The head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors said Thursday that the Justice Department’s warning that sanctuary cities and states could be subject to federal subpoenas was a White House “stunt” intended to turn a planned meeting between mayors and President Donald Trump into a “photo-op.”
“We viewed it as a stunt. We really thought that what the White House was trying to do was to somehow bring the mayors into the immigration debate that they had last week that was part of the shutdown of the government, was just going to be a photo-op,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Mayors really don't have time for political stunts.”
Landrieu was among the mayors who skipped a planned White House meeting Wednesday that had ostensibly been scheduled to discuss infrastructure. The New Orleans mayor said that meeting took on a new tone after the Justice Department sent letters threatening certain states, counties and cities, among them Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco, with subpoenas should they refuse to turn over information regarding policies that bar or discourage the sharing of information about undocumented immigrants in local custody.
In addition to Landrieu, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would skip the White House meeting in the wake of the Justice Department letter. Chicago and Los Angeles Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Eric Garcetti had opted out of the White House meeting before the subpoena threats became public.
Trump, addressing the mayors who attended the meeting, said those who did not show up “put the needs of criminal, illegal immigrants over law-abiding Americans."
Landrieu argued on MSNBC that the Justice Department has yet to offer a clear definition of what exactly a “sanctuary city” is and has repeatedly moved the goalposts in its dealing with local governments. He said the priority for local law enforcement cannot be enforcing immigration law because to do so would sever trust with their communities and ultimately allow for crimes to go unreported and criminals to escape prosecution.
“First of all, if Congress and the president would do their job and get comprehensive immigration reform done, the mayors would not be in the middle of this. Secondly, the White House has had a very difficult time having a constructive and transparent and reasonable discussion with anybody about anything,” Landrieu said. “And thirdly it's just bad manners to invite somebody over for lunch to have a constructive discussion about one thing and smack them on the head before they walk in the door.”
Landrieu, a Democrat, will end his tenure as mayor of New Orleans this spring and has been floated by some as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, talk he seemed to shoot down when asked about it on “Morning Joe.”
“I'm flattered that people think that I can find higher office. I don't have the intention of doing that right now and I'm not intending to run for president,” he said. “Evidently, politics you never say never, you never say no, but I'm not going to run for president.”