Shortly after President Donald Trump’s Wednesday threat to cut federal funding to “lawless” cities, including Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan called the news an attempt to distract and harm cities during a time when the nation “desperately needs healing.”

Trump signed the memo Wednesday, instructing Attorney General William Barr to develop a list of “anarchist jurisdictions” that “permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures” to restore order.

The memo names cities that have had protests marred by episodes of violence, including Seattle, Portland, New York and Washington, D.C., and said the Department of Justice will “consider a number of factors, including whether the city defunded the police or prevented local law enforcement from intervening to restore order.”

Durkan said there’s one thing that will stop Trump in his threat: the law.

“President Trump cannot defund Seattle – it is unlawful,” Durkan said in a statement following the announcement. “Surely the Attorney General has advised the President of the United States that he does not have the power to decide who gets funding based on his political interests.”

She continued, “This is the latest attempt to distract from the fact that COVID-19 has infected over 6 million Americans, killed 185,000 people and destroyed the American economy.  The only anarchy zone in America, where the rule of law is disregarded, is at the White House.”


The memo also pushes White House budget director Russell Vought to issue guidance in 30 days “to the heads of agencies on restricting eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of Federal grants.”

According to the memo, cutting funding to certain cities would “help ensure that Americans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars are not wasted by lawless governors and mayors” and support law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

“The President’s actions continually harm cities and the millions of residents who live in our nation’s cities,” Durkan said. “At a time when our nation desperately needs healing, a cure to the virus and a federal government to lead us through this crisis, the President invents yet another way to divide … America’s cities will not be distracted by his actions.”

Gov. Jay Inslee responded via Twitter by saying “Somebody get Bob Ferguson on the phone,” in reference to Washington state’s attorney general, who as successfully sued the Trump administration over the years.

Legal experts said the White House maneuver to restrict funding would almost certainly be met by a court challenge.