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Donald Trump threatens UC Berkeley with fund cuts after protests against far-right speaker

Lawmakers have questioned the US president's authority to execute such plans.

United States President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened the University of California at Berkeley with federal fund cuts after a talk by a far-right Breitbart News editor was cancelled following protests. However, Democrat lawmakers from California questioned Trump’s authority and power to execute such cuts. They came out in support of the students and called Trump’s remark “distasteful”.

“To have the man at the helm of the most powerful nation of the world tweeting and threatening the University of California and talking about withholding funds, that’s unique and I find that very distasteful,” Senate leader Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, told Reuters. The university gets $400 million to $450 million for research every year, of which around $121 million comes from the National Science Foundation and $125 million from the Health and Human Services department, according to Reuters.

US Representative Barbara Lee said she would fight all such attempts by the Trump administration. “Simply put, President Trump’s empty threat to cut funding from UC Berkeley is an abuse of power,” she said.

The lawmakers are also trying to introduce legislation to “protect California” from Trump administration’s policies on immigration and climate change. “We have been having ongoing discussions on how to protect California from potential harm from the Trump administration – those discussions will continue,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from the Los Angeles suburb of Paramount.

On Wednesday, more than 1,500 students had gathered at the campus to protests against the event. The demonstartion that started out peacefully soon turned violent with a group starting fires and hurling smoke bombs, reported The Independent. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks condemned the violence on the campus. “Last night the Berkeley campus was invaded by more than 100 armed individuals clad in all black who utilized paramilitary tactics to engage in violent, destructive behavior,” he said on Thursday.

Milo Yiannopoulos, whose event was cancelled n Wednesday, told Fox News: “Obviously it’s a liberal campus so they hate any libertarians or conservatives who dare to express an opinion on their campuses. They particularly don’t like me.”

His website, known for its far-right leanings, used to be headed by presidential advisor Steve Bannon. Yiannopoulos is a self-proclaimed internet troll and his views about Muslims, Black Lives Matter activists and feminists have often drawn strong criticism from liberal quarters.

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