Gavin Newsom less warm toward Trump on wildfire aid during VP Harris visit

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared to change his tone regarding support from the Trump administration on wildfires Friday while welcoming Vice President Kamala Harris for talks about one of the state’s most vexing – and costly – problems.

During a news conference with Harris in San Bernardino, Newsom claimed he had a “sparring” relationship with the Trump White House as he sought to obtain federal funding to combat the deadly blazes – just over a year after he had praised the former president for providing the aid. 

“What a difference a year makes,” Newsom said at the U.S. Forest Service’s Del Rosa Fire Station, where Harris touted the inclusion of funding for wildfire recovery in the massive bipartisan infrastructure spending bill that President Biden signed into law earlier this year – and that has been viewed by many as the Biden-Harris administration’s most significant accomplishment after a year in office.

“It was a different place when we were battling it out with the (Trump) White House,” Newsom said, according to the San Bernardino Sun. “We’re not talking now about a sparring partnership, but a working partnership.”

“What a difference a year makes. It was a different place when we were battling it out with the (Trump) White House.”

But in 2020, while Trump was still president, Newsom seemed a bit more friendly with him on the issue. 

‘I want to thank you’

“I want to thank you and acknowledge the work you have done to be immediate in your response,” Newsom told Trump in September of that year, during a meeting in Sacramento on wildfires. He added that the help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been “profoundly significant.” 

Trump also told reporters before the meeting his administration had been working “very well” with the Democrat. 

“We’re obviously from different sides of the spectrum, but we have a very good relationship,” Trump said.

“We’re obviously from different sides of the spectrum, but we have a very good relationship.”

Still, Trump repeatedly criticized California on its wildfire prevention efforts and threatened more than once to withhold federal funds for fire recovery while he was president, blaming California for “gross mismanagement” of its forests. 

Then-President Trump, right, speaks with California Gov. Gavin Newsom at Sacramento McClellan Airport in McClellan Park, California, during a briefing on wildfires, Sept. 14, 2020.
(Getty Images)

In 2018, Trump tweeted, “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” according to CalMatters. 

Climate disagreement

Newsom has maintained that the constant threat from wildfires in the state has been exacerbated by climate change, an area in which he and the former president disagree.

Then-Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, FEMA Director Brock Long, President Donald Trump, Paradise Mayor Jody Jones and then-Gov. Jerry Brown tour the Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park, during Trump’s visit of the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, Nov. 17, 2018.
(Getty Images)

Under the infrastructure bill, $3.2 billion will go to wildfire management over five years 

“We are our best when local, state and federal work together hand in hand, unencumbered by politics or partisanship,” Harris said at the news conference, according to the Sun. 

No time to ‘bicker’

Trump and Newsom didn’t always get along on other topics and had very public disagreements on everything from climate change to immigration but they seemed to mellow their rhetoric again during the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Vice President Kamala Harris attends a briefing on wildfire prevention and mitigation Friday. From left are U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; California Gov. Gavin Newsom; U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif.; U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and Harris. At right is an official from the U.S. Forest Service Del Rosa Fire Station in San Bernardino, California.
(Getty Images)

Newsom received criticism from some liberals over his praise of Trump on certain issues but he maintained that a pandemic isn’t a time to “bicker.”

“I don’t care who’s up and down, whose polls are looking better than someone else’s or who wants to run for president or who doesn’t,” Newsom told CNN in April 2020, just a month after states had started to lock down to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“When it comes to times of crisis, we need to [rise] above the partisanship and I’ve extended always an open hand, not a closed fist, those circumstances. And this is no different.”

Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report. 

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