A group of mayors led by New Orleans' Mitch Landrieu, head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, skipped out on a scheduled meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday in protest of the U.S. Department of Justice's threat to issue subpoenas and cut off some federal funds to 23 cities it says are illegally harboring undocumented immigrants accused of crimes. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings attended the meeting anyway.
“I personally disagree with the president on many issues. But the mayor of Dallas is a nonpartisan position. It is my job to work with elected officials of both parties — up to and including the president of the United States — for the good of all Dallas residents," Rawlings said in a statement to the Observer on Wednesday. "I didn’t come to Washington and miss a Dallas City Council meeting to make a political statement. I came here to do my job. That said, I understand and respect my fellow mayors who chose not to attend the meeting.”
Landrieu, subject of speculation about a 2020 presidential run, said Wednesday morning that he wanted no part in meeting with an administration that's attacking U.S. cities.
"I can't in good conscience, as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, go to the White House under false pretenses to talk about infrastructure," Landrieu said. "An attack on one of our great American cities, or one of our small cities, is an attack on all of us."
Rawlings said his trip to the White House was about more than the mayors' visit with the president.
"In addition to a brief meeting with [Trump] today, we were invited to visit with the vice president and officials with key departments, including the Army Corps of Engineers, HUD and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs," Rawlings said.
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During his remarks at the meeting, Trump blasted the mayors who skipped it, including New York's Bill de Blasio, Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and Plano's Harry LaRosiliere.
"The mayors who choose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal, illegal immigrants over law-abiding Americans," Trump said. "But let me tell you, the vast majority of people showed up."
After the meeting, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump wanted to find common ground with the mayors but that the administration would not let city officials pick and choose which federal laws to follow.
"Look, we would love to able to work with these mayors, particularly on issues like infrastructure," Sanders said. "But ... if we have a country with no laws, then nothing matters."