President Trump’s tour of California took him to San Diego on Wednesday with an afternoon visit to the border, where he reviewed a recently finished section of replacement fence and signed it in Sharpie.
Trump toured the border area of Otay Mesa after a fundraiser in San Diego and met with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Defense. He referred to the barrier, which replaced much shorter panels originally installed in the 1990s, as nearly impenetrable.
“This wall can’t be climbed,” he said. “It’s designed to absorb heat…. You can fry an egg on that wall. It’s very, very hot. If you want to climb it, you’re going to have to bring hoses and water.”
Trump visited Otay Mesa last year to tour prototypes of his proposed border wall, and supporters and protesters turned out to greet him.
Ahead of the president’s visit, hundreds of protesters, supporters and observers gathered downtown in San Diego’s Horton Plaza Park. Supporters chanted, “Four more years,” while protesters inflated a “baby Trump” balloon. A similar balloon made an appearance in the Bay Area on Tuesday. And in Los Angeles, protests continued. At least one protester with the Revolution Club — a group that has routinely led political demonstrations that include burning the American flag — was arrested in Beverly Hills.
In San Diego, Trump praised Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the city for addressing homelessness. He continued to criticize Los Angeles and San Francisco — the biggest faces of California’s homelessness crisis — over the issue.
While aboard Air Force One en route to San Francisco on Tuesday, Trump said he was considering the creation of an “individual task force” as a possible solution to homelessness, without providing more details.
“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” he said, adding that the homelessness crisis is prompting residents of those cities to leave the country. “They can’t believe what’s happening.
“We have people living in our … best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings … where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige,” the president said. “In many cases, they came from other countries and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents — hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave. And the people of San Francisco are fed up, and the people of Los Angeles are fed up.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) agreed that homelessness was a major issue but said that Trump was wrong in his explanation of the situation.
“California’s big cities aren’t ‘destroying themselves,’ as the president said yesterday,” Feinstein said in a statement Wednesday. “In fact, California cities and the state government are devoting billions of dollars and immense energy to tackle this problem. The federal government could help that effort.”
The president said he planned to discuss the topic of homelessness further with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who joined him Tuesday in the Bay Area and then in Los Angeles.
Aboard Air Force One on Wednesday evening, Trump told reporters that his administration will slap San Francisco with a notice of environmental violations related to its homelessness problem within about a week.
He said “tremendous pollution” was flowing into the ocean because of waste in storm sewers, citing specifically used needles.
“It’s a terrible situation — that’s in Los Angeles and in San Francisco,” Trump said. “And we’re going to be giving San Francisco, they’re in total violation, we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon.”
He added: “EPA is going to be putting out a notice. They’re in serious violation…. They have to clean it up. We can’t have our cities going to hell.”
In L.A., Trump stayed at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown inside the Wilshire Grand skyscraper, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The hotel is roughly a mile from skid row. Trump did not have any scheduled tours of the area.
L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore and Carson met Wednesday to discuss housing issues, including homelessness, at the request of Carson. The HUD secretary toured the skid row area Wednesday morning, stopping into the Union Rescue Mission and the large, tent-like facility behind it. The Rev. Andy Bales, the mission’s chief executive, has touted the facility as a cheaper alternative to getting people off the street.
Carson, who implied he was Trump’s surrogate on skid row, did not provide concrete details about how the administration could help California’s homelessness problem, but he said the federal government and the state should work together with local organizations.
“The things that I have seen that work extremely well around this country — and I’ve traveled extensively — are the things where federal, state and local governments are able to work together along with for-profits, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, faith-based organizations,” Carson said.
California officials have largely been wary of the Trump administration’s intentions, concerned that the president wants to use homelessness and urban ills as a wedge for the 2020 campaign. But they have said they are willing to work with him.
Trump headlined a Beverly Hills fundraiser Tuesday night at the mansion of Los Angeles developer Geoffrey Palmer, according to sources familiar with the event. The dinner was the second stop of a two-day swing through California that is expected to raise more than $15 million for the president’s reelection campaign.
“It was absolutely awesome. People are ready and committed to working very hard for his reelection,” said Celeste Greig, a veteran GOP activist who attended the dinner, where filet mignon and sea bass were served.
Greig, former president of the California Republican Assembly, said Trump spoke about his efforts to end child trafficking, stop illegal immigration, create stronger trade relations and take on the crop of Democratic candidates competing to replace him.
“We will never be a socialist country,” Trump said, according to Greig.
The president was joined at the event by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel; son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner; and son Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle (who is also California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ex-wife). Donors, who were not told the exact location of the fundraiser, checked in at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where they showed their credentials before being whisked to Palmer’s mansion in shuttles. Actor and Trump critic Tom Arnold was at the hotel trolling Trump supporters as they arrived, Greig said.
Earlier in the day, Trump spoke at a Bay Area luncheon at the 32,000-square-foot home of Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy.
Harmeet Dhillon, one of California’s two representatives on the Republican National Committee, rode with the president in his car from Moffett Federal Airfield to McNealy’s Portola Valley home.
“We spoke about California and legal issues. He asked about various things going on in California, [notably] the homelessness issue and how concerned he is about the health crisis, in Southern California in particular,” said Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney whom Trump has recognized at the White House for her work on behalf of conservatives on college campuses and in Silicon Valley.
Hamblin writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Union-Tribune staff writers contributed to this report.