October 26, 2020
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Trump writes memo requesting an investigation to potentially defund U.S. cities

By Julia Duggan
Staff Writer

President Donald Trump has issued a memo asking the White House Office of Budget and Management and the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into several cities to see if the federal government should revoke federal funds. 

In the memo, signed on Sept. 2, Trump names Portland, Seattle, New York City and Washington D.C. to specifically look into whether funds should be halted.

The list of cities would be updated with a potential for others to be added periodically with input from the Justice Department, a senior administration official told The New York Post. Federal agencies would be directed to revise grant conditions when applicable to uphold the rule of law.

The memo additionally instructs Attorney General William Barr to develop a list of “anarchist jurisdictions” that “permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures” to restore order, The New York Times reported.

The memo allows Barr 14 days to compile the list and gives the White House Office thirty days to review the cities in the memo. 

The memo also specifically calls for a review of federal funding that goes to Portland, New York City, Seattle and Washington D.C. 

Legal experts said the White House maneuver to restrict funding would almost certainly be met by an immediate challenge in court, according to the The Washington Post. In addition, there have been allegations that the president is abusing his power to threaten Democratic cities and states.

“My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” the memo states. “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.”

President Trump issued a memo for the Justice Department to inquire about revoking federal grants to cities amid a rise in violence and rioting over the summer. (KPTV/Fox12)

Trump has repeatedly said there is a wide-ranging Democratic plot to defund police departments, although most prominent Democrats, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, have vocally rejected this approach, The Washington Post reported. The cities mentioned in the memo are all currently under Democratic control.

The federal government provides funding for cities in a variety of ways: transportation projects, housing aid, law enforcement grants and numerous other measures. Even though the money is often approved by Congress, administration officials can attempt to cancel certain projects, according to The Washington Post. 

While the seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the effort to cut funding violated separation-of-powers provisions in the U.S. Constitution, the president’s thread did provoke outrage from Democratic leaders, King5.com reported.

While the memo is only five pages long, it cites several specific examples as to why the federal government should stop funding the cities, according to The Washington Post, such as the Seattle “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” and consistent protests out of Portland for over 80 days.

OMB (Office of Budget and Management) Director Russel Vought said in a statement, “We are taking action by exploring all options to ensure Federal resources flowing to lawless cities aren’t being squandered. The lack of law and order surrounding these riots, and response from local leadership, is a dereliction of duty,” The Washington Post reported.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Twitter that Trump was trying to cut off funding that states and cities must receive to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“‘He is not a king. He cannot “defund” NYC,’” Cuomo said, as reported by The New York Times. “‘It’s an illegal stunt.’”

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