The Department of Justice on Monday released a list of cities it has deemed "anarchist jurisdictions" under President Donald Trump's instructions earlier this month to review federal funding to local governments in places where violence or vandalism has occurred during protests.
That memo directed Attorney General William Barr, in consultation with Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, to identify jurisdictions "that have permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities (anarchist jurisdictions)."
On Monday, the Justice Department labeled New York City, Portland and Seattle such areas, though the department said it was still working to identify other jurisdictions that meet criteria outlined in Trump's memo.
"We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance," Barr said. "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."
As part of its rationale for labeling the cities as such, the Justice Department cited city councils voting to cut police funding, the refusal to prosecute protesters for charges like disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, the rejection of federal intervention, and law enforcement officials suffering injuries during violent outbursts.
New York Attorney General Letitia James responded to the Justice Department's announcement in a statement Monday, saying Trump is "using the last few months of his presidency to sow more chaos, more hatred, and more fear," and pledged to defeat the Trump administration in court over any such withholding of funding to the city and state.
"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," she said, adding that Trump "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."
Democratic mayors and governors earlier this month bashed Trump over his latest effort aimed at what he calls "Democrat-run" cities and states. They said it was illegal for the executive branch to unilaterally withhold funding from their jurisdictions and that Trump was merely seeking another distraction from the U.S. coronavirus death toll, which has now topped 200,000.
"It is another attempt to kill New York City," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters during a late-night conference call earlier this month, adding Trump "better have an army if he thinks he's going to walk down the streets in New York."
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called Trump's efforts "the latest baseless, petty and divisive move by President Trump to distract from his abject failure to protect Americans from COVID-19."
"With more than 185,000 lives lost on his watch, we won't forget," he said. "The president cannot and will not defund us. He is not a dictator and laws still apply to him."
At the time, a White House official said the effort was aimed at withholding grant money from such jurisdictions it deemed to be "anarchist."
"We're not going to keep providing those funds from the federal level if they're not using them," the official said.