Gavin Newsom’s decision to reassign National Guard troops from the Mexico border is likely just the beginning of a more aggressive stance by California and its new activist governor against President Trump’s policies.
In his first month in office, Newsom has taken a more antagonistic approach to the Trump administration than former Gov. Jerry Brown, who was more reserved in discussing the president and left the Legislature to take the lead in denouncing Trump, who is highly unpopular in this deep blue state.
“Jerry Brown relished being seen as the adult in the room and finding opportunities to show that California really wasn’t this lefty bastion,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego. “I don’t think Gavin Newsom has that first instinct.”
The governor held little back Monday, dismissing Trump’s border policies.
“It’s comedy, folks,” he said. “You know it. I don’t know what the right adjective is without coming off as hyperbolic. The whole thing is ridiculous.”
Newsom is likely to find a partner in state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who has filed more than four dozen lawsuits against the federal government, challenging attempts to limit access to birth control, curb immigration and roll back environmental protections.
Somewhere between volleys of caustic tweets and court fights, there is a growing belief in Sacramento and beyond that Newsom and Becerra together could take the Democratic resistance to a new level. And in doing so, they could elevate California’s standing in the national debate while also raising their own profiles.
“They are going to be extremely effective working together,” said Darry Sragow, a longtime Democratic strategist who publishes the California Target Book, which tracks legislative and congressional races. “I would expect they would not be holding their punches in taking on the administration when they think that is the right thing to do.”
Newsom held a news conference at the state Capitol on Monday and blasted what Trump has described as a crisis at the border as a political stunt. He signed an executive order in front of reporters to withdraw and reassign roughly 360 National Guard troops Brown sent to the border at Trump’s request last year. Under Brown’s terms, the troops were not allowed to enforce immigration law.
The governor, who said he disagreed with Brown’s decision, has frequently cited an overall reduction in illegal border crossings compared with previous decades as evidence that Trump is manufacturing a crisis to score points with conservative voters.
In another rebuke of Trump’s policies, the governor’s budget calls for the expansion of Medi-Cal to immigrants without legal status under age 26, and $25 million for nonprofits to provide shelter to migrant families at the border.
California has gone to court against the Trump administration 45 times, bringing the state close to the number of lawsuits filed by Republican attorneys general in Texas against the Obama administration. Becerra’s lawsuits have targeted federal actions on immigration, healthcare, the environment, the U.S. census, education and the internet.
Last week, Becerra warned in a national televised address that he is prepared to sue the Trump administration again if the president declares a national emergency to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border while cutting federal funds to fire-damaged communities in California.