California governor plays down Trump feud

California governor plays down Trump feud

On most days, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) stands as one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE’s fiercest critics and lambastes the administration over immigration or health policy or the rollback of environmental regulations.

But on his first visit to Washington since taking office, Newsom played down the feud that has pitted Trump against progressive leaders in the nation’s most populous state, in part, advisers said, because California is worried that Trump might revoke some of the federal funding aimed at recovery efforts for deadly fires that struck last year.


“I’m not waking up every morning trying to put a crowbar in the front spokes of his wheel,” Newsom told The Hill in an interview. “We try to work together on emergency preparedness.”

Newsom, in Washington to attend the annual meeting of the National Governors Association, spent part of Monday at the White House, where he met with Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryOvernight Energy: BLM may boost staff numbers at new Colorado headquarters | Perry backers reportedly got Ukraine gas deal after he met with president | Paris exit toughens US path to green future Perry backers secured lucrative Ukraine gas deal after his meeting with new president: report The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment drama will dominate this week MORE, acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

His only interaction with Trump was a brief greeting on Sunday, when governors went to the White House for dinner with the president.

The stakes in any state-federal relationship are high because so much of a state’s budget comes from the federal government. But California has even more on the line now as the state grapples with the effects of climate change that are causing more and larger wildfires and a looming bankruptcy case involving the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric.

The frayed relationship came under the spotlight after Newsom said his administration would scale back some construction projects related to a high-speed rail project once intended to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, a project years overdue and billions over budget. After Newsom’s announcement, Trump asked the state to refund billions in federal money set aside for the project.

Advisers to Newsom said the governor sees a difference between standing against Trump on moral questions, like building a wall along the Mexican border or declaring a national emergency, and building relationships out of financial necessity.

It is not clear whether the Trump administration would actually claw back any federal dollars already appropriated, either for disaster relief or for other federal projects. But Newsom’s advisers said it was not clear just how serious Trump was in his threats about taking back that money.

Trump has a close relationship with the top Republican from California, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress hunts for path out of spending stalemate This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Nunes pressed on Fox News about comparing impeachment inquiry to a 'coup' MORE. In a statement, McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said the administration was committed to helping California rebound from the fires.

“When it comes to disasters like the fires, the president and the administration understand the gravity and devastation,” Sparks said in an email.

Newsom pointed to issues on which he has praised the administration. He said he had been impressed by Trump’s interest and commitment to an infrastructure bill, which would send billions to the states to rebuild bridges and roads.

“Our private conversations on that have been incredible. Truly, substantively, I’ve been impressed by his, not rhetorical commitment, but his firm commitment to get serious about an infrastructure bill. That is music to our ears,” Newsom said.

He also pointed to his State of the State address, in which he praised the administration’s work to lower prescription drug prices.

In that same address, Newsom castigated Trump’s “xenophobia” and “nativism.”

“I’m going to protect our values. I’m going to assert our values,” Newsom said. “I hope he can temper some of the more divisive language and rhetoric because it impacts our state more than any other state.”