SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) – New California Governor Gavin Newsom told KPIX 5 anchor Ken Bastida about his priorities for the state during an interview Thursday and insisted he is not trying to pick fights with President Donald Trump.
That statement came as something of a surprise in the wake of previous statements. The new governor immediately drew sharp battle lines with the President during his inauguration earlier this week, pledging to enact “progressive, principled” policies as the antidote to the White House’s “corruption and incompetence.”
“People’s lives, freedom, security, the water we drink, the air we breathe — they all hang in the balance,” Newsom declared during his inauguration speech in a large tent outside the Capitol Monday.
During his talk with Bastida, Newsom took a much more conciliatory tone, talking specifically about his encounter with the President when he visited parts of Butte County devastated by the Camp Fire.
“I complimented President Trump. I actually defended his raking comment — which, I can assure you, was not an easy one to defend — by saying that I think he was conflating the issue of defensible spaces, which is important,” Newsom explained.
This only a day after Newsom found himself locking horns with Trump over FEMA wildfire relief funding and the state’s forest management policies.
Trump once again suggested in a posting on Twitter that poor forest management is to blame for California’s deadly wildfires and said he’s ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stop giving the state money “unless they get their act together.”
Newsom fired back, telling Trump in a tweet — “We have been put in office by the voters to get things done, not to play games with lives.”
Despite the recent public clashes, Newsom insisted he was not trying to be combative with the President.
“I complimented him on the seven hours he spent meeting the victims and the commitment he made personally, not just to me but to them, to have their back long term, in terms of the recovery. So we weren’t picking fights; quite the contrary,” said Newsom. “We were actually complimenting the President before he came out with the tweet. And that’s what makes this whole thing a bit curious. And frankly, just exclusively and unsurprisingly political.”
When Bastida pointed out that the President’s latest announcement seemed to indicate he wanted to take some FEMA money to build the wall along the border with Mexico, Newsom was dismissive of the idea.
“The answer is unequivocally, absolutely, he cannot, Newsom said. “That tweet has a form and substance of something that San Franciscans know well: fog. It means absolutely nothing. He has no legal authority to redirect or take away that FEMA assistance.”
During the interview, Newsom also pledged immediate assistance for federal workers who are on furlough during the partial shutdown.
“Tens of thousands that will be impacted by the furlough, they now will be afforded the opportunity to get unemployment benefits, which should significantly reduce the stress of being able to make those rent payments or help support their children, said Newsom. “So we just want folks to know that.”
As far as the state budget that was announced on Thursday, the Governor said — despite the projected $21 billion surplus — he and his administration are prepared for an economic downturn, which he called “inevitable.”