By Carolyn Lochhead
Gov. Jerry Brown sought to tamp down any conflict with the Trump administration over sending California National Guard troops to the Mexican border, even as he dismissed a taunting tweet from the president and described heightened concerns about illegal immigration as the province of "very low-life politicians."
"I think we're pretty close to an agreement" on deploying Guard troops, Brown told reporters at the National Press Club, after administration officials said the state had rejected some of the duties federal officials want the Guard to perform.
Trump, who initially tweeted thanks to Brown last week after the governor agreed to deploy 400 Guard troops if they didn't enforce immigration law, issued a tweet early Tuesday complaining about limits California was setting.
"Looks like Jerry Brown and California are not looking for safety and security along their very porous Border," Trump tweeted from his Florida resort at Mar-a-Lago. "He cannot come to terms for the National Guard to patrol and protect the Border. The high crime rate will only get higher. Much wanted Wall in San Diego already started!"
Brown attributed Washington's focus on the border and deportations as "just an inflammatory football that very low-life politicians like to exploit."
He downplayed any differences with the administration over the Guard's mission at the border. "There's been a little back and forth, as you always get with bureaucrats," Brown said. He added that the California Guard "will have plenty to do" in the areas where he wants to point them -- drug, gun and human trafficking law enforcement.
Indeed, Brown said the state and the administration have "already come to terms. The National Guard's general is in touch, he knows what the mission is, and he's ready to go."
The exchange came one day after the Associated Press reported that California had rejected the federal government's initial plans for Guard troops because it was too closely tied to immigration enforcement.
The state rejected letting California Guard troops support the Border Patrol in several areas including repairing vehicles, controlling surveillance cameras and operating radios, the AP reported, citing two unnamed U.S. officials.
Trump asked Brown and the Republican governors of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas earlier this month to send a total of 2,000 to 4,000 Guard troops to the border to intercept people trying to enter the country illegally. The other governors quickly agreed without setting conditions on their forces' duties.
Also on Tuesday, Brown made clear that he was more than ready to challenge the Trump administration on vehicle emissions standards, saying the president and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt will be long gone by the time California wins any contest over the standards in court.
"The idea that California is going to roll back auto emissions standards is absurd," Brown said.
Pruitt issued formal notice last month that the administration will seek to roll back the clean car standards for model years 2022 to 2025, which California helped set.
Brown said the Chinese government is seeking to dominate the electric vehicle market, and accused Pruitt and the administration of "collaborating in shifting the auto industry to China."
He dismissed Pruitt's move as "another temporary kerfuffle. The hard facts on the ground are that we have to intensify our vehicle emission standards, not weaken them."
He said the California Air Resources Board is open to altering the rules to give automakers some "flexibility" to meet the standards, but that California is not about to back away from them, and will sue the federal government if necessary.
"We have so many lawsuits now (against the Trump administration" that a few more doesn't make any difference," Brown said.
(c)2018 the San Francisco Chronicle