Yesterday the White House issued a memorandum on cutting federal grants to "anarchist jurisdictions," by which they appear to mean local governments that do not pursue the kind of aggressive law enforcement policies the administration favors. In and of itself, the memorandum is long geared towards rhetoric, condemning the supposed "anarchy", but briefly on actual measures.
It could be that the document is primarily a public relations move designed to boost Trump's grassroots and strengthen the law and order theme of his presidential campaign. If the government actually tries to make federal grants conditional on adherence to the guidelines set out in the memorandum, it would be yet another attack on federalism and the separation of powers, similar to what has emerged from Trump's attempts to refuse federal grants to "protected cities" unless the latter began to support the federal deportation policy.
In contrast to executive and Justice Department guidelines targeting protected area jurisdictions, the new memorandum on "anarchist" jurisdictions does not order refusals of federal funds or new conditions for grant recipients. It merely instructs the Director of Office Management and Budget (OMB) to "provide guidelines to the heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) for each agency within 14 days, to submit a report to the director of the OMB detailing federal funding , which may be made available to Seattle, Portland, New York, Washington, DC, or other components or instruments of the aforementioned jurisdictions. "In addition, the Attorney General in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of OMB" (w) publishes within 14 days from the date of this memorandum, and updated at least every 6 months as appropriate, the Department of Justice website provides a list of state and local jurisdictions that have allowed the persistence of violence and property destruction and have refused to take reasonable action Fight against these criminal activities seize (anarchist jurisdictions). "
The guidelines that are used to identify alleged "anarchist jurisdictions" include factors such as "whether a jurisdiction disempowers or exempts police forces," whether it "inappropriately rejects the federal government's acceptance of offers of support from the federal government," and whether it "the The police do not intervene to restore order amid widespread or ongoing violence or destruction. "
Significantly, however, the memorandum does not include any specific federal grants to be cut or denied until the jurisdiction concerned ends law enforcement guidelines that the White House frowns on. The only real mandate the memorandum imposes is for OMB and the Justice Department to require a "review" of federal multi-city grants and a list of "anarchist" jurisdictions based on the vague criteria outlined above. It is far from clear what federal grants the government would refuse, if any, to the offensive "anarchists".
If the administration ultimately identifies certain federal grants it wants to cut, unless the targeted courts pass law enforcement guidelines that are more in keeping with the White House's taste, it could lead to the same federalism and separation of powers issues as the administration's campaign against protected cities. In this area, the administration has suffered a long series of defeats in court, as the conditions the administration sought to impose on federal grants were never approved by Congress (which controls the power of the purse) and state and local autonomy under the Constitution or both. The same thing could easily happen here if the administration again tries to create its own spending conditions to force states and municipalities to bid. Trump has tried to do the same on a number of other issues, including trying to take advantage of the threat of funding cuts to prevent states from expanding the ability to vote via email in the upcoming presidential election.
If the administration succeeds in these efforts, it would set a dangerous precedent allowing the president to bypass Congressional control over federal spending and harass states and communities into submitting on a variety of issues far beyond Go beyond immigration, law enforcement, or voting. Conservatives who cheer Trump's attacks on "anarchist jurisdictions" and protected cities may not be so happy when Joe Biden or another future Democratic president uses the same extensive powers to force the state and local government to adopt leftist arms control and policy Adopt education, environmental regulations, and more.
Conservatives and others who value local and state autonomy should beware of federal efforts to enforce unified policies on such typically local issues as the fight against street crime. If that too needs to be brought under the control of the White House, it is not clear what, if anything, would be left to the States.
In general, both right and left have reason to fear an increasing concentration of power in the White House, which would occur if the president had a free hand to control the federal budget and thus to exert pressure on states and communities. This would both jeopardize the valuable diversity in state and local politics, as well as undermining one of the best ways to mitigate the dangerous political polarization between "red" and "blue" states.
To condemn the government's approach here, we do not need to endorse all of the law enforcement measures that have been passed by liberal democratic places, some of which have, in fact, been overly tolerant of violence and riots. As I have emphasized in the past, we should be able to take decisive action against police abuse and racial profiles while rejecting civil unrest, looting and private violence. The latter are inherently evil and likely to undermine the root cause of ending racial discrimination and other unjust law enforcement practices. I am also skeptical of indiscriminate "defusing" the police, although there are advantageous ways to cut funding and restrict police activities more specifically.
However, the sins of some liberal local governments do not justify the White House's efforts to undermine federalism and the separation of powers. They also don't justify federal law enforcement abuses like the one we saw in Portland recently. It would be better if the White House adhered to the real responsibilities of the federal government and left local law enforcement alone, except in cases where the latter violate constitutional rights or duly enact federal law.