Update (1534ET): Mayors of the three cities targeted by AG Barr's order have released a joint statement blasting the Trump Administration's label of "anarchist" cities.
The cities’ mayors - Bill de Blasio of New York, Ted Wheeler of Portland and Jenny Durkan of Seattle - rejected the threat as "thoroughly political and unconstitutional."
"The President is playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds," they wrote in a joint statement. "Our cities are bringing communities together; our cities are pushing forward after fighting back a pandemic and facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, all despite recklessness and partisanship from the White House."
Barr accused the mayors of endangering the lives of innocent citizens by treating the vandals and criminals mixed in with the 'peaceful protesters' far too gently.
"When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest," Barr said in the release. "We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance."
Gov Cuomo also dismissed reports of the administration's plans. “Is it going to happen? No, because it’s illegal and it’s unconstitutional,” Cuomo said in a call with reporters. "But it’s politics. It’s politics for the next few weeks going up to the November election. That’s all this is."
The governor compared it with the administration’s previous threats to withhold money from so-called "sanctuary cities", an issue which New York won against the administration in court.
"If they actually do this, we will challenge it legally, and he will lose again," Cuomo said.
City law department head Jim Johnson insisted: "The president does not have the authority to change the will of Congress."
"We’re prepared to fight this in court if he actually takes concrete steps to withhold federal funds. What we have in New York City is not anarchy. What we have is a city moving forward under difficult circumstances.”
The cities targeted are NYC, Seattle and Portland.
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The feud between President Trump and Democratically-controlled cities, which have moved to defund police and enable rioters, sharply escalated Sunday after the Justice Department labeled New York City and three other metro areas as "anarchist jurisdictions," according to a leaked report in the New York Post.
Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, were the two other cities identified as "anarchist jurisdictions" in a measure that was approved by Attorney General William Barr. The "anarchist" designations set the pathway for the Trump administration to defund these "lawless" metro areas, which would likely worsen an emerging fiscal crisis.
"When state and local leaders impede their law-enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to assemble and protest peacefully," Barr said in a statement, expected to be released Monday.
"We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance," Barr added.
"It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens," he said.
In a five-page memo sent to federal agencies on Sept. 2, Trump directed Budget Director Vought to issue the new guidance within a month "to the heads of agencies on restricting the eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of federal grants."
Trump tweeted on Sept. 2 that his 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."
He added at the end of the tweet: "We're putting them [liberal cities] 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
Vought told the Post earlier this month that "American taxpayers who fund the great programs that our cities rely on deserve to be protected by their local city officials." He added that the administration was "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. Our men and women in blue cannot be handcuffed by local leadership in their efforts to respond to riots and protect their fellow citizens."
After months of social unrest, chaos, and a surge in violent crime, will Trump's move to withhold federal funding from these cities be enough to force errant Democratic mayors back into line?