Donald Trump has threatened to cut funding to lawless zones cities run by the Democratic party following violence at recent protests.
It comes after his visit to Kenosha in Wisconsin on Tuesday, where there have been protests over the police shooting of black man Jacob Blake – the latest in a series of such demonstrations in the US.
Wednesday’s memo instructs Attorney General William Barr to compile a list of “anarchist jurisdictions” that “permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures”.
Mr Trump has also asked the White House’s budget director to issue guidance within 30 days “on restricting eligibility of or otherwise disfavouring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of federal grants”.
The president has used the violence in areas such as Portland and Seattle to attack Democrats, claiming the cities they run are dangerous, as part of his re-election campaign.
Last week, he used his presidential nomination acceptance speech to condemn the violence in those cities, setting law and order as one of his key election themes.
Mike Pence, the vice president, also used his speech to talk about lawlessness and demanded the country returned to law and order.
Since the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May, Mr Trump has frequently sent the National Guard to cities where Black Lives Matter protests were taking place – despite many protesters demonstrating peacefully.
After Mr Trump signed his memo on Wednesday, New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo accused him of trying to cut off much-needed funding to help the city recover from coronavirus,
Mr Cuomo called it an “illegal stunt” and tweeted: “He is not a king. He cannot ‘defund’ NYC.”