Oct. 23 (UPI) -- New York, Seattle and Portland, Ore., have filed a lawsuit to invalidate President Donald Trump's memorandum to withhold federal funds from the cities after the Justice Department labeled them as "anarchist jurisdictions."
The lawsuit filed Thursday in the Western District of Washington at Seattle accuses the Trump administration of lacking the authority to add conditions to congressionally appropriated funds and for doing so due to a label applied to the three cities based on "an arbitrary and capricious list."
"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 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."
Trump early last month issued a memorandum declaring federal tax dollars would cease flowing to so-called anarchist jurisdictions, directing Attorney General William Barr to identify cities that fall under this category.
The memorandum was issued months after protests erupted nationwide against police brutality and racial inequality following the Memorial Day police-involved killing of George Floyd. Trump has repeatedly chastised predominately Democratic-led cities for not taking a harsh stance toward the unrest and in July sent federal agents into Portland.
On Sept. 21, Barr designated the three cities as anarchist jurisdictions, citing rising gun violence in New York, protests in Portland continuing for more than 100 consecutive nights and government officials in Seattle permitting "anarchists and activists to seize six-square blocks of the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood."
The cities called Trump's memorandum "offensive to both the Constitution and common sense" while lambasting the anarchist jurisdiction designations as being handed down based on "an arbitrary and capricious list of misleading and cherry-picked bullet-points about each City that in no way supports the assertion that the Cities have chosen to abandon their jurisdictions to lawlessness and violence."
James Johnson, corporation counsel at the New York City's Law Department, told the press during a briefing Thursday that the city could lose as much as $12 billion in federal funding because of Barr's designation.
Johnson said they filed the lawsuit now because the federal government has taken "concrete steps" to include the anarchist designation in applications for federal grants.
"We're not going to wait for them to include it in more," he said. "We're moving now."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the press that the lawsuit is making good on his threat from weeks ago that if the Trump administration persisted with its anarchist jurisdiction designations he'd take them to court.
"What we've seen from President Trump, threatening funding from New York City and other cities, it's morally wrong. It's legally unacceptable. It's unconstitutional. And we're going to fight it," he said.
The lawsuit seeks for the anarchist jurisdiction labels to be ruled illegal and to enjoin the Trump administration from taking further steps to carry out the directives Trump laid out in the memorandum.