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Seattle, Portland, NYC sue Trump administration over threat to pull federal money

Seattle, Portland, NYC sue Trump administration over threat to pull federal money
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New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., sued the Trump administration in federal court Thursday over its threat to pull federal funding after the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that the cities “permit anarchy.”

The suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington challenges President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE’s memorandum issued last month that would withhold millions of dollars from the Democratic-led cities. The suit also challenges Attorney General William BarrBill BarrKellyanne Conway acknowledges Biden as apparent winner Trump Pentagon nominee alleged Biden 'coup': report Ex-FBI lawyer who falsified document in Trump-Russia probe seeks to avoid prison MORE’s designation of the cities as “anarchist jurisdictions.”

The cities argue the executive branch does not have authority to impose conditions on congressional funds without Congress’s approval, and that the “anarchist” designation was based on vague factors entirely within Barr’s discretion.

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The cities are asking the federal court to remove the “anarchist jurisdiction” designation and prohibit the administration from withholding the funds. 

“Seattle and people across America need help fighting a pandemic that has claimed over 220,000 American lives, fixing an economic crisis that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans unemployed, and bringing America together during this civil rights reckoning,” Seattle Mayor Jenny DurkanJenny DurkanAt a time of crisis, America's mayors are ready to partner with President-elect Biden Seattle City Council cuts police department budget nearly 17 percent Biden pledges to work with mayors MORE (D) said in a statement. “Instead, the President chooses to ignore science, divide Americans, and threaten the lifeline for many struggling in this time.” 

The administration has reportedly considered cutting millions of dollars for COVID-19 and other health programs in the three cities because the DOJ said they “permit anarchy.” 

Politico reported Tuesday that the cities could lose funding for health programs that serve low-income residents, the elderly and others, according to documents it obtained. Nearly 200 health programs could face cuts from the Trump administration. 

A list sent to the White House budget office on Friday from the Department of Health and Human Services includes approximately 1,500 funding awards that have been given to the three cities as well as Washington, D.C., since 2018, the news outlet reported.

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The president issued an order in early September requiring agency heads to send reports detailing federal funding sent to New York City, D.C., Portland and Seattle over the cities’ handling of protests amid nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in May.

"My Administration will do everything in its power to prevent weak mayors and lawless cities from taking Federal dollars while they let anarchists harm people, burn buildings, and ruin lives and businesses. We’re putting them on notice today," the president tweeted at the time.

The Justice Department hit Portland, Seattle and New York City with the “anarchist” label in September for rejecting federal law enforcement assistance amid the protests. They also highlighted New York's and Portland’s efforts to cut police funding.

Since the nationwide protests began this summer, Trump has sought to seize the moment for his reelection bid by portraying the Democratic-led cities as violent and lawless, and to paint himself as a “law and order” president.

Barr has told federal prosecutors to aggressively charge protesters with crimes, and even encouraged them to charge demonstrators with sedition. He’s also pushed to detain protesters while they await trials, despite the coronavirus pandemic.