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NYC Mayor de Blasio threatens to sue U.S. after Trump tries to withhold federal funds

Mayor Bill de Blasio greets healthcare workers and conducts a press conference at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, New York, April 10, 2020.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday threatened to sue the Trump administration if it moves forward with  plans to cut federal funding from a number of Democrat-run cities. 

De Blasio criticized the Trump administration’s response and admonished the president for threatening to withhold funding as local officials respond to the ongoing pandemic.

“You failed us and now you want to punish us,” de Blasio said at a news briefing. “If you persist in trying to deny the funding that’s keeping New York City going in the middle of this crisis, we will see you in court and, once again, we will beat you in court.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Trump a bully in a separate press call Thursday. 

President Donald Trump signed a memo Wednesday that threatens to cut federal funding to “lawless” cities, including Seattle, Portland, New York and Washington.The memo to Russell Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Attorney General Bill Barr accuses state and local officials in some cities, all controlled by Democrats, of contributing to violence.

“Unfortunately, anarchy has recently beset some of our States and cities,” Trump wrote. 

At news briefings, Trump has increasingly spent more time speaking about violence in American cities instead of the coronavirus outbreak that has now infected more than 6.1 million people in the U.S., killing at least 185,700 people in the country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has reported more confirmed cases of the coronavirus and deaths caused by Covid-19 than any other country in the world, accounting for more than 21% of all Covid-19 deaths worldwide.  

“The Federal Government provides States and localities with hundreds of billions of dollars every year, which fund a wide array of programs, such as housing, public transportation, job training, and social services,” Trump’s memo says. “My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”

The memo gives Barr 14 days to identify “anarchist jurisdictions” where officials have “permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist” and refused to respond appropriately. The memo directs Barr to update the list at least every six months. 

The memo also gives Vought 30 days to instruct agency chiefs to restrict federal grants to such cities.

Trump names de Blasio twice in the memo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo once and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser once. They are all Democrats. Representatives of Bowser’s office did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.

Several officials who represent cities named in the memo responded with outrage. Mayor of Portland, Oregon Ted Wheeler said the call to defund American cities in the midst of a public health crisis is a “new low, even for this president.”

The amount of funding that could be impacted by the memo is potentially tremendous. In 2017, for example, New York City received nearly $8 billion in federal categorical grants, about 9% of the city budget. 

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