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Can Trump legally cut federal funding to Seattle over riots and lawlessness?

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on the North Portico of the White House. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Trump has vowed to cut federal funding not only here in Seattle but in other cities like Portland and New York City over the rioting. But the cities’ mayors say it’s illegal. The director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to explain how such cuts would be made.

“Congress passes appropriations. Those appropriations are often structured as discretionary grant programs which give the executive branch that flexibility to make determinations and to align who receives money accordingly. We’re not living in the age of earmarks. So Congress did not provide a particular appropriation for Seattle that we’re bound by,” he said.

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“So what we’re doing is going through and saying what’s the purpose and what’s the grant condition that we’re gonna put on it? Is there sufficient nexus to the purpose of the program that Congress put into place? And that will look differently for every program. But this is certainly not an instance where we’re just refusing to spend money that Congress has appropriated. We’re diverting it elsewhere.”

What does this process look like with regards to Seattle?

“Well, we’re not there yet, so that will be coming in from the agencies in the next several weeks. But we’ll be identifying the amount of money that Seattle gets specifically, and we’ll take it from there. But what we want to get away from is, just think about the principle if you’re going to give community economic development program and the community is on fire, maybe that’s not something that we’re gonna prioritize right now,” he said.

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“This is not an effort to in any way to not provide the resources that are needed. Take public transportation grants, for example, if a city or locality can’t ensure that transit or bus programs are not being vandalized, that’s something that we’re gonna take into account when we’re dispensing the grants themselves. We want to continue to make sure that people who are fighting the lawlessness on the streets, that law enforcement continue to get the resources that they need. But we’re gonna do everything we can to find opportunities beyond that.”

Vought says numerous administrations have looked at this process in accordance with their policy objectives.

“All administrations take the laws as passed by Congress and figure out what discretion that they have to accomplish their policy objectives. One of this president’s policy objectives is to restore order to the streets and make sure that people are safe. And that is a balance between governors and mayors and the president. But these are federal dollars and to the extent that we have any ability to help ensure that they incentivize the right behavior, we want to be able to do that.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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