Trump directs federal agencies to defund 4 Democratic cities, other 'anarchist jurisdictions'

Trump and William Barr
(Image credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump released a five-page memo Wednesday directing federal agencies to find ways to cut billions in federal grants to four solidly Democratic cities and determine which other "anarchist jurisdictions" he could defund. Trump specifically targeted New York City; Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon. He claimed these cities have become "lawless zones" that "permit anarchy, violence, and destruction."

Trump gave Attorney General William Barr 14 days to identify these "anarchist jurisdictions," and his given criteria include any area that "disempowers or defunds police departments" or "forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction." The Office of Management and Budget has 30 days to direct agencies to find ways to restrict federal grants to these justifications, which Trump doesn't name, "possibly for legal reasons," the New York Post reports.

As part of his campaign strategy "to shift the public's attention away from his administration's failed response to the coronavirus pandemic," Trump "has repeatedly sought to paint cities as hellscapes that only he can save, regardless of how limited the violent outbreaks have been during broader protests against acts of brutality by police officers against Black people," The New York Times notes. His latest "move is almost certain to face legal challenges."

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The leaders of the four targeted cities did in fact threaten legal action, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called Trump's "illegal" order another "cheap" and "gratuitous" attempt by a wannabe "king" to "kill New York City," adding that Trump "better have an army if he thinks he's going to walk down the street in New York," their shared home town.

The Washington Post's Paul Farhi pointed out that "cutting funding to punish cities that have defunded police" will probably "lead cities to ... further defund police," due to lack of funds. But these cities were never going to vote for Trump, and FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver points out that Trump, perversely, doesn't need them to.

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If Joe Biden gets huge wins in Washington, New York, and Oregon, it won't help his "Electoral College chances at all," Silver notes.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.