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Democratic mayors rip Trump funding threat: We're not 'political pawns'

Four Democratic mayors fired back at President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE on Thursday after he threatened to cut off funding for certain cities grappling with what he called "lawless" protests.

New York City's Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioAdams, Wiley lead field in NYC mayoral primary: poll New York City moving thousands of people from hotels back to shelters The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters MORE, Portland's Ted Wheeler, Seattle's Jenny DurkanJenny DurkanMost Biden-won states to meet July 4 COVID-19 vaccine goal: analysis Seattle is first major US city to see 70 percent of residents fully vaccinated, mayor says Will Seattle officials use the same lawsuit defense they want to take away from police? MORE and Washington, D.C.'s Muriel BowserMuriel BowserDC to offer gift cards to those getting first COVID-19 shot White House to host large outdoor gathering for July 4 DC board votes to lift last COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants MORE released a joint statement responding to the president's threat, saying they will not be used as “political pawns.”

“Our cities, and the millions of Americans who we represent, are not President Trump’s political pawns. We are confronting unprecedented challenges—fighting back a pandemic and economic devastation without another stimulus. Now, instead of leadership from the White House, we are faced with new attacks that are unlawful, unconstitutional and will be undoubtedly defeated in court,” the mayors said. 

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“President Trump needs to wake up to the reality facing our cities—and our entire country—and realize he is not above the law.” 

The fiery rebuke came a day after Trump signed a memo ordering federal agencies to provide the Office of Management and Budget with a report detailing all federal funds provided to the four cities within two weeks.

Each of the cities have seen protests against systemic racism and police brutality in recent months. Many of the demonstrations have been peaceful, though some have devolved into looting and clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

“My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” Trump wrote. “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.”

The memo is the latest salvo of the president’s “law and order” message as the country undergoes a national reckoning over systemic racism.

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Cities across the U.S. have been roiled by protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May. The demonstrations have been fueled by other high-profile shootings, including those of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and most recently Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

Trump has cast the protesters as “anarchists” who would spread violence if he loses reelection and has laid blame for the unrest at the feet of Democratic mayors and governors.

"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,” the federal memo states. 

Several critics have fired back, accusing the president of inflaming racial tensions and noting that the demonstrations are happening under his watch. 

“This pandemic, a struggling economy, and a national awakening to the reality of systemic injustice in America all call for a time of national healing and unity, but this effort is intended only to inflame tensions and divide us. [The memo] is without merit, and it would hurt the people that a president is entrusted to protect,” said U.S. Conference of Mayors Executive Director Tom Cochran.