The meeting was off. The war over sanctuary cities was on.
Mayor de Blasio bailed on a meeting with President Trump Wednesday after the Department of Justice threatened New York with a subpoena over its sanctuary city policies — trading an infrastructure sitdown at the White House for barbs tossed across the nation’s capital.
“The mayors that chose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal-illegal immigrants over law-abiding Americans,” President Trump said after de Blasio and dozens of other mayors opted not to attend the scheduled event.
About four blocks away from the White House, de Blasio — who on Twitter called the letter from DOJ a “racist attack” — accused Trump of a bait and switch.
“On the very day where in principle they were telling us they wanted to have an honest dialogue, this proves there was no intention to have an honest dialogue,” de Blasio said. “I came down here ready to have a serious meeting and what I got was a publicity stunt from Trump.”
The scuttled sit-down was the latest salvo in a war of words over sanctuary cities like New York, which refuse to assist with enforcement and deportation against some undocumented immigrants.
“I will NOT be attending today’s meeting at the White House after @realDonaldTrump’s Department of Justice decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities,” de Blasio tweeted.
The meeting was supposed to deal with crumbling infrastructure and the country’s opioid crisis, but the President started off by taking aim at the mayors who were no-shows.
“We’ll start by saying, as you know, the Department of Justice today has announced a critical legal step to hold accountable sanctuary cities that violate federal law and free criminal aliens back into our communities,” Trump said. “We can’t have that. Can’t have it. It would be easy to go the other way, but we can’t have it. We want a safe country. It’s getting safer all the time. Sanctuary cities are the best friends of gangs and cartels like MS-13. You know that.”
But de Blasio argued those sanctuary policies have made cities safer — citing New York’s record as the safest big city in the world and saying it is owed, in part, to immigrants coming forward to police about crimes without fear of deportation.
De Blasio said some mayors — including himself — had not been on an initial invite list, only to be added closer to the event. Then, 23 cities received the letter from DOJ once again threatening to yank grant funding.
“He said come over to my house, but I’m going to take your wallet while you’re there,” de Blasio said.
Donald Trump in the White House
At issue are grants named for Edward Byrne, a slain NYPD officer — who de Blasio pointed out was gunned down while protecting a Guyanese immigrant who was set to testify in a criminal case.
It’s not the first time that the DOJ has threatened New York and other sanctuary cities.
In October, DOJ said it was giving the city its “last chance” warning to change its policies or lose crucial federal grants. DOJ argued the city’s laws violated federal immigration laws.
De Blasio wasn’t alone in skipping out — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, also opted not to attend.
In a statement, Landrieu said the group had been looking forward to discussing issues that matter to cities – home to 82% of the nation’s population.
President Trump speaks to the press on January 16, 2018.
(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
“Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s decision to threaten mayors and demonize immigrants yet again – and use cities as political props in the process – has made this meeting untenable,” he said. “The U.S. Conference of Mayors is proud to be a bipartisan organization. But an attack on mayors who lead welcoming cities is an attack on everyone in our conference.”
“When the President is prepared to engage in an honest conversation about the future of our shared constituencies, we will be honored to join him. Until that time, mayors of both parties will work together to keep our cities safe, hold this administration accountable to its promises, and protect immigrant communities – with or without Washington’s help,” he added.
Before the DOJ letter was released, de Blasio had said he was looking to press the White House to invest in infrastructure locally — citing 100 bridges more than 100 years old and a subway system in crisis
“There’s no way in the world we here can cover all these expenses,” he said during an interview on “Good Day New York.”
“The president needs to focus on an infrastructure plan for the country that actually involves federal investment to spur on our economy. So far he has not been willing to do that. I’m going to challenge him on that,” de Blasio said.