New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-Screw You, Trump) drew a line in the sand after Donald Trump threatened to gut federal funding for “lawless” and “anarchist” cities that “fail” to curb violent protests.
Cuomo said that Trump is “persona non grata” in New York City:
He can’t come back to New York. He can’t. He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City. Forget bodyguards, he better have an army if he thinks he’s going to walk down the streets in New York. … He is persona non grata in New York City, and I think he knows that, and he’ll never come back to New York, because New Yorkers will never forget how gratuitously mean he has been.
Both Cuomo and a Cuomo spokesperson later noted that Cuomo did not mean that Trump would actually be physically threatened if he came to New York City, but was merely noting how unpopular he is with city residents.
Cuomo called the threat detailed in the memo an “illegal stunt,” and reminded American citizens that TrumpDonald “is not a king. He cannot ‘defund’ NYC.”
Trump’s memo reads in part:
My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones. It is imperative that the federal government review the use of federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America’s cities.
The document specifically names four cities, all run by Democratic mayors, and three in blue states: New York City, Portland, Seattle, and Washington DC.
White House Budget Director Russ Vought wrote that Trump and the White House “made clear that we will not continue to funnel taxpayer money to lawless cities that fail to restore law and order in their communities. We will explore all options.”
Today @POTUS made clear that we will not continue to funnel taxpayer money to lawless cities that fail to restore law and order in their communities. We will explore all options. https://t.co/BDScgIG2uK
— Russ Vought (@RussVought45) September 3, 2020
Trump, Vought and the White House issued what Cuomo accurately interpreted as a threat to their federal funding — even though Congress, not the White House, decides where and how federal funds will be directed.
Former senior policy advisor for the OMB Sam Berger told the Guardian that executive branch agencies such as the OMB cannot “willy-nilly restrict funding.” The memo “reads like a campaign press release,” he added. “The first two pages are a bizarre diatribe – that’s not what a government document looks like.” Berger expects any actual defunding attempts attempted by the OMB or any other agencies would quickly meet their end in court.
Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe, who in a sane society would be a Supreme Court justice by now, wrote: “The president obviously has no power to pick and choose which cities to cut off from congressionally appropriated funding,. [Trump] has no defunding spigot. The power of the purse belongs to Congress, not the Executive. Donald Trump must have slept through high school civics.”
In a press conference, Cuomo deepened his stance against Trump and his threats:
He thinks he’s a king but he’s not, he’s a president. And there is a Constitution and there are laws — nothing that he knows anything about — but the federal budget is appropriated by law. … The statutes contain the funding conditions and he can’t override the law. I suspect it’s more of a political statement than anything else.
He attacked Trump personally and professionally, saying:
Those that know him best like him least. That’s true about New York City, that’s true about his own family. His sister, a former federal judge, is disgraced by him. What does that say about a person? …From the point of view of New York City, [Trump] has been the worst president. … President Trump has been actively trying to kill New York City ever since he was elected. You want to do something about public safety, try doing your job. One thousand people under your federal leadership are dying currently per day from Covid. You have the worst record on the globe in terms of leadership.
Trump attempted to counterattack Cuomo on the virus, illiterately tweeting that “Governors [sic]” Cuomo “has the worst record on death and China Virus:”
Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York has the worst record on death and China Virus. 11,000 people alone died in Nursing Homes because of his incompetence!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2020
Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi responded by saying Trump’s tweet was filled with “lies and conspiracies,” tweeting in response:
You literally recommended that people inject bleach in their veins to fight COVID … and some actually did.
Politico speculates that some of Cuomo’s ire may stem from Trump’s tweets demanding that Cuomo’s brother Chris be fired from his position as a senior CNN news anchor. The press learned that Chris Cuomo had once been questioned about any involvement he may have had in a sexual harassment issue, and Trump labeled the CNN anchor “Fredo,” a disparaging reference from The Godfather that the Cuomos and many others take as an anti-Italian slur.