WASHINGTON – While traveling in California Wednesday, President Donald Trump took his latest swipe against the Democratic-leaning state he loves to bash.
Trump announced on Twitter that he was revoking California’s authority to set its own vehicle emission standards, a move that will almost certainly lead to another legal battle with the state. He made the move during a two-day fundraising tour.
The president, who has called California a “disgrace,” is deeply unpopular there but his fight with the Golden State could help rile up some of his supporters elsewhere in the country.
“Trump is not depending on political support from California, a state that is synonymous with the liberal elite in the minds of many GOP voters and where his net approval is at -30,” said Lauren Wright, a political scientist at Princeton University.
Fighting over homelessness
Even before he landed in California Tuesday, Trump was ratcheting up a different fight with the state, telling reporters on Air Force One he was going to do something about the state’s problem with homelessness.
“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” he said, complaining that homeless people are living on “our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings” where people pay “tremendous taxes.”
Trump’s remarks came less than a week after a senior administration confirmed that the administration had sent a team of federal officials to California on a fact-finding mission to learn more about the state’s homeless crisis. The administration is reportedly considering a federal crackdown on homelessness in the state.
More: Blaming shelters and street sleeping, Donald Trump blasts California for homeless crisis
Even if Trump decides against intervening in California’s homeless crisis, calling attention to the state is not a bad political strategy, Wright said.
“When Trump calls California a disgrace, he is not risking alienating voters who would have otherwise supported him,” she said. “He’s also putting California politicians in a difficult situation. Would they really refuse federal aid to help the homeless population in their cities because of political differences with the president?”
Working with the Trump administration and helping him boost his leadership image in an election year is politically taboo for Democrats, Wright said, “yet refusing to collaborate with him would mean choosing politics over the immediate needs of constituents, which could be much worse.”
“If Trump is serious about helping out cities like LA and San Francisco get homeless people off the streets, he will get to claim credit for his success,” she said. “And if he neglects to follow through with these assurances, he can continue to place blame to the Democratic politicians running the state.”
More: Los Angeles County seeks action from city on toilets, rats and trash to combat homeless crisis
In response to Trump’s remarks about homelessness, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released a nearly seven-minute video filmed at one of the city’s homeless shelters in which he urged the president to “pause politics” and not “demonize Americans that are on the street.”
“Welcome to L.A.,. Mr. President,” Garcetti says in the video, posted on the mayor’s Facebook page. “This is your chance to do something. We hope that you will.”
Threat to revoke disaster aid
Trump has taken other jabs at California since he assumed office.
Last fall, as major wildfires roared out of control across the state, Trump blamed “gross mismanagement of the forest” for the catastrophe and threatened to pull federal funds used to fight forest fires if the issue is not remedied.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” he tweeted. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Slamming Hollywood celebs
Trump, who starred in a television reality show before he was elected president, also has aimed fire at Tinseltown celebrities.
He recently took to Twitter and attacked actress Debra Messing of “Will & Grace” as “a McCarthy style Racist” after she suggested publishing a list attendees at his Beverly Hills fundraiser and voiced her support for an Alabama church that displayed a controversial anti-Trump sign.
Last week, just days before he departed for California, he Twitter-slammed “boring musician” John Legend and “his filthy mouthed wife,” Chrissy Teigen, claiming they haven’t given him enough credit for supporting criminal justice reform.
California punches back
California’s Democratic leaders have thrown their own punches.
In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring presidential candidates to provide five years of tax returns in order to appear on California primary ballots in March. The new law could force Trump, who has not released his tax returns, off the ballot in the Golden State.
Earlier this month, California lawmakers passed a bill that would have restored many environmental and workplace safety regulations created by President Barack Obama but that Trump has weakened or repealed. There was little question the bill was aimed at Trump: It included a clause that would cause the bill to expire the day Trump leaves office in 2025, if he wins a second term.
Newsom, however, said he would veto the bill because it does not give the state any new authority to push back on Trump’s environmental policies and limits the state’s ability to rely upon the best available science to protect the environment.