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Cuomo harshly criticizes Trump over possible 'defunding' of NYC

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Credit: TNS/Jeenah Moon

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said President Donald Trump should work toward public safety by cutting down the nation’s 1,000-a-day COVID-19 deaths after a news report said the president wants to “defund” New York City due to a spike in shootings.

“You want to do something about public safety?” Cuomo asked rhetorically during a news conference. “Try doing your job. One thousand people under your federal leadership are dying currently per day from COVID."

The governor, in a highly personal attack on Trump, said the president is “the cause of COVID in New York.”  He said the national response, led by the president, failed to fend off the disease’s advance into the United States.

The scathing response came after the New York Post reported that Trump is seeking to deny federal dollars to several cities, including New York. The cities have seen large protests against police brutality in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The other cities cited were Seattle, Portland and Washington D.C.

In a tweet after Cuomo's news conference Wednesday, Trump said: "My Administration will do everything in its power to prevent weak mayors and lawless cities from taking Federal dollars while they let anarchists harm people, burn buildings, and ruin lives and businesses. We’re putting them on notice today."

The Post reported Trump had signed a five-page memo outlining the plan to deny billions of dollars to cities where protesters have demanded police departments be “defunded” by redirecting resources into social services.

In June, Minneapolis was among the first to approve a proposal to defund its police department. That proposal awaits approval by voters in a referendum. Advocates say the plan would help prevent or de-escalate crimes addressed with a law enforcement-only approach that  they say just increases conflict.

The governor responded that Trump cannot legally unilaterally deny funding to cities as if he were a dictator ruling by fiat, adding that the memo will go nowhere.

“He is not a king,” Cuomo said. “He thinks he’s a king but he’s not. He’s a president and there is a Constitution and there are laws . . . The federal budget is applied by law with conditions of funding by law. . . He’s not going to do anything. He doesn’t have any power to do anything.”

Cuomo added that Trump has been trying to “kill” New York City, his birthplace, and that the president is so disliked in the city that he wouldn't be able to walk the streets without “an army” of bodyguards.

“What does it say about a person, a man, who spends his time trying to destroy the place that he came from?” Cuomo said. “He is from New York City. Now, yes, he was disrespected in New York City and nobody took him seriously and he was just a tabloid cartoon but he is from New York City . . . He can’t go back to New York City. Forget bodyguards. He’d better have an army if he thinks he’s going to walk down the street in New York.”

Later, Cuomo sought to clarify those comments, saying it was just a way of describing how disliked the president is in his own hometown. 

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