by Tim Gruver
Seattle, Portland, and New York City are suing President Donald Trump and his administration over legal actions that have put future federal funds on the line.
The joint lawsuit is in response to a memo issued by the Trump administration last month requesting U.S. Attorney General William Barr review a list of cities that could be considered hotbeds for civil unrest.
Seattle, Portland, and New York City were all finalists for what the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) dubbed a list of “anarchist jurisdictions” which Trump has suggested should be cut off from federal funding.
The Trump administration specifically cited the creation of the former Capitol Hill Organized Protest Zone this summer as reason for Seattle’s place on the list of cities.
The zone saw several deadly shootings, one of which resulted in an ongoing $3 billion wrongful death suit from the father of a Seattle teen killed there.
The lawsuit claims that the DOJ’s “oxymoronic” designation is based on arbitrary factors with zero precedent in American jurisprudence.
The plaintiffs allege that the Trump administration’s actions violate the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers by revoking the “power of the purse” from Congress to fund local governments.
“Our Constitution is also built on the principle of federalism, enshrined in the Tenth Amendment, reserving to the states and their localities the power to police their own streets, make their own public safety policy choices, and make determinations about the allocation of their public resources,” the plaintiffs wrote in the lawsuit.
Local municipalities, the lawsuit continues, were given no “reasonable and clear notice” of what was required of them by the Trump administration prior to the DOJ’s investigation nor was there adequate due process.
Trump and Barr are named as defendants in the lawsuit along with Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Federal Transit Administration Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams.
The cities further defended their policing efforts in the lawsuit, citing their initial round of curfews over the summer and heavy-handed crowd control tactics that have drawn criticism by activists and civil rights groups.
About 14% of Seattle’s 2020 transportation budget is federally funded as well as nearly 25% of its Human Services Department, according to city reports.
Seattle was awarded $177 million through a federal grant to manage its COVID-19 response. About $19 million of that money goes to food assistance.
“On top of the bungled federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration is now attempting to strip Seattle of funding, which could be used to help our residents during the pandemic in many important ways,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a written statement. “This lawsuit was necessary to protect our City’s interests, and we expect the president’s actions to be declared unlawful, as have his similar past attempts to remove federal funding.”
Portland and Oakland, California recently sued the DOJ and DHS last week for deploying federal agents to police protests this year.
The joint lawsuit comes as cities such as Portland and Seattle are debating next year’s budget amid a deepening national recession and mounting calls to defund police forces.
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Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly. Gruver is a staff reporter for The Center Square.