Gov. Brown hopes for 'common understanding' after Trump blasts state for National Guard restrictions

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during an event at the National Press Club April 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gov. Brown participated in a National Press Club Newsmaker Program to answer questions from members of the media.
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during an event at the National Press Club April 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gov. Brown participated in a National Press Club Newsmaker Program to answer questions from members of the media.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump is unhappy with Governor Brown's proposal for a strictly limited deployment of hundreds of California National Guard troops.

On Tuesday, Trump used a preferred forum — early morning Twitter — to voice his discontent. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Looks like Jerry Brown and California are not looking for safety and security along their very porous Border. He cannot come to terms for the National Guard to patrol and protect the Border. The high crime rate will only get higher. Much wanted Wall in San Diego already started!</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">April 17, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Brown's press office responded to the tweet with one of their own, which began with an eyeroll emoji and included a link to the governor's April 11 letter to Trump administration officials outlining the mission of California's National Guard troops.

Brown sec tweet

Brown sent the letter to the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense last week, pledging to accept federal funding to mobilize 400 Cal Guard members to work on drug, gang, and human trafficking prevention. But the governor included strict restrictions on the duties these troops could perform: no immigration enforcement.

"[L]et’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission," Governor Brown wrote in the letter, released Wednesday. "This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws."

A Brown spokesman also said the location of the Guard would be based on "needs on the ground," meaning they could be sent all over the state, not just to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Governor included a Memorandum of Agreement with the letter, with more specifics about the role of the Cal Guard and length of the mission. That agreement needed the green-light from the Department of Homeland Security and Defense to go into effect.

The next day, Trump celebrated Brown's announcement. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">California Governor Jerry Brown is doing the right thing and sending the National Guard to the Border. Thank you Jerry, good move for the safety of our Country!</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">April 12, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

The first sign of trouble came yesterday, when a DHS official told reporters California had rejected the terms of Trump's National Guard deployment that other states—Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas—had accepted.

"The governor determined that what we asked for is unsupportable, but we will have other iterations," Ronald Vitiello, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's acting deputy commissioner, told the AP.

Cal Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Keegan disputed the claim that California had denied Trump's call to mobilize the Guard. Keegan went on to say in a statement to the AP, "the federal government has not yet responded," to the Governor's proposal.

Speaking at the National Press Club Tuesday morning, Brown responded to Trump's Twitter dig.

"Wait a minute. Trying to stop drug smuggling, human trafficking and guns going to Mexico to the cartels—that sounds to me like fighting crime," Brown said, defending the scope of the mission he set for Cal Guard troops. "Trying to catch some desperate mothers and children or unaccompanied minors coming from Central America—that sounds like something else."

But the Governor also downplayed any disagreement between California and the federal government.

"We want to be cooperative. I appreciate the President's tweet when he thanked me," Brown said. "There's been a little bit of back-and-forth as you always get with bureaucrats. But I think we can find common understanding here."

Later, Brown responded to another reporter question about the status of the deployment, and the differences between California and other border states:

“There is a difference. The other three Republican governors have a political affiliation that I don’t share. But I am concerned about our borders, I am concerned about the shipment of drugs—not only overland but on the shores of California—and human trafficking, and I am concerned about the guns that are going south from Arizona, California and Texas.

“So those are things that we’re already working on. We have 50 Guardsmen near the southern border. We have a couple hundred Guardsmen throughout the state dealing with some of these same problems. So it is a very logical next step to add a couple hundred more—or more than that.

The Guard is champing at the bit ready to go. So I think we’ll get there.”

It's unclear exactly how Brown plans to ensure Cal Guard troops' drug and gang prevention work at the border stays separate from supporting immigration enforcement. 

Earlier this month, the union representing most U.S. Border Patrol agents said having National Guard units working on things like surveillance—watching cameras, monitoring sensor activity, manning “sky boxes” or other observation posts—would free up Border Patrol to do enforcement work like stopping drug smuggling and illegal crossings.

The union said the Border Patrol is facing a shortfall of a little over 2,000 agents.

This story has been updated.