The Justice Department Sees ‘Anarchy’ Overtaking New York City. If Only That Were Remotely True.
Today, the Department of Justice declared that New York City, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, are “permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction.”
This isn’t just about Attorney General William Barr happily assisting President Donald Trump’s re-election efforts by escalating attacks on urban centers. This is yet another attempt to manipulate federal spending on cities in ways that shift the boundaries between the executive branch and Congress.
The Justice Department has been trying to do something similar with “sanctuary” cities and states, where local law enforcement declines to help the federal government enforce immigration law. Federal courts had been ruling against the administration’s efforts to withhold grants from these jurisdictions, on the grounds that the power to dictate these grants’ terms lies in Congress, not the Department of Justice. But in February the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit found in favor of the administration, and that may lead to a possible Supreme Court showdown.
Trump released a memo September 2 ordering Barr to identify “anarchist jurisdictions,” defined as places whose leaders have reduced funding to police departments or forbidden police from “intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction.” The memo gives Barr the power to declare a jurisdiction to be in anarchy based on whatever guidelines he “deems appropriate.”
Now that Barr has named these three cities, the Office of Management and Budget is supposed to examine all the federal grants these cities receive, to see if the feds can punish the towns by pulling funds.
The idea that New York City resembles an “anarchy”—or that any city has become an anarchy due to this summer’s spike in crimes and riots—is fundamentally absurd. It is true that New York City, like many major American cities, has seen a spike this summer in gun violence and homicide. But by historical standards, the overall violent crime rate remains fairl
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