Trump wanted to cut off funds to schools linked to Erdogan’s rival -- but White House lawyers said no
US President Donald Trump and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are at odds over the fate of an American pastor detained in Turkey (AFP Photo/Tatyana ZENKOVICH)

A new report from Bloomberg claims that President Donald Trump once tried to cut off funding for schools that were linked to a rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- before getting stopped by White House lawyers.

According to the report, Trump started taking an interest in the schools' funding at the behest of Rudy Giuliani, whose work in pressuring the government of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden now has the president facing an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

The schools in question are associated with a movement headed by Fethullah Gulen, an opponent of Erdoğan who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. The president's interest in cutting off their funding in early 2017 came just before the Turkish president was scheduled to visit the United States.

However, reports Bloomberg, "administration lawyers ultimately concluded they couldn’t justify cutting off money for the schools," as it would give the appearance of preference for a particular religion if the government cut off funding for Muslim schools but kept funding Christian schools.

"In the end, the Education Department argued that the grants were multi-year funding for states, not just the Gulen schools," Bloomberg reports. "The money couldn’t be pulled back without evidence of malfeasance or a violation of grant conditions, and cutting off the funding otherwise would violate the Elementary and Secondary Education Act."