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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

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Cities getting desperate

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Dire budget problems in cities from coast to coast mean that furloughs and layoffs of essential workers could ring in the new year. So President-elect Joe Biden will face instant, high-stakes calls for relief. 

Why it matters: Suffering municipalities say there's no way they can tackle COVID-19 and all their other problems without direct and immediate aid.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.