In an unusual move that I’m sure came as quite a shock to the residents of these cities, The Department of Justice (DOJ) has designated New York City, Portland, and Seattle as jurisdictions that permit anarchy and violence. What does that mean exactly? Well, according to Business Insider, the department is quoted as saying, “[These cities have] permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.”
This move comes as part of a larger threat by Trump to refuse federal funding to Democratic cities who have in his mind, permitted all-out anarchy in the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s death earlier this summer. Astute folk, might recognize this tactic. It’s a threat he employs whenever anyone goes against his wishes. He’s threatened schools multiple times, Democratic cities multiple times, the WHO, California several times, and the list goes on.
Twitter was quick to respond to this nonsense, highlighting the “horrifying anarchy” that has taken root in NYC and beyond.
On a serious note though, this is just the latest in an enduring trend by the Trump administration and more specifically Attorney General Bill Barr to convince you not to believe what you see and hear with your eyes. This move lays the groundwork for shifting responsibility off of them and on to whatever scapegoat they have determined is truly at fault.
Some might recognize this as the same trick they always pull when enacting burdensome abortion regulations. They always claim that whatever insidious regulation they are enacting is only necessary to protect the very group of people that it intentionally harms. According to CNS News, in a press release, Barr is quoted as saying, “When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest.”
Nowhere to be found is any admission of the role government and law enforcement agencies have played in antagonizing and assaulting protesters across the country. Nowhere is there a recognition that police and the Trump Administration have not for one single second worked to diffuse the protests across the country in a peaceful manner or even remotely consider the demands which sparked these protests. They’ve only ever done the opposite, working as hard as they can to assassinate the reputation of the protesters, violently punish those who dare to stand up to their antics, and label anyone who disagrees as an Antifa-loving terrorist.
I mean, it’s hard to see this any other way when a story comes out about Barr directing the DOJ to consider whether or not they could not only arrest protesters on charges of sedition but also arrest local leaders who dared to reject Trump and Barr’s authoritarian deal with the devil.
The Trump administration has used this playbook before when going after cities and states that have declared themselves as sanctuary jurisdictions, meaning that state officials and law enforcement have chosen to not work federal officials to enforce immigration law.
These laws thoroughly pissed Trump and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) off enough to actually follow through with their initial threat to pull some federal funding from certain jurisdictions. This promptly led to several court battles and an appeals court split. Most sided with the Supreme Court precedent set by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in Printz v. United States. It says that the executive branch cannot conscript states into doing their bidding and then retaliate if the states refuse. Budgetary power rest solely with Congress and thus any requirements or conditions on various pots of federal money can only be added, altered, or changed by Congress.
In short, Attorney Barr and Trump cannot randomly impose conditions on federal money. That power rests with Congress. Now, for some reason, judges in the Second Court of Appeals didn’t get the memo and ruled against this precedent, so there is likely to be a Supreme Court ruling on this matter in the future.
That being said and assuming the Supreme Court sticks with the precedent that one of its most conservative justices in recent memory set over twenty years ago, then that same line of logic would apply here. The federal government cannot pull funding just because it doesn’t like how a state handles a situation within its borders.
Even murkier still is the fact that with the protests, these jurisdictions can’t really be accused of hindering a federal law of any kind. Instead, all Barr has are these vague ideas of maintaining order. All of this strikes at the root of what Barr has worked steadily through his term as Attorney General to maintain, that the President’s will is unquestionable.
A truly ominous thought when you consider the current occupant of the White House.