Oct 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

NYC, Portland, Seattle sue Trump admin over threat to pull federal funding

BLM protest in Seattle
Black Lives Matter protesters march through a downtown street in Seattle, June 14. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

New York City, Portland and Seattle sued the Trump administration on Thursday over its threat to withdraw federal funding after the Justice Department designated the cities as "anarchist jurisdictions" for their handling of protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

Why it matters: In an effort to help his re-election bid, President Trump has tried to paint himself as a "president of law and order," arguing that Democratic-led cities have seen "crazy violence" since the start of nationwide demonstrations this summer.

The big picture: The lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington challenges a memo Trump issued last month threatening to pull federal funding from jurisdictions that "permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities (anarchist jurisdictions)."

  • The cities argue that Congress, not the executive branch, has the power to impose conditions on federal funding,
    • "No act of Congress gives the Attorney General the authority to designate cities as 'anarchist jurisdictions' from which federal funding may be withheld," the lawsuit says.
  • The cities add that Attorney General Bill Barr based his designation "on an arbitrary and capricious list of misleading and cherry-picked bullet-points about each City that in no way supports the assertion that the Cities have chosen to abandon their jurisdictions to lawlessness and violence."

The bottom line: The cities could lose funding for nearly 200 "programs that serve their poorest, sickest residents after the president moved last month to restrict funding, escalating his political battle against liberal cities he’s sought to use as a campaign foil," Politico first reported on Tuesday.

Go deeper