Health and Science

New York plans to sue Trump administration if it withholds federal funds from NYC

Key Points
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio admonished the president for threatening to withhold funding as local officials respond to the ongoing pandemic.
  • "You failed us, and now you want to punish us," de Blasio said at a news briefing.
  • The president's memo accuses state and local officials in some cities, all controlled by Democrats, of contributing to violence.
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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio threatens to sue after Trump tries to withhold federal funds

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and state officials on Thursday threatened to sue the Trump administration if it moves forward with plans to cut federal funding from a number of Democrat-run cities. 

President Donald Trump sent a memo Wednesday to Russell Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Attorney General Bill Barr that directs them to review and cut federal funding to "lawless" cities, including Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; New York and Washington, D.C.

De Blasio criticized the Trump administration's response and admonished the president for threatening to withhold funding as local officials respond to the ongoing pandemic.

"You failed us, and now you want to punish us," de Blasio said at a news briefing. "If you persist in trying to deny the funding that's keeping New York City going in the middle of this crisis, we will see you in court and, once again, we will beat you in court."

De Blasio issued a joint statement with the mayors of Portland, Seattle and Washington, saying they aren't "President Trump's political pawns." All of the mayors are Democrats.

"President Trump needs to wake up to the reality facing our cities — and our entire country — and realize he is not above the law," the mayors wrote.

De Blasio on Thursday called the Trump administration's move a "political stunt" that pushes the limits of power of the office.

Separately, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, called Trump a bully during a press call Thursday. He added that Barr is the president's "puppet."

New York SAttorney General Letitia James said the state is ready "to take immediate legal action" if Trump withholds funding for New York City, calling the memo "a desperate, last ditch election strategy by a president too weak to lead us through these national crises."

"Time after time, we have beat the president in court and we have no doubt we will beat him again, if necessary," James said in a statement Thursday. 

Trump's memo accuses state and local officials in some cities, all controlled by Democrats, of contributing to violence.

"To ensure that Federal funds are neither unduly wasted nor spent in a manner that directly violates our Government's promise to protect life, liberty, and property, it is imperative that the Federal Government review the use of Federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America's cities," Trump wrote. 

A number of cities across the country have seen a recent surge in violent crimes, including homicides, that outpaces the historical jump in violent crime expected every summer, The New York Times reported. The New York Police Department separately said shootings across the city jumped 166% in August over the same month last year. 

At news briefings, Trump has increasingly spent more time speaking about violence in American cities instead of the coronavirus outbreak that has now infected more than 6.1 million people in the U.S., killing at least 185,700 people in the country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has reported more confirmed cases of the coronavirus and deaths caused by Covid-19 than any other country in the world, accounting for more than 21% of all Covid-19 deaths worldwide.  

"The Federal Government provides States and localities with hundreds of billions of dollars every year, which fund a wide array of programs, such as housing, public transportation, job training, and social services," Trump's memo says. "My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones."

The memo gives Barr 14 days to identify "anarchist jurisdictions" where officials have "permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist." The memo directs Barr to update the list at least every six months. 

The memo also gives Vought 30 days to instruct federal agencies to restrict federal grants to such cities.

Trump names de Blasio twice in the memo, Cuomo once and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser once.

The amount of funding that could be withheld from cities besieged by the coronavirus is potentially tremendous. In 2017, for example, New York City received nearly $8 billion in federal categorical grants, accounting for about 9% of the city budget. 

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, a Democrat whose district encompasses much of Brooklyn, said that in the upcoming federal budget, New York City has asked for close to $12 billion, "so that we can make sure the city of New York is made whole."

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