There are not many arenas where Donald Trump has failed to press his campaign against California and what Gov. Gavin Newsom calls its “essential values.”
The Donald has tried to worsen California air quality by overturning its independent smog-fighting authority. He filed a formal complaint that San Francisco’s homeless pollute the surrounding waters. He is trying to undermine, if not eliminate, the Endangered Species Act and thus remake state water policy to favor big corporate farms that are among his major campaign donors. And much more, seemingly some new attack on this state every week or two.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that after Trump won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing him to take money away from military projects to build the border wall that’s one of his central causes, he didn’t cut much from California.
Of the $3.6 billion Trump earmarked to be snatched from the military and given to wall construction firms, just $8 million and one project involved California. This, of course, may have something to do with the fact there weren’t many California projects he could raid for money because — like those of the three Presidents who preceded him — every Trump budget has short-changed this state.
Trump triggered his fund diversion by declaring a national state of emergency over illegal immigration after Congress refused to appropriate several billion dollars he sought for a barrier. That’s the same wall that he promised during his last campaign would be paid for by Mexico. Not precisely.
In California, the $8 million Trump is plucking comes from funds previously earmarked for a flight simulator designed to train C-130 cargo plane pilots in firefighting techniques. It was to be constructed at the Channel Islands Air National Guard base near Oxnard in Ventura County. The money will instead pay for about five miles of fencing near Otay Mesa in the San Diego area and at the Tecate Port of Entry from Mexico.
But this money is peanuts compared to the $3.6 billion total he’s taking. The bulk of that money ($2.5 billion) will come from Defense Department anti-drug activities, which Trump has said will be unnecessary once his wall is built. Never mind that drug smugglers have never been fazed by walls, always finding ways to skirt them by air or sea.
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Currently planned projects using the rerouted money include wall components in and near El Paso and Laredo, Texas; Yuma, Arizona, and El Centro.
Among projects to be cancelled as a result are several structures at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, which that state’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer immediately called “a slap in the face” to the U.S. Army. He added that it’s part of Trump’s eagerness to “cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego…”
Predictably, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called diverting billions from the military “irresponsible.” She added that “Congress appropriated these funds for specific projects and that’s how the funds should be used.”
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled over the summer that in a national emergency, any President can divert funds to where they’re most needed for national security. No one can stop Presidents from declaring emergencies any time they like, even when – like this time – there’s no proof of danger to national security.
But Congress did receive evidence before making its Channel Islands appropriation that C-130 pilots generally lack adequate wildfire training. So if the planes are mishandled over flaming areas in future midair crises, voters will know precisely where to place blame. The bet here is that if there were other major federal military projects under way or imminent in California, Trump would have dried up their funding, too, as this state is the first place he usually looks when he’s in punishment mode.
The upshot is that California for the most part dodged a bullet this time, but only because Trump found few targets here eligible to suffer his ire.