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Trump Directs Agencies To Cut Federal Funding From “Anarchist” Cities and States

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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.”

Response

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)

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Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium

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The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.


Eviction Freeze Set To Expire

President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.

The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.

While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.

In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress. 

“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” she said. 

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”

Delays in Relief Distribution 

The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.

Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.

A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires. 

The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape. 

Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.

According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 —  including New York — had not spent any funds at all.

Slim Chances in Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.

However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.

While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.

Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.

“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”

With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

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Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade

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The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.


Mississippi’s Abortion Case

Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.

After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.

Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.

If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.

When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”

Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.

As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.

When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”

But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

New Filing Takes Aim at Roe

With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.

“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.

“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers. 

“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.

“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”

The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.

An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.

See what others are saying:  (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)

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Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks

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The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.


Pelosi Vetoes Republicans

Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.

In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”

Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden. 

A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.

The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.

In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.

McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation

McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.

In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.” 

“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”

Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel. 

“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)

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