Trump Barfs Out Meaningless Order To Defund 'Anarchist Cities.' Blahblahblah.
donald trump GIF by Juppi Juppsen

Anarchist cities? Again with this shit?

Okay, fine. At the risk of dignifying this rancid word salad cum electoral stunt with more attention than it deserves, here's a brief lawsplainer on President Trump's dumbass memo threatening to withhold federal funds from Democratic cities and states.

"Unfortunately, anarchy has recently beset some of our States and cities," it begins, letting the reader know from its emo petulance and random capitalization that we're in for a signature Trump rant.

"For the past few months, several State and local governments have contributed to the violence and destruction in their jurisdictions by failing to enforce the law, disempowering and significantly defunding their police departments, and refusing to accept offers of Federal law enforcement assistance. As a result of these State and local government policies, persistent and outrageous acts of violence and destruction have continued unabated in many of America's cities, such as Portland, Seattle, and New York."

Fun fact: The federal government can neither dictate how a state directs its own police funds nor commandeer state resources to enforce federal law. Darn you, Tenth Amendment!

And, not for nothing, but which party has spent the past six decades blubbering about an overweening federal government usurping states' rights?

Anyway! The memo continues with a sad recitation of the racial justice protests over the past three months, blaming Democratic mayors for allowing "rioters and anarchists to engage in violence and destruction."

"In light of this unconscionable rise in violence, I have offered to provide Federal law enforcement assistance, but both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have rejected my offer," Trump complains. Perhaps they saw what a bang up job he did in Portland calming things down and decided to take a pass?

So, what does President Bigly Genius intend to do about it?

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. These funds have been collected from American taxpayers who entrusted their money to the Federal Government to serve our communities and our citizens.

My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones. 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.


Okay, here's a non-exhaustive list of reasons this is illegal nonsense.

First of all, the spending power rests with Congress under Article I. The president can't unilaterally usurp that power.

Second of all, most of the money flowing into cities has already been allocated by Congress and accepted by the states. The president can't just unilaterally impose additional conditions post facto.

Third of all, any conditions imposed by the executive branch on federal grants must be reasonably related to the purpose of those grants. So Trump can't withhold housing dollars because he doesn't like the way Portland's mayor is running the police.

Fourth of all, this memo doesn't even hint at a legal basis for the order, other than gesturing vaguely toward a "policy and purpose of the United States Government to protect the lives and property of all people in the United States from unlawful acts of violence and destruction." That's not gonna do it.

Fifth of all, the last time they tried this shit with the sanctuary cities, they got smacked down by a bunch of appellate courts. Only the Second Circuit said it was okay to withhold funds from cities who refuse to cooperate with ICE, and only insofar as the funding is related to that cooperation, i.e. the federal government can withhold law enforcement grants, but not money for social services.


The president purports to instruct the Office of Management and Budget to tot up "all Federal funds provided to Seattle, Portland, New York City, Washington, D.C., or any components or instrumentalities of the foregoing jurisdictions." (Spoiler Alert: It's a shit ton less than those jurisdictions send to the federal government.)

And then he instructs Bill Barr to "publish on the Department of Justice website a list identifying State and local 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)."

Oh, hey, here's a SIXTH OF ALL for ya! If there's no legal definition for "permitted violence," "persist," "refuse," "undertake," "reasonable," "counteract," and, lest we forget, "anarchist jurisdiction," then the statute is unconstitutionally void for vagueness in that it has no legal or objective meaning. Due process is a bitch, man.

And, no, laying out criteria such as "whether a jurisdiction unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government" (what is "unreasonably"?) and "any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate" isn't going to cut it.

"Within 30 days of the date of this memorandum," it continues, "the Director of OMB shall issue guidance to the heads of agencies on restricting eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of Federal grants that the agency has sufficient lawful discretion to restrict or otherwise disfavor anarchist jurisdictions from receiving."

The "maximum extent permitted by law" would be ... basically nothing. Does nothing work for you?

We've reached the Mad King stage of the Trump presidency. Holed up in the White House mainlining Fox News cut with OANN and whatever else the president is hopped up on, he's barking out nonsense orders. Make it illegal for Twitter to take down false COVID data! Designate Antifa as a terrorist organization! Defund Democrat Cities! And the servile dead-enders still hanging around the White House dutifully type out an order purporting to grant him his wish, safe in the knowledge that he'll have forgotten all about it by the time the courts tell him to GTFOH.

Sure, Russ Vought at OMB will probably produce something or other before the election. Probably some kind of guidance to cutting future grants to state law enforcement agencies if they reduce their budgets. But as for this Memorandum ....


[Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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