California Top Cop Becerra Won’t Quit ‘Essential’ War on Trump

April 22, 2019by Kartikay Mehrotra
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

SAN FRANCISCO — California, with its track record as the most litigious state against President Donald Trump’s agenda, still has plenty of momentum, according to its attorney general, who is digging in on everything from climate change to immigration.

Xavier Becerra has compiled an 18-3 case record in lawsuits challenging Trump, with dozens more cases still pending on behalf of the world’s fifth-largest economy. While Becerra is calling on Congress to aggressively push back against the president to relieve pressure on his office and other Democratic attorneys general, California’s top cop says his pipeline of forthcoming litigation will remain robust if Trump’s policies continue to threaten “the rule of law.”

California has evolved since its voters in 1994 passed an anti-immigrant proposition that was quickly deemed discriminatory and overturned by federal courts. A quarter-century later, the formerly red state is now a Democratic stronghold, fueling the American economy. It has the backbone and legal resources to outlast Trump, Becerra said in an hour-long interview in Sacramento that covered issues including Robert Mueller, immigration, his relationship with Gavin Newsom, the state’s governor, and his own political future.

The Mueller Report’s Political Impact

“I think what’s really going to matter is what Mueller says. I do believe Congress at some point will hear from Mueller. He is the special counsel. (Attorney General William) Barr is damaging his credibility to be an honest broker of this report and of his department.”

“We’ve been in obstruction-of-justice territory for a long time.”

Trump’s Threat to Bus Undocumented to Sanctuary Cities

“I don’t listen to what Donald Trump says. I watch what he does, because I sue him not based on what he says, but what he does. I can’t sue just because I don’t like something he does. My capacity to sue is predicated on my ability to prove that there’s a harm in the state of California and that it’s a harm that was a result of a breaking of the law.”

Auto-Emission Standards Dispute

“I think the (auto) industry regrets where it went. They wanted some help to slow things down and what they’ve got was someone who doesn’t have brakes. I think if they could re-write this book, they would not do what they did” when they asked Trump to reverse Obama-era standards.

“Knowing now what they do about the way the Trump administration acts and the way it treats (regulations), I think they’d say, ‘Well, even if we won, it wouldn’t be for several years.’ For them, this means billions of dollars.”

The Future of PG&E Corp.

“I have an independent authority of the California Constitution to protect the people. And so what would you do? Stay tuned, but I guarantee you that from the governor on down, we’re prepared to do what we have to do to make sure that the people of the state as rate payers, taxpayers or victims come out of this with a sense that the laws were respected.”

PG&E’s future will include “far more rigorous oversight. I suspect their investors will have to look closer at what they’re buying.”

Working with Governor Newsom

“He’s very supportive of the work we’re doing on criminal justice reform. He’s been aggressive in helping us move forward in our, some of our public safety requests in the budget. He’s been great on environment and has a record on that. More than half of our lawsuits (against Trump) are in the environmental space, and he is gung-ho on those.”

Kamala Harris as Democratic Candidate for President

“It’s going to be hard to take California from her. Someone’s going to have to really invest to try to do that. But there are some recognizable names that bring their own loyalties: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. It’s whether or not that can do enough to take it from her.”

“She’s in play even if she may not be perceived in the national polls as the one to beat. She could do well in California and do well in southern states with a large African-American vote. And the (California) primary coming earlier (in the 2020 election cycle) certainly helps Senator Harris because others will have to decide how often to come to California, while she comes here naturally.”

Becerra’s Own Political Aspirations

“Sky’s the limit, is what I always tell my daughters. I tell them, ‘You can do way more than I did and I’m doing way more than my parents were ever permitted to do.’ This is a dream job in many ways because I get to have my hands on so many things, including Trump, that are so essential.”

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©2019 Bloomberg News

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