NLC Responds to the Presidential Memorandum on Defunding Cities

September 3, 2020 - (3 min read)

Washington, D.C. – On September 3rd, President Trump issued the “Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities”. Following the President’s memo on the possibility of defunding cities, Joe Buscaino, President Pro Tempore, Los Angeles City Council and President, National League of Cities, made the following statement:

“Cities have been and always will be the bedrock of our country, and now more than ever we need strong cities to ensure Americans can make it through the ongoing public health, economic and social crises facing communities everywhere. It is unfortunate that, at this moment in our nation’s history, the Administration is resorting to partisan-driven attacks and threats to divide us.

“Our residents are our first priority, and they deserve better from Washington. The presidential memorandum would weaken our ability to provide the critical services our residents need to keep their families safe and get back to financial stability. We don’t need more political attacks – we need effective partnerships between all levels of government to respond to the challenges we face as a nation today. We urge the Administration to work with cities, not against us, to truly restore and heal American communities.”

According to the memorandum, cities will be labeled as “anarchist jurisdiction” by the Department of Justice if the local government:

  • forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction;
  • requires the withdrawal of law enforcement protection from a geographical area or structure that law enforcement officers are lawfully entitled to access but have been officially prevented from accessing or permitted to access only in exceptional circumstances, except when law enforcement officers are briefly withheld as a tactical decision intended to resolve safely and expeditiously a specific and ongoing unlawful incident posing an imminent threat to the safety of individuals or law enforcement officers;
  • disempowers or defunds police departments;
  • refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government; and
  • any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate.

Like the ongoing fight to withhold funding from “sanctuary cities,” NLC believes that the Administration once again lacks the legal authority to withhold funding from local governments that it deems to be “anarchist jurisdiction.” The funding that the Administration is looking to withhold is statutorily authorized by Congress, which protects federal funding from arbitrary partisan politics and political retribution. The Administration’s effort to undermine local authority over how they police their communities and provide public safety services to their residents is also in direct violation of the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the states and local governments the power of policing to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, and health of the public.


The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram.