ROBERT COSTA: President Trump takes aim at California on homelessness, auto emissions and more. And California fires back. This is the Washington Week Extra.
Hello, I’m Robert Costa. President Trump is at war with California, a heavily blue state and the largest economy in the United States. He recently highlighted homeless issues in the state.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: (From video.) Look at Los Angeles with the tents and the horrible, horrible, disgusting conditions.
MR. COSTA: This week while the president was in California fundraising and visiting the border wall, the Trump administration announced plans to reverse California’s ability to set its own emission standards.
SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION ELAINE CHAO: (From video.) There is one and only one set of national fuel economy standards as Congress mandated and intended. No state has the authority to opt out of the nation’s rules and no state has the right to impose its policies on everybody else in our whole country.
MR. COSTA: California’s Clean Air Act waiver allowed it to set emission standards that are tougher than the rest of the nation. California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said this in response to the proposed federal standard and the Trump administration’s sanctions.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D): (From video.) We’re going to push back when he tries to go after our DREAMers and go after, you know, access to reproductive rights, and go after our diverse communities. And I don’t think the attorney general wakes up looking for a lawsuit, but the vast majority of these were reacting to the assault on this state. And so it’s an unfortunate relationship. We’re winning, and that’s the frustration he’s having. We are winning, he is losing.
MR. COSTA: On Friday, California and 22 other states, and the District of Columbia filed suit against the Trump administration over the reversal of the state’s ability to set its emission standard. It’s the 60th lawsuit California has filed against the Trump administration. In a separate case, a federal judge on Thursday ordered a temporary injunction against a California law that requires presidential candidates to release their tax returns if they want to be on the primary ballot.
Joining me tonight, Kayla Tausche, Washington correspondent for CNBC; Lisa Desjardins, congressional correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; and KQED California Politics and Government Desk Correspondent Marisa Lagos, joins us from San Diego.
Marisa, thank you so much for being with us here on the Washington Week Extra – really appreciate it.
MARISA LAGOS: Thanks for having me.
MR. COSTA: We just saw Governor Newsom take a firm stand against the Trump administration. What’s next for the state as it fights the federal government, the Trump administration about its own power?
MS. LAGOS: Well, you know, I think that this lawsuit over the – as you said, it’s the 60th lawsuit the state has filed, so there are battles going on on a number of fronts. We have seen legislation challenging this administration from the get-go out of our state capital. We’ve seen these dozens of lawsuits.
And then there’s sort of the war of words. And I do think it’s important to note that in a lot of these cases it’s the politics on both sides that really – that matters. You know, I think that the emission standard case is going to be a little different than some of the cases, say, over immigration, in the sense that California has a very strong place to stand if you look at sort of the way the Clean Air Act was authorized by Congress over 40 years ago. And legally I think they have a leg to stand on, but as we know, these cases drag out, and so I think a lot of what’s going to happen ahead of the 2020 election is this back and forth that we saw really kick off over the last week and a half between Trump and Newsom, and other Democrats in California.
MR. COSTA: Where are the gaps between the Trump administration and California’s government, the Newsom administration, on the homeless issue? Where is that moving?
MS. LAGOS: Yeah, I mean, this is one of those interesting ones because I think that with things like immigration and the environment, California Democrats are really in lockstep together. There is a huge homeless crisis in California, and no Democrat can stand up to the president and say that that doesn’t exist; that he’s making this up.
We are in crisis on our streets, and I think what we’ve seen is sort of different reactions depending on who we’re talking about. In Los Angeles, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, actually his administration reached out to the Trump administration after news broke that they were coming to town and said they wanted to do this crackdown. I think he was trying to get ahead of it. I got to sit down with him.
You know, he said the day after this all broke, when the Trump administration officials were in L.A., we think there’s things the federal government could do to help us. Whether they will is another question or whether this is really just posturing.
And so I think that that’s one where Gavin Newsom, for example, our governor, is in a different situation because he is struggling to really contain this problem, and it’s not as if they can just write it off. But, you know, if you look at the president’s language, if you look at the way he is talking about this, it really does seem more aimed at politics than actually reaching out and trying to help the state. I mean, he’s talking about, you know, what it looks like to tourists and people who are coming in here who are investing; not what it looks like if you are a homeless person and need a place to live.
MR. COSTA: Let’s talk about the politics of that, Kayla. Is this all about 2020 for President Trump – making California a target for immigration, the border wall, homelessness, and other issues?
KAYLA TAUSCHE: Well, I think that it’s the perfect political foil for him. It is the resistance personified. When you think about his staunchest opponents in Congress – Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters – mostly representatives from California who have been most vocal against him; social media companies whose content he feels is stacked against him.
And you have various policies like the emissions fight that are incredibly overt, but then you also have more subtle jabs at the state like a proposed freeze in locality pay. That means that government workers won’t see a pay raise based on cost of living. So people who live in really expensive cities like L.A. and San Francisco, they won’t see their pay rise the same amount that other government workers might or that they would have in previous years.
And so he’s finding ways to fight this multi-pronged war against California and really looking to it as the epicenter for 2020.
MR. COSTA: Lisa, Kayla mentioned Speaker Pelosi from the San Francisco area. What is she doing, as the leader of the House of Representatives, to counter President Trump’s war against California?
LISA DESJARDINS: I think – while she is very close to her district, she talks about it a lot, I think honestly when she is fighting Trump she is doing it as the leader of the Democratic Party more than she is the leader of California.
I think if you are looking at who is taking up that mantle, in addition to Gavin Newsom, you look at Xavier Becerra, who is the attorney general of California. He left Congress. I remember talking to him, having lunch with him as he was on his way out, and he left specifically because he thought he wasn’t getting things done in Congress, and it was not good for his career.
He might not have wanted to do as much as he is having to do in California, but California is its own power base. The emission standards are so important, not just as a matter of a state’s rights issue, but because their emission standards – many of your viewers know – set the standards for the country because why would a car manufacturer make two different sets of cars because the California market is so large.
What the president is doing here, I think, is fighting back against a concept he thinks of as national injunctions. He thinks courts are taking small cases from states and sweeping away his policy nationwide. He is fighting that by trying to push back at the state that’s doing it the most, California, to try and keep his policies going.
MR. COSTA: Marisa, based on that point, how are car companies and other industrial companies responding to this change of the emission standard? Are they going to stick with the California standard that California has been asking for and abiding by its own law for quite some time, or are they going to move along and get rid of it?
MS. LAGOS: Well, this has been one of those fascinating things that has played out over the last few years where you have these automakers who are concerned by the ambitious standards set by the – President Obama’s administration. And then sort of, I think, after seeing how far the Trump administration wanted to roll them back, said, wait a second, this may not be good for us both from a sort of business perspective and an environmental one, which of course ties to their business practices.
I mean, you know, I think you can see that the oil industry would see it differently, but we did see, really, I think, one of the biggest wins that Gavin Newsom has had since becoming governor in January, when he got this deal with four of the biggest automakers in July where they agreed to essentially abide by California’s standards no matter what Trump’s administration did.
Of course Trump has launched an anti-trust investigation against them. We know that Newsom is still trying to meet with other automakers and bring them along. Even if he can’t, I think the fact that four big ones are in his camp is a big win.
And we’re also seeing the state trying to look at other ways – we have a Democratic assemblyman from San Francisco saying, hey, maybe all those incentives we give to people to buy electric cars will only be applicable to these four automakers.
So a lot happening there, and I think on both sides – back to the politics – it’s sort of a win-win, you know? I mean, Trump has made sort of his case starting in 2015, really – not just about immigration but about the places where immigrants congregate and the cities – the urban cities that he lost. And he doesn’t really need these cities – including of course the entire state of California. And so I think coming here, hitting on San Francisco, hitting on L.A., it’s a win-win for him, and on the Democratic side there is no downside to pushing back against Trump.
MR. COSTA: And we did see the president visit the border wall – even signed some of the wall with a Sharpie pen this week. A sign of what’s to come for the campaign – putting that emphasis on immigration?
MS. TAUSCHE: Potentially. I mean, if there is a way to put an emphasis on immigration even more so than he did in 2016 – you know, you have new reporting about how much that wall is going to cost, where the money is going to be diverted from, estimates that I’m told by officials are hundreds of millions of dollars higher than OMB originally projected. And so this is going to be front and center in a lot of those debates next year when you really have the general election candidates facing off against each other and getting into some of these promises that the president made.
MS. DESJARDINS: And maybe front and center a lot sooner because we were supposed to run out of money, again, at the end of this month. It looks like Congress is going to extend that, have another continuing resolution, sort of Band-Aid funding bill till just before Thanksgiving, but it’s hard for anyone to understand how they get past this issue of wall money, which is ultimately why the government shut down earlier this year. It’s going to be a problem again and again.
MR. COSTA: Thanks for joining us, Marisa Lagos of KQED. And thank you, Lisa Desjardins of PBS NewsHour and Kayla Tausche of CNBC.
That’s it for this edition of the Washington Week Extra. You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or watch on the Washington Week website. While you are online, check out the Washington Week-ly News Quiz.
I’m Robert Costa. Thanks for joining us, and see you next time.