Photos by Evan Vucci/AP Photo and Brendan McDermid/Reuters
- President Donald Trump issued a memo instructing executive agencies to cut federal funding to “anarchist” cities and states including Seattle, Portland, New York City, and D.C.
- In the memo, Trump claimed that those cities, among others, have “contributed to the violence and destruction” and thus should not be eligible for federal money.
- Many legal experts and politicians condemned the move, saying it was illegal because only Congress has the power to direct federal funds.
- Others argued that Trump is just doing this as a political stunt to rile up his base.
Trump’s Funding Memo
President Donald Trump issued a memo on Wednesday directing federal officials to cut federal funding to Democratic-led cities that the administration deems “anarchist jurisdictions.”
“Unfortunately, anarchy has recently beset some of our States and cities,” Trump said in the memo, adding that state and local governments have, “contributed to the violence and destruction” by “failing to enforce the law, disempowering and significantly defunding their police departments, and refusing to accept offers of Federal law enforcement assistance.”
He went on to cite examples in New York, Portland, Seattle, and Washington D.C., though he noted other cities “have decided to pursue reckless policies that allow crime and lawlessness to multiply.”
“My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” he continued. “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.”
Regarding what that review will involve, the memo directs the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidance within 14 days asking executive department heads to submit a report detailing all federal funds that are currently given to Seattle, Portland, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
Trump also instructed the OMB Director, along with the Secretary of Homeland Security, to publish a list on the Department of Justice website within 14 days that identify “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).”
The memo goes on to outline what factors are to be used in identifying “anarchist jurisdictions,” including whether it “forbids the police force from intervening to restore order” in times of violence or destruction, “disempowers or defunds police departments,” refuses to accept law enforcement assistance from the administration, or “any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate.”
The memo concluded by directing the OMB head to issue guidance to other agencies in 30 days, “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.”
If Trump’s memo holds, it would give his administration incredibly wide discretion to take billions of dollars in federal money to some of the biggest urban places.
As a result, the plan provoked a fiery response. Many people condemned Trump for trying to cut federal funding to states and cities during a pandemic and an economic crisis.
Others also argued that the move was illegal, including legal experts like Sam Berger, a former senior policy advisor at the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration. Berger told The Guardian that it’s unlikely any cities will actually have their funding cut because Congress has the authority to determine how funding is distributed, and agencies cannot “willy-nilly restrict funding.”
“The president obviously has no power to pick and choose which cities to cut off from congressionally appropriated funding,” Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law scholar at Harvard, said in an email to the outlet, adding that the president “has no defunding spigot. The power of the purse belongs to Congress, not the Executive. Donald Trump must have slept through high school civics.”
In addition to experts, a number of politicians echoed claims that Trump’s plan was illegal, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who lashed out at Trump in what some have said was his strongest attacks on the president ever.
“President Trump has actively sought to punish NYC since day one,” he wrote on Twitter. “He let COVID ambush New York. He refuses to provide funds that states and cities MUST receive to recover. He is not a king. He cannot ‘defund’ NYC. It’s an illegal stunt.”
“It’s cheap, it’s political, it’s gratuitous, and it’s illegal,” Cuomo told reporters Wednesday, adding that Trump “better have an army if he thinks he’s going to walk down the street in New York.”
The governor later clarified that he meant New Yorkers themselves would not welcome the president in the city.
“The best thing he did for New York City was leave,” he said. “Good riddance. Let him go to Florida. Be careful not to get COVID.”
While other leaders of the from the states and cities Trump flagged in his memo have said the move would be illegal, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, some have also indicated that they believe Trump’s memo was simply just a political stunt to rile up his base.
“He continues to believe that disenfranchising people living in this country to advance his petty grudges is an effective political strategy,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said of Trump in a series of tweets. “The rest of us know it is dangerous, destructive, and divisive.”
“This has nothing to do with ‘law and order,” a spokesperson for New York Mayor Bill De Blasio tweeted. “This is a racist campaign stunt out of the Oval Office to attack millions of people of color.”
No legal challenges have been filed yet, though some can almost certainly be expected. New York officials have already said they are considering their legal options.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Guardian) (The New York Post)
Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan
- President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus proposal on Thursday.
- Under the plan, $1 trillion would go to direct relief for Americans. This includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension and $400 weekly increase to federal unemployment benefits, and a $15 minimum wage.
- The proposal would also allocate $440 billion for aid to local governments and businesses, as well as provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus with more testing and vaccinations, among other efforts.
Biden Outlines Direct Aid in Stimulus Plan
President-elect Joe Biden announced the details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package while speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.
Biden described the package, titled “American Rescue Plan,” as a set of emergency measures to immediately address the country’s economic and healthcare needs. The package will be followed by a second, broader relief package in February, which will aim to address more long-term economic recovery efforts.
Most significantly, $1 trillion — more than half of the funding allocated in the first package — will go to direct relief for Americans. Among other measures, the direct aid provisions in the plan include increasing federal unemployment benefits from $300 a week to $400 a week and extending them from March to September.
Biden’s plan also includes $1,400 stimulus checks to top off the $600 already approved in the December stimulus package. However, eligibility for the direct payments would be expanded to families of non-citizen immigrants as well as families with adult dependents.
Additionally, the proposal includes several other measures targeted at directly helping struggling Americans, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding billions in funding for child care, and expanding the child tax credit to poor and middle-class families.
As for the broader economic and pandemic-centered measures, Biden’s package would allocate $440 billion for aid to states, local governments, and businesses. It would also provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus, with a major focus on expanding testing and accelerating vaccine distribution.
Biden has set the dual goals of delivering 100 million vaccines and reopening the majority of K-12 public schools in his first 100 days. To meet that objective, his plan includes $20 billion for a universal vaccination program, $50 billion to expand testing, and $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.
The proposal, overall, meets many of the demands for direct aid that Democrats have pushed for months but have been unable to approve with the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats hold the presidency and control of both chambers, many members have urged Biden to ask for an even higher price tag.
Biden, for his part, has said he would like to try for a bipartisan majority on his first piece of legislation, but given Republicans months-long resistance to many Democratic asks, that desire is likely a pipe-dream.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters
- More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
- The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
- The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.”
- Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.
Demands for Investigation
Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.
In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack.
In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.
They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.
The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”
Members Under Fire
Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.
In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection.
Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.
“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”
While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.
“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”
Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
House Impeaches Trump By Largest Bipartisan Margin in History
- The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
- Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote in favor of impeachment, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
- Ahead of the vote, sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he was pleased Democrats were moving forward with a vote because it will make it easier to “purge” Trump from the party.
- McConnel later said he has not yet decided whether he will vote to convict Trump. Still, he has refused to convene the Senate before Jan. 19, meaning that as of now, there is little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before his term ends.
House Debates Impeachment
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
All Democrats voted in favor of the single article. They were also joined by 10 Republicans, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
The decision was debated on the floor after Vice President Pence rejected Democrats’ calls to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.
Most notable among the Republican members who voted to impeach was Liz Cheney (R-WY), the number three House Republican who announced her decision Tuesday night.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.
Questionable Path in Senate
No Republican Senators have publicly said they support removing Trump from office.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party.”
Sources separately told Axios that “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell would vote to convict Trump.
McConnell responded to the reports earlier on Wednesday but did not outright dispute many of the claims.
“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.
As for whether or not other members of the GOP would follow suit, a top Republican close to McConnell also told Axios that “Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump.
Additionally, McConnell’s advisers have said that he has “privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict.” Notably, it would most likely require 17 Republicans to join Democrats in order for Trump to be found guilty.
In regards to a timeline, the Senate is in recess and not set to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. McConnell has rejected calls to ask that members return before then, meaning that as of right now there is very little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before he leaves office.