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Officials in Cities Formerly Known as ‘Anarchist Jurisdictions’ Rip Trump After President Biden Revokes ‘Nonsense’ Memo


President Joe Biden on Wednesday formally revoked several executive orders that were signed by former President Donald Trump, including the memorandum that led to Seattle, New York, and Portland being dubbed “anarchist jurisdictions.” Officials from several of the previously designated “anarchist” areas capitalized on the occasion, using it as an opportunity to tear into the former president and his agenda.

“New Yorkers of all persuasions thank President Biden for his decisive action to undo this divisive and dangerous policy of the Trump Administration,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a statement on Thursday. “Threatening to cut off funding to New York City was not only a petty campaign stunt, but one that endangered every New Yorker as we continued to battle a public health crisis that has affected every corner of the nation. President Biden understands that real leadership requires bringing people together not using fearful rhetoric to divide us. With unity we will continue to build this country back better.”

Trump was widely criticized in early Sept. 2020 for signing the five-page Presidential Memorandum authorizing then-Attorney General Bill Barr to label cities as “anarchist jurisdictions” without providing a clear framework for such an evaluation or citing to any legal authority as a basis for such a drastic measure. For example, the language of the memo included the phrase “any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate” when granting the AG authority to label a place “anarchist.” The designation purported to strip federal funding from municipalities that were deemed to allow various criminal activities to go unchecked, including: rioting, looting, vandalism, killing (“violence and destruction of property”), and even the establishment of “autonomous zones.”

The DOJ said, for instance, that shootings in New York City “have been on the rise since looting and protests began on or about May 28, 2020.” May 28 was three days after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

The cities in October filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the order, referring to it as “an oxymoronic designation without precedent.”

Lawyers said this from the get-go.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes (D) told the Seattle Times that a “small part” of him still wanted to take on the Trump administration in court.

“But I much prefer seeing President Biden undo his predecessor’s will with a stroke of his pen,” Holmes said. “I’m glad to have this nonsense cleared from the decks considering my office has no shortage of litigation to manage, from the eviction moratorium to hazard pay for frontline workers. Onward.”

The city’s mayor also took a shot at the former president in a prepared statement.

“Fortunately, Seattle no longer has to face the insanity of a President who governs by Twitter or political threats. President Trump’s baseless lawsuits targeted our city for standing up for immigrants, civil rights, and democracy as he further divided our country with hate,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) said.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) was more subdued in his reaction to the order’s revocation.

“It’s great to have a partner in the federal government instead of an opponent,” Wheeler’s communications director Jim Middaugh said in a statement to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “It’s time to move forward with the federal government towards the recovery every Portlander wants and needs.”

[image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.