California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined New York Times reporters last week in an event that examined the reasons behind California’s ongoing battle with the Trump Administration.
Hosted by the New York Times at the Sacramento Public Library, the CA vs Trump live event began with an interview with Becerra concerning the lawsuits against the Federal government, followed by a panel discussion among the New York Times reporters Jennifer Medina, Ivan Penn and Jose Del Real.
During the interview, Becerra reported that, since 2017, 62 lawsuits against the Trump Administration have been filed, either by California alone or joined by other states. Shifting from his time writing policy in congress under Clinton, Bush, and Obama, Becerra now has the task of enforcing the laws under this Administration.
“I am not poking the President’s eye when I am filing suit. I am trying to protect the things of California,” said Becerra.
That includes jobs, education, giving kids a decent place to live and care for the habitat and surroundings. What is at issue is not that California is against Trump, but rather the fact that, according to Becerra, the Trump administration has chosen to violate the law.
“It’s not us that’s fighting the Trump administration,” said Becerra. “It’s the Trump administration that is fighting the things that are already in place nationally, or in California.”
Although accused of being frivolous, none of the lawsuits have been dismissed and 30-plus have been won. The case concerning the question of citizenship on the national census traveled all the way to the Supreme Court.
There is a great deal at stake for California, according to Becerra. Most moneys paid to the federal government comes back to the state based on formulas. By not counting all of the population, California stands to lose not only millions of dollars, but congressional seats.
Fighting for California
California’s authority to set auto emissions stricter than federal standards began in the 1960s, introducing the Governor Ronald Regan era to federal waivers. Trump has “yanked the waivers” in favor of higher emissions, according to Becerra, which ultimately only benefit oil companies and not automakers who have switched to producing electric cars. Numerous states have joined California in wanting to protect the Clean Air Act.
When the question of States’ right was posed to Becerra, he explained that in the 1960s states wanted federal government to stay out of their business, so they could have separate drinking fountains, poll taxes for folk of color, and change districts to eliminate voting.
California is not telling the federal government to stay out of its business, but rather to “respect your own laws. Follow your own rules.” Examples of that include rolling federal protections under the Endangered Species Act and the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act protects over 131 million people with pre-existing conditions. This is a federal law which falls under the U.S. Department of Justice and headed by U.S. Attorney General William Barr. According to Becerra, Barr has failed to defend the federal law.
Becerra concluded that his role is to defend the values and resources of California. When investigating a homicide, no one asks if the shooter was red or blue or if the victim was a democrat or republican. The obligation is to treat every Californian the same way.
In 1994, Prop 187 called for state-run citizenship screening and prohibited illegal immigrants from using public education, non-emergency health care, and other state services. This anti-immigration policy activated people to the polls and caused the state to swing left, according to NY Times Reporter Jennifer Medina who grew up in Riverside, CA.
Reporter Ivan Penn covers alternative energy in California and addressed the history of emission policies starting in 1967 when Governor Ronald Regan pushed for emission waivers that allowed California to have higher emission standards. Recently, California met with four major automakers and an agreement was made to align with California standards.
According to Penn, this angered Trump, who then pulled California’s emission waivers. Penn has covered the Bakersfield region and notes that there are large areas filled with solar farms along with oil wells extracting fossil fuels. The debate there, according to Penn, is making money over saving the environment.
The event concluded with an audience Q & A session with the panel of reporters. “How has Donald Trump’s attacking the New York Times individually affected the newspaper?” was a lead question.
“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets,” said Jose Del Real, quoting Napoleon Bonaparte.
Del Real went on to say that New York Times reporters take the job seriously and report the news fearlessly on the daily, “and that we explain the processes of how we do our jobs,” he said. “That includes rigorously talking to people, to get closest to the truth as possible. Rhetoric makes people not trust nor want to talk with newspapers. This prevents us from knowing about their lives and realities.”
Penn confided that his friend Robert Hiaasen was killed in June 2018 at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. Robert had recommended Penn for the John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University. Many Americans view politics like a sport–my team vs your team.
“Real lives are affected by the rhetoric,” he went on to say.
The evening concluded with an invitation to connect with the New York Times to let your stories be heard. People are encouraged to use @nytimes and @saclib on social. Alternately, all three NY Times reporters are on Twitter and Jose can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A summary of the lawsuits can be found at CalMatters.org/lawsuits.