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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Trump floats pulling federal money from ‘anarchist’ cities

President Donald Trump ordered a review of cities' treatment of law enforcement Wednesday, potentially holding back federal funds if the administration finds a jurisdiction "disempowers" or "defunds" its police department.

In a memorandum released Wednesday, Trump directed the White House Office of Management and Budget to issue guidance for federal agencies on curtailing funds to areas the memo calls "anarchist jurisdictions" within the next 30 days. The memo also directs Attorney General William Barr to publish a list of jurisdictions that have "permitted violence and the destruction of property" on the Department of Justice website. Federal agencies will also receive guidance on reporting on federal funds they distribute to several Democrat-led cities.

The memo specifically calls out Seattle; Portland, Ore.; New York; and Washington for investigation.

"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," Trump tweeted Wednesday night, tagging OMB Director Russ Vought.

The New York Post first reported the memo.

Trump has repeatedly denounced leftist calls to defund the police, vehemently siding with law enforcement amid a summer of unrest in cities across the country. Protests over anti-Black police violence and systemic racism have sprung up following several highly publicized incidents of often lethal police violence against Black people. A number of Democratic lawmakers and city leaders have come out to support the protesters in peaceful demonstrations. But Trump has focused almost entirely on looting and violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

Trump frequently accuses Democratic mayors of allowing riots in their cities, while also reciting dubious conspiracy theories of paid rioters being flown to instigate violence. (He has not provided evidence of such a phenomenon.) He often urges cities to accept federal forces to maintain order, and Wednesday's memo said a city could be put under review if it "unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York quickly denounced the Wednesday memo as a "foolish stunt," urging the president to focus on the coronavirus pandemic instead of threatening federal funding for some of the country's largest cities.

"We will not allow President Trump’s malicious infantile ways to hurt New York City," Schumer tweeted. "Instead of these foolish stunts he ought to be focused on getting our country out of the COVID crisis."

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