Trump’s ‘anarchist’ town punishment plan is only political, experts say

the note, released late Wednesday night, faced immediate backlash for setting up potential federal overreach. The White House directive calls for protests against police brutality and racism that has turned into violent “anarchy” and blames local officials in New York, Washington, DC, Portland and Seattle for the unrest. He threatens to withhold federal funds if they do not act.

The directive – which lacks details and comes amid a push in the president’s campaign to play on civil unrest – lands this week as a foremost political statement.

“I think it’s the classic Trump. It’ll be in the commercials and we’ll never hear about it again,” said Neil Eggleston, Obama’s former White House legal adviser. “It gets everyone’s attention, and then it will disappear into the ether.”

Ilya Shapiro, director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the Libertarian-Conservative Cato Institute, agreed that the White House directive was very broad and imprecise. “It’s almost entirely a political statement… it’s kind of setting a marker,” he said.

Trump’s ploy is reminiscent of his administration’s previous attempts to punish so-called sanctuary cities – a catch-all term used to describe jurisdictions that in some ways do not cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities on immigration – withholding funding.

In recent weeks, the president has buckled down his public order message, targeting cities where protests against police brutality and racial inequality have continued.

“The point is, we’ve witnessed tremendous violence and we’ll put it out very, very quickly if we get the chance,” Trump said earlier this week during his visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Wednesday’s memorandum targeting state and local governments is another example of the administration trying to crack down on cities that do not align with its agenda, state and local officials said.

The mayors of New York, Portland, Seattle and Washington, DC immediately denounced Wednesday’s memo revoking federal funding as an undue attack on their governments.

“Our cities and the millions of Americans we represent are not President Trump’s political pawns. We face unprecedented challenges: fighting a pandemic and economic devastation without further stimulus,” Democratic mayors said in a joint declaration. “Now, instead of the leadership of the White House, we are facing new attacks which are illegal, unconstitutional and will no doubt be defeated in court.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James called White House funding threat “nothing more than a desperate last-ditch electoral strategy” in a tweet and threatened to sue.

Asked Thursday at the White House briefing on the authority on which the president based the memo, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany presented the directive as a review. She also cited a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that the federal government could withhold state funding if it met certain criteria.

“I’m not going to predict exactly what the final product will look like,” McEnany said.

A specific plan and legal reasoning to withhold the funds would not be due for weeks, CATO’s Shapiro said. Part of the memo asks the Office of Management and Budget to tell federal agencies within 30 days how the administration thinks it can legally withhold grants from localities.

The memo appeared to be based on an idea from Republican Senator Joni Ernst introduced in June. The legislation proposed by Ernst would withhold federal funding for local governments where protesters had declared autonomous protest zones. The bill has not moved forward since.

Previous actions by the Trump administration targeting jurisdictions on local politics have called into question the administration’s decision-making and motivations.

At the start of his presidency, for example, Trump threatened with withholding federal funds sanctuary cities.

In 2017, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that applicants for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grants would have to comply with federal immigration requirements. States pushed back and continued the movement.

Requirements spelled out by the Justice Department included allowing federal authorities to access inmates in prisons to inquire about immigration status and giving the federal government 48 hours notice before releasing detainees. that interests him.

The question at the heart of the cases challenging the requirements was whether the Justice Department had the power to make grants conditional on immigration compliance.
Lower courts have largely prevented the Justice Department from adding new requirements for police grants, although appellate courts have been divided on the issue.
The justification for other administration actions to punish states has already been criticized in court, such as when the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year admitted making false statements in defense of a decision targeting New York.
In February, DHS barred New Yorkers from participating in trusted traveler programs because of provisions in state law protecting information from undocumented immigrants requesting a driver’s license to share with federal agencies. immigration enforcement.

But several other states, whose residents can participate in Trusted Traveler programs – which expedite service for pre-approved travelers entering the United States – currently do not provide federal authorities with full access to applicants’ driving history, according to a report. court. deposit.

DHS informed government lawyers that the statements it made in the case were “inaccurate in some cases and gave the wrong impression in others,” according to the filing. The department has since announced that it will allow New York state residents to participate in Trusted Traveler programs.

CNN’s Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.


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