News & Politics

Did Trump Really Threaten to Deny Coronavirus Aid to States With Sanctuary Cities?

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The media was abuzz following remarks from President Trump on Tuesday where, it is claimed, he threatened to withhold coronavirus aid to states with sanctuary cities. Trump has been harshly critical of sanctuary cities, and this appeared to be the latest attack on those municipalities that flout the rule of law.

Business Insider claimed in their headline that “Trump threatened to withhold coronavirus aid from states unless they change their sanctuary-city policies.” According to Vox, “Trump wants to use coronavirus aid as leverage to force blue states to change immigration policies.” Other outlets pounced on the story as well, but what did Trump actually say?

After a meeting with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a reporter asked Trump a question about giving aid to states as part of an effort to stimulate the economy.

“I think there’s a big difference with a state that lost money because of COVID and a state that’s been run very badly for 25 years. There’s a big difference, in my opinion. And, you know, we’d have to talk about things like payroll tax cuts. We’d have to talk about things like sanctuary cities, as an example,” the president said.  “I think sanctuary cities are something — it has to be brought up, where people that are criminals are protected — they’re protected from prosecution. I think that has to be done.”

Trump added, “But we’re certainly open to talking, but it would really have to be COVID-related, not related for mismanagement over a long time — over a long period of time.”

“And you’re willing to make that distinction — that much of a distinction?” the reporter asked. “I can only imagine what some governors would say.”

“Well, it’s a very simple distinction to make,” Trump replied. “We’re not looking to do a bailout for a state that’s been — it’s unfair to — it’s unfair to many of the states, most of the states that have done such a good job. Okay?”

Trump reiterated that point at an event on supporting small businesses with the Paycheck Protection Program later that day.

The problem with the states is we’re not looking to recover 25 years of bad management and to give them the money that they lost. That’s unfair to other states. Now, if it’s COVID-related, I guess we can talk about it, but we’d want certain things also, including sanctuary city adjustments because we have so many people in sanctuary cities, which I don’t even think are popular, even by radical-left folks. Because what’s happening is people are being protected that shouldn’t be protected and a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities.

Trump’s overall point, which he expressed consistently between the two events, was that he didn’t want the federal government to give blanket bailouts to states. While some states have been hit hard economically because of the coronavirus, others have been mismanaged for years. For example, a couple of years ago, Illinois was said to be on the path to bankruptcy. Should the government bail out Illinois for being so poorly managed? Other states with financial issues that predate the coronavirus could be looking at the pandemic as a quick fix to their financial problems, and it’s quite obvious that Trump doesn’t want to enable these poorly-run states.

Sanctuary cities are just one ingredient of that mismanagement, and perhaps Trump could have named others, but they are significant in that states and municipalities are violating federal law and not cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other law enforcement agents to protect criminal illegal immigrants. Compliance with federal law seems like common sense when it comes to receiving federal aid, but it really comes to Trump not looking to give states money that isn’t for coronavirus relief. He made that quite clear. Look what happened with previous coronavirus stimulus packages. Remember how The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts got $25 million? Or how Harvard University got $9 million?

Trump wasn’t “threatening” states over sanctuary city policies, he was merely suggesting more strict application of aid to states because he doesn’t want taxpayers bailing out those that have been poorly managed for decades. This is something he should be celebrated for.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

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