ALBANY — State Attorney General Letitia James will take legal action against President Donald Trump if he follows through with his threat to defund New York City, she said Thursday.
Trump signed a five-page memo late Wednesday threatening to defund New York City, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Oregon, because of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and related violence and civil unrest in the wake of the death of unarmed black men at the hands of local police.
“Unfortunately, anarchy has recently beset some of our states and cities,” according to the president’s memo. “For the past few months, several state and local governments have contributed to the violence and destruction in their jurisdictions by failing to enforce the law, disempowering and significantly defunding their police departments, and refusing to accept offers of federal law enforcement assistance.”
Federal agency heads must submit a report to the director of the Office of Management and Budget detailing all federal funds provided to New York City, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland within 14 days.
The president is not a dictator, James replied in a statement Thursday, saying Trump threw fuel on multiple national fires with his threat as the U.S. battles the coronavirus pandemic, a deep economic recession and ongoing unrest over institutional racism.
“His efforts at tyrannical rule will be met with fierce opposition,” she said. “Time after time, we have beat the president in court and we have no doubt we will beat him again, if necessary.
“This is nothing more than a desperate, last-ditch election strategy by a president too weak to lead us through these national crises,” James added. “Sowing anger and dividing Americans are the last thing we need, and if the president actually decides to move forward with his threat to defund New York City, we will be ready to take immediate legal action. The president is not a dictator.”
The best thing Trump ever did for his New York City hometown was leave, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a fiery response Wednesday night to the president’s threat.
“He’s not gonna do anything — he doesn’t have the legal power to do anything,” Cuomo said of the president during a call with reporters. “I suspect it’s more of a political statement that he’s making more than anything else.
“He’s not going to stop funding for New York City — he’s not a king,” Cuomo said. “He thinks he’s a king, but he’s not. He’s a president. But there’s the Constitution and there are laws — nothing that he knows anything about — but the federal budget is appropriated by law with conditions of funding by law.”
Cuomo, originally from Queens, railed against Trump for several minutes Wednesday night and again Thursday morning, saying from the city’s viewpoint, the businessman and former reality television personality is the worst president in history.
“Look, the best thing he did for New York City was leave,” Cuomo said. “Good riddance, let him go to Florida. Be careful not to get COVID.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany addressed the president’s memo during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Within 14 days, the U.S. attorney general must publish a list identifying the states and localities 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),” according to Trump’s memo.
“We believe what we will do will be lawful,” McEnany said. “I’m not going to get ahead of what the final product will look like.
“This president wants to break through. Lives are at stake, but he will not in any way sacrifice safety. He will make sure this is 100% airtight.”
The list must be compiled with the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and the director of the Office of Management and Budget. The list must be updated at least every six months.
McEnany encouraged states and cities with increased violent crime to “step up” and not cut funding from local police departments, which she argued are adding to looting and lawlessness.
Trump has repeatedly taken actions to negatively impact New York City since his 2016 election, Cuomo said.
“I think it’s because he is from New York City and New York City rejected him always,” Cuomo said. “He was dismissed as a clown in New York City. Those who know him best like him least. That’s true about New York City. It’s true about his own family and I think that’s more and more clear to Americans.
“...New Yorkers will not forget how gratuitously mean he has been and how many times he’s tried to kill the city that gave him his start and birthed him.”
Trump changed his official residence to his Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Palm Beach, Fla., last fall — a move Cuomo said the president had to make because he’s unwelcome in New York.
“He couldn’t set foot in New York City,” Cuomo said. “He’d need bodyguards. He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City. Forget bodyguards. He’d need an army.
“I’m telling you, it’s personal because New York City knows him for the joke he is. He is persona non grata in New York.”
As a New Yorker, Trump has said he expects to win the state in the Nov. 3 presidential race. Cuomo said Thursday he’d like to bet the president any sum of money he will not flip New York red.
“Put your money where your mouth is,” Cuomo challenged. “Whatever he would like to wager on his winning New York, I would take him up on it. He’s going to lose New York. Why? ... He was disrespected in New York City and no one took him seriously. He was just a tabloid cartoon. We know him, and those who know him know he’s unsuited to be president.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, said his response to the Republican president’s memo was not political.
“I’m not playing politics with the president here; he may be playing politics in his statement,” Cuomo said. “This has nothing to do with Joe Biden. It has nothing to do with an election. This is a response to the president of the United States by the governor of the state of New York in response to his maniacal statements and actions.
“Because enough is enough.”