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Trump seeks retribution against city-dwellers who didn’t vote for him

Two major plans announced Wednesday target cities and populous states.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

President Trump’s penchant for retribution is no secret, given his attacks on the likes of Saturday Night Live, Meryl Streep, or the journalists who accurately reported on the turnout at his inauguration. But if his actions Wednesday are any indication, he may also be seeking vengeance against everyone who didn’t vote for him.

One of the executive orders Trump signed related to immigration will apparently punish so-called “sanctuary cities” — those that choose not to turn over undocumented immigrants for federal deportation. At his briefing Wednesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained that the executive order will “look at funding streams that are going to these cities of federal monies and figure out how we can defund those streams.” The order itself promises to deny eligibility to receive “federal grants,” but doesn’t specify which funds would be cut.

These cuts could be devastating. For example, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) expressed his commitment Wednesday to maintaining Chicago’s sanctuary status. But if Trump’s order is interpreted broadly, the city stands to lose as much as $1.3 billion, about 14 percent of its budget for this year.

A cursory glance at the list of sanctuary municipalities, which includes both cities and counties, finds that the large majority of them are in states Trump lost in the 2016 election, like California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey. And even in states Trump won, he still lost in many of the areas that would be hit by his order, such as southeast Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and the surrounding counties), southeast Florida (Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade Counties), Dallas, Austin, New Orleans, Lincoln, and Omaha. Only Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Kentucky stand out as having multiple sanctuary counties that went for Trump.

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This conveniently selective targeting stands out because of another comment Spicer made during Wednesday’s briefing. On Tuesday, reporters had asked Spicer why, if Trump truly believes that 3–5 million votes were cast illegally, the White House hasn’t called for an investigation. Spicer responded, “Maybe we will,” and sure enough, Trump tweeted the next morning about the “major investigation” he’ll be asking for.

It was only at Wednesday’s briefing, however, that Spicer clarified which “two states” would be investigated: California and New York. “There are populous states and urban areas where you would have spent more time campaigning,” Spicer said, explaining how Trump campaigned to win the electoral college by spending more time in smaller states. “I think when you look at where a lot of these issues could have occurred in bigger states, that’s where I think we’re going to look.”

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Trump first claimed there was “serious voter fraud” in California back in November, a claim that Politifact debunked and awarded its “pants on fire” designation. Clinton beat Trump there 62–33, garnering 3.4 million more votes. New York is a new claim, but given how there were virtually no credible reports of voter fraud across the entire country, there’s no reason to believe the result there would be any different. Clinton dominated Trump in his home state 59–38, taking in 1.5 million more votes.

With no evidence to support Trump’s belief in widespread voter fraud, Trump’s investigation will likely only cause trouble for states that didn’t support his election. It might also backfire, as reports Wednesday found multiple people close to Trump who are registered in multiple states — the very kind of fraud he hopes to expose. His chief of staff, Stephen Bannon, was registered in both New York and Florida. His nominee for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, was registered to vote in both New York and California. And his own daughter, Tiffany Trump, was registered in both Pennsylvania and New York.

With two different plans in one day to target parts of the country that didn’t vote for him, it might be the case that his propensity for vindictiveness extends far beyond what his petty tweets suggest.