The Trump administration designated New York City as an "anarchist jurisdiction" that could be stripped of its federal funding Monday, a move that Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed as a toothless campaign tactic by a “racist” president.
“This is just another one of President Trump’s games. It’s thoroughly political. It’s part of his campaign strategy. It makes no sense,” de Blasio said at a press briefing. “It’s insulting to the people of New York City.”
The Department of Justice said that New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington “have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist,” and could be subject to a threat to hold back their federal funds.
De Blasio said the city will fight the move in court if it comes to that, but he predicted the threat would fizzle, similar to Trump’s vow to yank federal funding from sanctuary cities with immigrant-friendly policies.
“It’s all about race, and it’s all about attempts to divide and to enthrall his base by attacking the other. This is what this guy does. It’s the only trick in his book,” de Blasio said.
“There’s just no president in history whose been this irresponsible and divisive,” he added.
In its announcement, DOJ cited the spike in shootings in the city this year and a budget agreement to cut $1 billion from the NYPD, although the scope of the cuts turned out to be much smaller when full details of the budget emerged.
The department also cited decisions by the Brooklyn and Manhattan district attorneys not to prosecute low-level charges against protesters and the New York’s rejection of federal agents to patrol the city.
“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.
Jim Johnson, the city’s corporation counsel, said there was no legal basis for the Trump administration to withhold federal funds, which are controlled by Congress.
“The designation of anarchy doesn’t even pass a common sense test. And if need be, we can send in addition to our legal filings a dictionary,” Johnson said. “Essentially this would be a high-tech heist.”
The mayor joined other New Yorkers in mocking the claim that the city’s streets had devolved into anarchy, saying he saw a different scene when greeting four-year-olds reporting for their first day of pre-K in Queens.
“I saw anything but anarchy,” he said.