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)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.