WASHINGTON – The Justice Department labeled the cities of New York, Seattle and Portland as jurisdictions “that have permitted violence and destruction of property,” targeting them for possible cuts in federal funding.
Following a memorandum issued earlier this month by President Donald Trump, the Justice Department published a list of cities that the White House wants to get more aggressive on civil unrest in the wake of police shootings and killings.
“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “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.”
The Trump administration was unsuccessful in a similar funding-cut move against New York and other cities over their immigration policies. A federal appeals court ruled that the move violated the separation of powers spelled out in the Constitution.
The three cities identified by the Justice Department are the same ones listed in the president’s original memorandum. Local officials have accused the federal government of worsening tensions in their cities by advocating angrier confrontations between law enforcement and protesters, and in the case of Portland, sending heavily-armed federal agents to quell street clashes.
The president’s Sept. 2 memo also criticized Washington, D.C.’s Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser, saying she “allowed “rioters and anarchists to engage in violence and destruction,” but the nation’s capital was not included on Monday’s list.
The Trump administration said it is considering adding other cities to the list, if officials withdraw officers from policing problem areas, or if a city leader “disempowers or defunds” police departments, or “unreasonably refuses” to accept law enforcement assistance from the federal government. The Justice Department may also add cities to the list based on “any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate,” the agency said.
The naming of the three cities is the latest effort by the administration to force cities to take a tougher stance against unruly protests.
In recent weeks, Barr urged federal prosecutors to aggressively pursue cases against those committing violence amid the protests. In a conference call with prosecutors, he suggested prosecutors consider parts of a rarely-used law against sedition, if they find evidence matching the law’s language criminalizing the use of force to oppose the government.
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