Brown vows to fight Trump over mileage rules until ‘long after we have a new president’

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)
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Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that California won’t accept scaled-back federal fuel-economy standards, and he vowed to keep any such attempt tied up in court until long after President Trump is out of the White House.

“The idea that we’re going to roll back the auto standards is absurd. We’re not going to do that,” Brown told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The Trump administration announced this month that it plans to weaken federal rules championed by California that require cars and SUVs to average 55 miles per gallon by 2025. It also said it would seek to revoke California’s power, granted under the Clean Air Act, to set its own standard, separate from whatever the Environmental Protection Agency adopts.


“I believe we have the legal horsepower to block the immediate legal moves by the Trump administration,” Brown said. “The attempts to do this are going to be bogged down in litigation long after we have a new president.”

Brown, a Democrat, has become one of Trump’s most effective foils on the national stage, pushing back against the president on immigration, environment and legalized marijuana. He spoke Tuesday about ways the liberal state is challenging Trump.

It’s not the first time Brown has warned the administration that California plans to keep its policies tied up in court for years. The state has filed more than 30 lawsuits already, and Brown quipped Tuesday that “we have so many lawsuits now that a few more doesn’t make any difference.”

He downplayed the confrontation with Trump over deploying the California National Guard to the Mexican border, even as the president accused the governor of blocking the effort.

Last week, Brown agreed to send 400 members of the Guard to help along the border, but he set specific terms on what the troops would be allowed to do, stipulating that they would not help with immigration enforcement or building a wall along the border.

Administration officials indicated Monday that they don’t believe Brown is fully committing to the administration’s request to send the National Guard to the border. The Republican governors of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona all pledged assistance without such restrictions early last week.


In a tweet Tuesday, Trump blamed Brown for failing to reach an agreement with the administration, saying Brown and the state “are not looking for safety and security along their very porous border,” and that crime would increase.

Brown said he didn’t see the president’s tweet, which was posted shortly before the governor spoke. But Brown said he still expects the California National Guard to reach a compromise with the federal government that also adheres to the limitations outlined in his letter.

“The number, it could be two or four hundred, that’s being worked out. There’s very good communication between California’s National Guard and the National Guard headquarters,” Brown said. “I think we’re pretty close to an agreement.”

But Brown didn’t back away from his restrictions on what the Guard would be allowed to do.

“Trying to stop drug smuggling, human trafficking and guns going to Mexico to the cartels, that sounds to me like fighting crime,” Brown said. “Trying to catch some desperate mothers and children, unaccompanied minors coming from Central America? That sounds like something else.”

Brown also vowed to continue the court fight over California laws that vastly limit whom state and local law enforcement agencies can hold, question and transfer at the request of federal immigration authorities.

The three so-called sanctuary laws were passed in response to the Trump administration’s increased immigration enforcement efforts.


A handful of states and the Trump administration have filed a lawsuit arguing the laws interfere with or block federal immigration enforcement efforts in order to protect people in the U.S. illegally, and violate the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which makes state law subordinate to federal law.

Several Orange County cities have passed resolutions opposing the laws in recent weeks and are weighing joining the lawsuit.

Brown acknowledged the different opinions on the laws and said he aimed for a “measured” response to the increased enforcement.

“We’ll see what the judges say and if the cities want to come in [to the legal fight], that’s fine. But look, let’s be honest, there’s a lot of politics in this, on all sides. I tried to carve a path down the middle to respect our immigrants, to respect our borders and to respect our laws,” he said.

The sanctuary laws put California even more squarely in the administration’s cross hairs, and immigration officials have increased raids at farms and businesses across the state. Brown said the increased enforcement is affecting the state’s economy, with millions of people fearing to go to work.

“They’ve become integrated into our economy and they’re doing important work picking food, working in restaurants, working construction … so to scare the hell out of them, put them on the run as it were, that is very disruptive to the economy,” Brown said. “This is not human, it’s not decent and it’s completely unproductive.”


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1:25 p.m.: The story was updated with Brown’s comments about fuel-economy rules.

The story was originally published at 10:15 a.m.