On Saturday, using his favorite 140-character medium, President Trump insulted the federal jurist who blocked his immigration order aimed at Muslim travelers, dismissing Judge James L. Robart as a “so-called judge.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, also on Twitter, responded tartly: “This ‘so-called’ judge was nominated by a ‘so-called’ President & was confirmed by the ‘so-called’ Senate. Read the ‘so-called’ Constitution.”
He was retweeted 43,000 times, a Trump-like rate, even more remarkable when you realize that Schiff has only 55,000 followers to Trump’s 24 million.
On Sunday, in an interview that aired before the Super Bowl, Trump told Bill O’Reilly of Fox News that a proposed California law that would prohibit state and local police agencies from helping federal authorities deport immigrants who are here illegally is “ridiculous.”
“California is, in many ways, out of control, as you know,” Trump said. “If we have to, we’ll defund. We give tremendous amounts of money to California.” (My colleague George Skelton writes that California stands to lose very little money if Trump decides to play hardball.)
Again, Schiff responded on Twitter: “We believe in dreamers, climate change and healthcare for all. We build futures, not walls. We are Californians. We are #ProudlyOutOfControl.”
“I think what he doesn’t realize is that for California, being called out by Trump is a badge of honor,” Schiff told me Monday. “With every attack, we are likely to steel our resistance to what he wants to do.”
Schiff is a mild-mannered former federal prosecutor who was elected to Congress in 2000 by voters in what had been a traditionally Republican district. He is a calm, erudite Harvard Law School grad who is the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State and Energy. At this strange moment when Russia’s election meddling may have changed the course of American history, Schiff is a sought-after guest on cable news shows.
As low-key as he seems on TV, the Twitterfication of American politics, wrought almost entirely by Trump, has changed him. He has become a master of snark.
“I certainly have taken off the gloves more than my usual persona,” Schiff said. “The extremity of this president’s views, and his disregard for separation of powers, and the way he is willing to bully people infuriates and alarms me and causes me to want to push back hard.”
Indeed, after Trump announced Monday on Twitter that, henceforth, “Any negative polls are fake news,” Schiff responded: “Trump attacks NYT, SNL, negative polls, allies & federal judges. But lets Putin get away with murder. Literally. In Ukraine. Aleppo. Moscow.”
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented tweets.
The #ProudlyOutOfControl movement is in full swing, all over the state — in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and even in unexpected places like Roseville, where a town hall meeting called Saturday by Republican U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock grew heated after hundreds of protesters vocally, but nonviolently, denounced McClintock’s support for Trump’s policies.
In Sacramento, Gov. Jerry Brown began pushing back well before Trump was even inaugurated. In December, he addressed scientists fearful that Trump would end NASA’s climate research. “If Trump turns off the satellites,” Brown thundered, “California will launch its own damn satellites.”
The day after the election, Democrats Kevin de Leon, president pro tempore of the state Senate, and Anthony Rendon, speaker of the Assembly, put out an anguished but defiant statement, in English and Spanish. “Today,” it began, “we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land.” Then they hired former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and his law firm to help the state do battle against the Trump administration.
On Monday, California joined with 15 states to file a brief supporting a Washington state lawsuit that argues Trump’s immigration order is unconstitutional.
Silicon Valley, whose leaders had that awkward photo op with Trump in New York before the inauguration, has joined the resistance. Twitter, Google, Apple and Uber are among the nearly 100 big technology companies who also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Washington lawsuit against the travel ban. The brief said the travel ban inflicted “significant harm on American business, innovation and growth.”
In the Golden State, which had an ally in the White House for eight years, pushing back is the new normal.
“California will be a hotbed of activism against this president’s policies,” Schiff said. “He will find real limits to what he can do to punish a state that doesn’t agree with him. And yes, I am concerned. He is a vindictive personality.”
Tuesday, as if to prove the point, Trump offered to damage a Texas lawmaker who thinks police should not be able to seize the money and property of people merely suspected, but not convicted, of committing crimes. “Do you want to give his name?” Trump asked a group of sheriffs at the White House. “We’ll destroy his career.”
The sheriffs thought that was just hilarious.
Shortly before I spoke with Schiff, Trump had announced at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. — headquarters of both the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command — that “the very, very dishonest press” doesn’t report terrorist attacks.
“He needs to be constantly called out on it,” said Schiff in response. “We can’t get to a place where we accept the president has no regard for the truth.”
I wondered whether, at some point, Trump’s disregard for the truth may simply wear down the opposition. “He is totally exhausting,” Schiff said. “But I think rather than wear us down, his shtick is going to grow old, and maybe there are signs that it already is. He already has the lowest approval rating of a new president in modern history, in record time.”
What about Schiff’s Republican colleagues? Are there any cracks in their facade of support for Trump?
“Initially, the House Republicans were quite giddy,” Schiff said. “They had a Republican president when they didn’t expect one and saw the chance to get all these things dangling in front of them.”
But he thinks they are now sinking into a kind of gloom. It’s clear there are going to be big fights about what could replace the Affordable Care Act. In four of the most conservative California counties — Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern — about 330,000 people are newly insured, which puts pressure on high-profile ACA opponents like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.
“I think they are still hoping to get what they can before the president starts fighting with them about things like how soon they can reasonably repeal the ACA,” Schiff said. “They know a fight is coming, and they want to get as much as they can before he starts tweeting hate tweets at them.”
You know it’s coming. #BraceYourselves.