President Trump wants to limit funding to cities where protests are ongoing across the United States. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
President Trump wants to limit funding to cities where protests are ongoing across the United States. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

While ignoring right-wing violence and rising violent crime in GOP-led cities, President Trump wants to curtail funding to cities where protests are ongoing.

President Donald Trump approved a memo on Wednesday that authorizes the White House Office of Management and Budget to begin restricting federal funding to cities deemed “anarchist jurisdictions.” The memo continues Trump’s attacks on Democrat-led cities in the United States, yet fails to address rising violent crime rates in Republican-controlled cities across the nation. 

In Wednesday’s memo, the White House is authorized to guide federal agencies to restrict funding over the next 30 days to cities that have seen large-scale protests and ongoing unrest this summer. It also directs Attorney General William Barr to publish a list of cities on its website that have “permitted violence and the destruction of property,” despite there being no formal or legal basis for this to take place.

“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 on Wednesday. 

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The memo calls out cities like Seattle, Portland, New York, and Washington D.C. for investigation. Each of these cities have felt Trump’s wrath as protests continue in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. At the same time, crime overall has fallen across the nation, while murder rates have risen in major cities. Those statistics include Democrat and Republican-led cities, including Jacksonville, Florida, where rates of several violent crimes are rising under GOP leadership

Trump has repeatedly denounced calls to diminish police funding and refuses to acknowledge an issue with race in America. Although there have been hundreds of peaceful demonstrations across the United States since May, Trump has focused much of his attention on ones that have erupted into violence and ignored the toll caused by right-wing extremists as well as income inequality-driven crime across the nation. 

In some cities like Chicago and Portland, the federal government has already experimented with deploying large numbers of federal agents tasked to help keep the peace. Local officials like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have called for the agents to be removed. 

Earlier this summer, Portland, at least initially, rejected the federal presence. In Trump’s memo this week, he noted Portland’s resistance to federal agents writing, “State and local officials in Portland have taken insufficient steps to protect the Federal courthouse, and initially rejected offers of Federal law enforcement assistance.” 

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In July, local officials in Portland threatened to fine the federal government for placing a fence around the downtown courthouse, which has been the target of frequent vandalism. Those officials cited a hazard for residents using the nearby bike lane in their letter. 

“Unidentified agents of the federal government have placed unpermitted fencing and jersey barriers in the city’s right of way outside of the Hatfield Federal Courthouse,” Chief Deputy City Attorney Robert Taylor wrote in the letter. “The fencing and barriers in the right of way create a hazard for Portlanders by blocking the bike lane on Southwest Main [Street], which is the premier bike facility into downtown Portland.”

In the memo, Trump explained his belief that the federal government should not send tax dollars to cities that allow what he considers to be lawlessness. 

“My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones. 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,” he wrote in the memo.

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Although Congress ultimately holds power over federal spending, the White House can provide funding to localities in different ways. Those can include transportation projects, housing aid, and other grants. The White House can also attempt to cancel certain projects, although it is unclear whether President Trump can defund projects unilaterally. In the memo, Trump specifically asks about the legality of defunding certain projects. 

Any move on the part of the Trump administration to enforce the memo will almost certainly be challenged in court. 

“[Trump] continues to believe that disenfranchising people living in this country to advance his petty grudges is an effective political strategy,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler wrote on Twitter. “The rest of us know it is dangerous, destructive, and divisive. Once again, only progressive communities with democratic mayors, which he labels ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ including Portland, are targeted. This is a new low, even for this president.”