2020 preview? Newsom stops Nat'l Guard border deployment in California

Dude, he’s running. In an implicit slap at Donald Trump, Gov. Gavin Newsom will order an end to the National Guard deployment at the US-Mexico border in California. The New York Times reports that Newsom will issue new orders for hundreds of troops to support firefighters or work with law enforcement against drug traffickers:

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is expected on Monday to withdraw nearly 400 of his state’s National Guard troops from deployment along the border with Mexico and assign them to other duties, according to aides to the governor.

The step to rescind state authorization for the border deployment is a sharp rebuke of President Trump’s continued warnings that undocumented migrants present a national security risk to the United States. It follows a similar move last week by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.

Under a “general order” that Mr. Newsom plans to sign on Monday, 110 California National Guard troops will be redirected to support the state’s central fire agency, Cal Fire, and another 100 will work on statewide “intelligence operations” aimed at international criminal drug gangs.

If that’s an implicit slam on Trump’s demand for more border-enforcement resources, Newsom plans to get explicit about it soon enough. Politico reports that Newsom will focus heavily on the issue in his “state of the state” address tomorrow, in which he will frame this move as a direct rebuke to the White House. “No more division, xenophobia or nativism,” Newsom plans to declare:

Newsom has been sharply critical of Trump’s immigration policies, noting that the president’s proposed border wall is unpopular in California and assailing Trump’s State of the Union speech for “stoking fear and spreading hatred” by “manufacturing a border crisis.”

He plans to offer a similar explanation during his State of the State address on Tuesday, when he will reject participating in what he calls “political theater” that “has been thrust on us by Washington.”

“This is our answer to the White House: No more division, xenophobia or nativism,” Newsom plans to say, according to prepared remarks.

Newsom has long held up California as a more rational alternative to Trump’s agenda. During a recent visit to San Diego, Newsom said “we should be celebrating” migrants who seek asylum legally and contrasted California’s efforts to assist them — including a $25 million outlay in his first budget proposal — with what he called Trump’s disingenuous narrative “that somehow these caravans are coming in to create havoc.”

The move isn’t much of a surprise. Newsom publicly crossed swords with his predecessor Jerry Brown over the deployment during the gubernatorial campaign last year, albeit in more respectful terms. On his first day on the job, Newsom directed the California National Guard Adjutant to prepare a “menu of options” to end the participation in Trump’s initiative. He made clear his intention to challenge Trump on border and immigration policy, and there is no indication that this will be anything but wildly popular in California.

That brings us to the obvious question: just how far is Newsom willing to go in challenging Trump? The Democratic presidential contender field is already full-to-overflowing, and it already includes one prominent Californian, Sen. Kamala Harris. Newsom has only been governor for a hot second, but he spent eight high-profile years as Brown’s lieutenant governor, a period in which Newsom built a lot of credibility and credit among progressive activists. Unlike most of the rest of the field, Newsom comes from outside the Beltway, a factor that might enhance his standing in contrast with Harris and other presumed top-tier contenders from the Senate.

Don’t put it past Newsom to give it a shot, even with his brief time in the top slot in the Golden State. If he does, Newsom might undercut Harris significantly, especially in fundraising out of their home state. If Harris and Newsom split the home-state vote, that could provide an opening for other Democrats to get past California’s new position in the primary. If nothing else, a Newsom candidacy would do wonders for popcorn sales everywhere in the US.