What chaos? New York pols blast Trump and Barr for ‘anarchist’ designation, and vow to fight it

(Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

After the U.S. Department of Justice, under Attorney General Willian Barr, designated New York City, Seattle and Portland “anarchist jurisdictions,” Governor Andrew Cuomo dismissed the measure Monday as a mere campaign stunt and Trump administration money grab that won’t hold up in court.

While Cuomo chocked the announcement up to Trump-being-Trump, New York state is nonetheless taking the declaration seriously — as it jeopardizes billions of dollars in federal funds to New York City.

State Attorney General Letitia James is mobilizing her office to sue the Trump administration and stop them from withhold funds for New York City, Seattle and Portland as part of their alleged illegal designation.

According to Cuomo, New York City is entitled to $7.4 billion through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME program, among others, and cannot be withheld since it was approved by the House of Representatives for specific uses by the city.

“If you remember, the Trump Administration tried this once before, not a new play. A couple of years ago they said sanctuary cities would not get federal criminal justice moneys and we said it was illegal and unconstitutional. We sued them and we won. Federal court said they could not take the federal money that was appropriated by Congress,” Cuomo said. “Policing is a power by the Constitution that is left to the States. That’s the Tenth Amendment, it’s left to the States… So just like sanctuary cities when he did it a couple of years ago and lost, if they actually do this, we will challenge it legally and he will lose once again because we’ve seen this play before. But again, it’s just for the politics and part of his campaign rhetoric.”

On Sept. 3, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum to the Office of Management and Budget ordering them to restrict grant eligibility to cities under this designation within 30 days. The DOJ justified this decision cut off funding on the grounds that crime is on the rise in New York City and also as retribution for the city government making superficial cuts to NYPD in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

James isn’t buying it.

“This designation is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to scare Americans into voting for a commander-in-chief who is actually incapable of commanding our nation,” James said. “President Trump failed to listen to scientists, failed to steer our economy through this pandemic, and has repeatedly failed to bring our nation together. The president should be prepared to defend this illegal order in court, which hypocritically lays the groundwork to defund New York and the very types of law enforcement President Trump pretends to care about.”

Barr said Monday that the designation was intended to motivate these cities to restore order — despite the five boroughs being more or less calm since the last of the George Floyd demonstrations dissipated in early June.

“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. 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,” Barr said in a statement.

New York City hasn’t seen a night of rioting since June, but that didn’t stop Attorney General William Barr from claiming Monday that the city was an “anarchist” zone unworthy of federal funding. Chip Somodevilla/Pool via REUTERS

Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed that he has seen little of the chaos or anarchism described by the Trump administration and that, in fact, life is returning to some semblance of normalcy.

“I was out in Elmhurst Queens this morning, I saw peace, tranquility, I saw people going about their business, people excited that it’s the first day of school – I saw anything but anarchy. This is just another one of President Trump’s games,” De Blasio said Monday morning. “It’s insulting to the people of New York City and his effort to withhold our funding is unconstitutional.”

Later on Monday, de Blasio joined Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan in a joint statement denouncing Trump and his funding threat.

“This is thoroughly political and unconstitutional,” they said. “The President is playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds. 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. What the Trump Administration is engaging in now is more of what we’ve seen all along: shirking responsibility and placing blame elsewhere to cover its failure.”