered the Office of Budget Management to look into cutting federal funding to cities where he says "weak mayors" are allowing "anarchists" to "harm people, burn buildings, and ruin lives and businesses."
The official memo sent by Mr. Trump to the OBM chief and Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday accuses Democratic state leaders and mayors in cities including Portland, Seattle, and New York of allowing "persistent and outrageous acts of violence and destruction."
Mr. Trump has portrayed people attending the wave of protests across the nation, demanding social justice and fair treatment of minorities by law enforcement, as "thugs" and criminals as he campaigns for re-election on a tough "law and order" platform.
In a tweet Wednesday night, Mr. Trump said his administration would "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."
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
"My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones," he said in the memo to the OMB.
The president has squared off with local and state leaders for months, even using federal security forces in American cities to quell protests, on some occasions against the wishes of those leaders.
Mr. Trump insists the unrest that was sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and fueled by a series of subsequent incidents of police violence involving Black men is the result, not of systemic racism in the U.S., but of Democratic officials failing to execute their duties.
Many Democratic leaders, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, argue that the president's tough stance and refusal to acknowledge any systemic problem in law enforcement has only served to increase the angst on American streets.
Leaders in Mr. Trump's hometown issued some of the sharpest rebukes over his threat to cut federal funding.
"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," said Bill Neidhardt, spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, on twitter.
Cuomo says Trump "can't come" to NY
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was even more pointed, telling journalists Wednesday evening that the president's rhetoric would so enrage New Yorkers, that he "better have an army if he thinks he's gonna walk down the street in New York."
"He can't come back to New York. He can't," Cuomo said. "Forget bodyguards, he better have an army if he thinks he's gonna walk down the street in New York." The governor said Mr. Trump was unwelcome as New York and its residents, "knows him for the joke that he is. The people who know him best, like him least."
The governor called Mr. Trump's memo "an illegal stunt" in a Twitter post. "He is not a king. He cannot 'defund' NYC," wrote Cuomo.
President Trump has actively sought to punish NYC since day one.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) September 2, 2020
He let COVID ambush New York.
He refuses to provide funds that states and cities MUST receive to recover.
He is not a king. He cannot "defund" NYC.
It's an illegal stunt.
Mr. Trump said in the memo that Barr should report back within 14 days identifying any "anarchist jurisdictions" where officials "have refused to undertake reasonable measures" to stop violence or property destruction.
He gives OMB acting director Russ Vought 30 days to direct "heads of agencies on restricting eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of federal grants."
It's not the first time Mr. Trump has tried to deprive U.S. cities of federal funds for enacting policies he dislikes. There are still court battles playing out over the White House's efforts to withhold crime fighting funds from cities and states that declare themselves "sanctuaries" for migrants and refuse to hand information over to federal authorities in a bid to protect individuals from deportation or prosecution.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump visited Kenosha, Wisconsin — the scene of the high-profile police shooting of Jacob Blake and the subsequent shooting of two protesters by a teenager from Illinois. He came over the objections of local leaders, and he did not meet with any relatives of Blake, the 29-year-old Black man who was shot seven times in the back by a police officer last month and remains in a hospital, partially paralyzed.
Biden and his wife were to visit Kenosha on Thursday, where they planned to hold a "community meeting" to "bring together Americans to heal and address the challenges we face." They were also going to meet members of Blake's family.