WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump lashed out at California on Wednesday, threatened to prevent construction of a border wall in a state that sued to stop it.
In a puzzling early-morning tweet, Trump said he “decided that sections of the Wall that California wants built NOW will not be built until the whole Wall is approved.”
“OUR COUNTRY MUST HAVE BORDER SECURITY!” he wrote.
California, however, joined four environmental advocacy groups in challenging the wall construction, arguing the Trump administration had overreached when it waived environmental reviews and other laws.
And Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge who was taunted by Trump during the 2016 campaign for his Mexican heritage, sided with the president on Tuesday in rejecting California’s arguments. Trump hailed the ruling as a “big victory.”
The White House did not respond to questions about the tweet and what parts of the wall Trump believes California wants constructed. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton said he was “not going to talk about hypotheticals” and said “the president speaks for himself.”
Trump has been increasingly annoyed at California, castigating the state for limiting its cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Last week, he threatened to pull the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency out of the state in reprisal — an idea so unlikely that some of Trump’s staunchest critics dismissed it as bluster amid escalating tensions with the state over its immigration policies.
Trump’s acting ICE director, Thomas Homan, has threatened to increase its enforcement footprint in the state, including adding deportation officers, warning, “California better hold on tight.”
The border wall with Mexico was one of Trump’s central campaign promises, but Congress has so far balked at requests to fund the project. Trump has also refused to back any legislation that would provide funding for the wall in exchange for protecting young immigrants known as Dreamers unless those changes are coupled with a major overhaul of the legal immigration system.
So far, eight prototypes meant to serve as a guide for future border wall design have been completed in San Diego.
Trump is scheduled to visit the prototypes in mid-March, according to a U.S. official. Trump has floated the idea of picking the winning design himself, telling rally-goers last year in Alabama: “I’m going to go out and look at them personally and pick the right one.”
Another person familiar with the visit said Trump would also go to Los Angeles for a fundraiser benefiting his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee during what will be his first trip to California as president. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the visit publicly.
Construction also began last week to replace slightly more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of wall in Calexico, California, the first wall contract that the administration awarded outside of the prototypes. Both it and the prototype project carry relatively small price tags and were funded last year.
DHS spokesman Houlton aid the Calexico project was proceeding as planned. And a Border Patrol spokesman in the sector that includes construction in Calexico said he was unaware of the president’s tweet but insisted work there was not part of the president’s planned wall. On Wednesday, crews continued to work on replacing a 1990s-era barrier with 30-foot-high (9-meter-high) bollards. The project is expected to take up to 300 days.
Imperial County Supervisor John Renison, who represents Calexico, said he supports the design being used there because people can see through it but opposes a wall generally. He was unaware of the president’s tweet or any change of plans.
“We do not support a wall, obviously, and let me make that very clear,” Renison said. “It’s like the old Berlin. You’re separating countries, and you’re creating animosity, and it’s not good.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, has adamantly opposed Trump’s plans, saying Tuesday in response to the court ruling that a “medieval wall along the U.S.-Mexico border simply does not belong in the 21st century.”
The Trump administration has proposed spending $1.6 billion to extend the wall 60 miles (96 kilometers) in Texas and replace 14 miles (22 kilometers) in California, specifically in San Diego. It wants $1.6 billion to extend the wall 65 miles (104 kilometers) next year, all of it in Texas. Congress has yet to approve the spending.
Spagat reported from San Diego.