New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave Donald Trump a stark warning on Wednesday about returning to New York City as tensions continue to flair over the sometimes-violent nature of anti-police brutality protests across the country this summer and the president's response to them.
“He better have an army if he thinks he’s gonna walk down the street in New York. New Yorkers don’t want to have anything to do with him,” Mr Cuomo said of Mr Trump, a few hours after New York Post reported the president was considering yanking funds from "lawless" cities such as New York where violent crime has shot up.
“He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City," Mr Cuomo said of the president, saying he was "persona non grata" in the state's flagship metropolis.
The Trump administration leaked an internal memo, signed by the president, to the Post on Wednesday in which the president orders all federal agencies to compile reports on where they can redirect funds away from New York City, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, four cities that have struggled to contain violent outbursts at protests this summer in the wake of the deaths in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and others.
The president has issued similar threats before to defund so-called sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with the feds on upholding immigration laws.
“My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” Mr Trump wrote in the five-page White House memo.
Over the last several weeks, Mr Trump has sought to portray himself as the "law and order" candidate with zero tolerance for violent protests and his Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden as a stooge of "far left" violent extremists such as "Antifa," the loose collection of anti-fascist, left-wing protesters believed to have instigated rioting and looting at anti-police brutality protests this summer.
Mr Biden has repeatedly condemned violent demonstrations from people across the political spectrum, although he has centred his campaign messaging primarily around sympathising with the victims of police shootings and calling for sweeping reforms to the law enforcement system.
Mr Cuomo denounced Mr Trump's memo as "more of the same" from the president, with whom he has clashed over the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, immigration, and several other hot-button issues.
"It’s political, it is gratuitous. And it’s illegal. But it is another attempt to kill New York City,” Mr Cuomo said of Mr Trump's threat to pull federal funding.
Mr Trump retaliated against Mr Cuomo's comment with a tweet on Thursday blaming him for the Covid-19 death count in New York.
"Governors [sic] Andrew Cuomo of New York has the worst record on death and China Virus. 11,000 people alone died in Nursing Homes because of his incompetence!" the president tweeted, highlighting Mr Cuomo's controversial policy earlier this year that nursing homes could not refuse recovering Covid-19 patients.
Scientists, GOP politicians, and some health officials have speculated that that policy increased the spread of the virus to nursing home staff, which in turn led to outbreaks among its usual, highly vulnerable patients.
Mr Cuomo, in turn, has blamed the president for failing to provide enough federal assistance to states to deal properly with the health crisis.