PoliticsStacy M. Brown

Can an Unhinged President Trump Legally Withhold Funding from D.C.?

Donald Trump is a lot of things to a lot of people. Most notably – and perhaps most disturbing to a growing portion of the 330 million people who call this country home. He is president of the United States of America. This is the first in a series by The Washington Informer titled, “Unhinged,” which will chronicle the behavior, race-baiting and well-documented lies that have marked Trump’s presidency.

In a newsletter emailed earlier this week, the New York Times noted that “Trump breaks so many of the normal rules of politics that it can sometimes be hard to know when his tweets and comments are truly newsworthy.”

The Old Gray Lady declared, “even by his standards, though, the past several days have stood out.”

In a barrage of what most point to as flat-out lies, Trump claimed there was an airplane “completely loaded with thugs,” who were wearing “dark uniforms” preparing to do “big damage.”

The Times and other outlets pointed out that Trump’s claim reflected a previous baseless conspiracy theory that went viral earlier in the summer.

Only, Trump suggested it was currently happening.

"Trump is not a king," says D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. (WI file photo)
“Trump is not a king,” says D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. (WI file photo)

“People in dark shadows” are controlling Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump railed before falsely stating that the Democratic National Convention didn’t discuss law enforcement and the police. “Those words were never mentioned,” Trump proclaimed.

On the contrary, Biden held a discussion at the convention on policing – with a police chief.

The president has not only been caught lying almost daily since taking office but he’s shown just how dangerous his rhetoric and race-baiting can be.

He invited the gun-toting Missouri couple to speak at the Republican National Convention – the same couple who pointed weapons at peaceful, mostly African-American protesters.

RELATED: Fox News Running Recycled Footage to Stoke Fears, Push Trump Agenda: Report

Trump has claimed that Biden and the Democrats are trying to destroy the suburbs with low-income housing and “with that comes a lot of other problems, including crime.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Trump said, would be in charge of it. Many observers noted the dog-whistle – Booker, who is Black, would be the new Housing and Urban Development Secretary under a Biden administration and he’d allow urban Black thugs to move into the lily-white suburbs and there goes the neighborhood.

What else makes Trump dangerous? For District residents, one immediate concern is the president’s recent threat to withhold federal funding because of his disdain for Mayor Muriel Bowser. (Trump’s disdain for women, particularly those of color, has not gone unnoticed.)

In a signed memo, Trump asked agencies to look into whether federal funding provided to D.C. and other cities can be redirected. Specifically, he directed the agencies to see whether D.C. officials have intervened with local enforcement efforts to “restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction”; defunded or “disempowered” police departments; refused assistance from the federal government in the form of additional law enforcement; and withdrew law enforcement from areas they usually tend to.”

The memo says U.S. Attorney General William Barr has 14 days to develop a list of “anarchist jurisdictions.” White House budget director Russ Vought then has about a month to issue guidance on how those funds can be redirected.

“My Administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” Trump wrote in the memo.

“He can’t do that, Congress wouldn’t let him,” New Jersey Democratic Congressman Donald Payne, Jr., told the Informer. “We have laws.”

Bowser also responded. “Our cities, and the millions of Americans we represent, are not President Trump’s political pawns,” said the mayor, whom Trump called “radically liberal.”

“The president, instead of talking about the failures of the last four years, especially the COVID-19 national response, the failure of the economy and the failure to move meaningful legislation for the people, whether its unemployment or small business relief, as a distraction, he’s focused on American cities, where millions of Americans live,” Bowser said.

“I said the other day that a president who attacks American cities is really attacking America,” she added.

D.C. Democratic Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton noted that Trump isn’t king. She says if acted upon, his memo would unconstitutionally usurp the spending power which lies exclusively with Congress.

“The framers understood that the power of the purse could undercut the functioning of democracy itself and therefore left funding with the people, through the Congress. Note that spending bills almost always originate in the House of Representatives,” Norton said.

“The president may be able to condition funding if Congress has given him the power to do so, and a circuit court recently held he may be able to withhold policing grants from sanctuary cities, though there is a circuit split on this matter. But his memo’s wholesale threat to withhold funds from cities is a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers which gives the spending power exclusively to Congress.”

But Congressional action has already been attempted. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has written a bill that would strip funding from cities that refuse to protect their citizens’ life, liberty, and property rights.

The fiscal watchdog group, Open the Books, reports that the federal government has provided the D.C. government with $3.3 billion from 2016 through 2019 – on average $4,680 per person – more than any other city.

The organization, which is run by individuals who identify as Republicans but suggest their research is non-partisan, notes that the District’s government has 8,000 employees earning more than $100,000 per year, including Bowser at $220,000, Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham at more than $273,000 and D.C. Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee at $280,000.

Most importantly, withholding federal funds would decimate school districts, unemployment benefits, healthcare and rehabilitation programs.

The question remains whether Trump could act to prevent funding. According to most legislators, the short answer is affirmative if Trump is re-elected, the GOP retains control of the Senate and federal courts continue to be stacked with judges favorable to the president.

“Law and order is an election issue that could become a fiscal problem for big cities whose mayors stand down their police in the face of urban unrest,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com.

“Federal subsidies could come with a lot more stipulations if the president is reelected and has congressional coattails,” Andrzejewski concluded.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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