If you won’t support the Trump Administration’s agenda, perhaps you don’t need the Trump Administration’s money — at least, that’s what California Governor Gavin Newsom is finding out the hard way Wednesday, after the president threatened to revoke a more than $2.5 billion grant for California’s abortive “high speed rail” project over Newsom’s opposition to Trump’s anti-illegal immigration efforts.
President Donald Trump took aim at Newsom Wednesday morning, threatening to force California to repay a multi-billion federal government grant that the state used to finance a “high speed rail” project connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco that Newsom now says will never be completed.
“The failed Fast Train project in California, where the cost overruns are becoming world record setting, is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
California now wants to scale back their already failed “fast train” project by substantially shortening the distance so that it no longer goes from L.A. to San Francisco. A different deal and record cost overruns. Send the Federal Government back the Billions of Dollars WASTED!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2019
Trump made the comments in response to Newsom’s decision to join with 15 other states in a lawsuit filed Monday challenging the Trump administration’s declaration of a “national emergency” in regard to illegal immigration, allowing the White House to reroute funds intended for other military and infrastructure projects to the border wall.
Newsom also, upon taking the oath of office last month, pulled California’s National Guard troops back from the border, where they were assisting Customs and Border Protection agents in interdiction efforts, and reassigning those troops to what the Huffington Post terms, “issues that Trump has downplayed,” including fire suppression.
In a statement issued to media this morning, Newsom says he considers Trump’s tweet no more than a threat.
“It’s no coincidence that the administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the president’s farcical ‘national emergency,’” he said, according to the New York Times. “This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by. This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it.”
But the Trump administration doesn’t appear to just be kidding around. The “bullet train” project, which Newsom now says probably won’t be completed, has cost the state and federal government an astounding $77 billion — more than 12 times what Trump requested from Congress to fund border wall construction in key areas. And the White House has a plan to get some of that money back.
For starters, The New York Times reports, “the Trump administration also said it was terminating a $929 million federal grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, according to a letter the Transportation Department sent Tuesday,” nearly zeroing out the federal government’s contribution to California’s statewide high speed rail projects for the 2019 fiscal year. The Transportation Department claims that California has “materially failed to comply with the terms of the agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project, significantly endangering substantial performance,” and federal contributions are no longer warranted.
The government is also looking to collect on some of Californa’s unpaid bills from the project. US News & World Report says the letter from the Transportation Department lists an outstanding balance on a $141.8 million loan — and they want payment on it immediately.
In a separate statement, also issued Tuesday, the Transportation Department said it will also be“actively exploring every legal option” to get its $2.5 billion back.
Newsom says that he’s not giving the money back, but the California high speed rail board told The New York Times that they see the government’s decision as an open offer to negotiate.