'This is our answer to the White House': California is bucking Trump's controversial policies in an unprecedented way

  • In recent weeks, California and its National Guard have begun signalling their disagreement with President Donald Trump on two contentious issues: the US-Mexico border, and transgender service members.
  • Nearly a month after the Supreme Court decided not to stand in the way of Trump’s move to bar transgender people from serving in the military, the California Military Department’s second-in-command told policymakers the rule would not be enforced for transgender troops in California’s National Guard.
  • California’s newly elected Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, also announced on Monday that he would withdraw most of the roughly 360 members of California’s National Guard deployed at the southern border to “refocus on the real threats facing our state.”
  • About 110 troops at the US-Mexico border will be redeployed for “fire prevention and fire suppression efforts,” the governor’s office said, as s tate authorities are thought to be close to deciding how to allocate assets for the next fire season.
  • A former senior Cal Guard official told INSIDER on Monday that the redeployment appeared to be the right move. “In the end, I think National Guard troops are more suited, certainly for California, for things like wildfires,” the official said. “It’s when they’re inundated with so many fires that all the firefighting capabilities in the state can’t keep up with the [operational] tempo.”

In recent weeks, California and its militia, one of the largest National Guard entities in the US, have begun signalling their disagreement with President Donald Trump on two contentious topics: the southern border, and transgender service members.

Nearly a month after the Supreme Court decided not to stand in the way of Trump’s move to bar transgender people from serving in the military, the California Military Department’s second-in-command told policymakers the directive would not be enforced for transgender troops in California’s National Guard.

“As long as you fight, we don’t care what gender you identify as,” Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, the department’s assistant adjutant general, told the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs last week.

“Nobody’s going to kick you out,” Beevers said, adding that transgender service members could still seek sex-reassignment surgery.

Trump’s ban has not been fully implemented, pending an injunction put in place by the District Court of Maryland. US District Judge George Russell of Baltimore has not ruled on the issue.

Beevers said he expected the ban “will be lifted again.”

Trump announced on Twitter in 2017 that he would reverse President Barack Obama’s policy of allowing transgender people to serve, saying the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”


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But in 2016, a year before Trump’s announcement, a government-funded study by the Rand Corporation found that “the costs of gender transition-related health care treatment are relatively low” for the approximately 1,320 to 6,630 transgender troops on active duty. The study estimated a yearly cost of $US2.4 million to $US8.4 million, or an increase in healthcare costs of about 0.04% to 0.13% for the active-duty military.

It was unclear whether Gavin Newsom, California’s newly elected Democratic governor, who has described Trump’s ban as “reckless” and “the height of cruelty and ignorance,” played a role in the Cal Guard’s decision.

“Military leaders, decorated veterans, and members of Congress from both parties have rightly come together to condemn what is – by the administration’s own admission – a cheap, cynical ploy to rally the darkest corners of Trump’s base against yet another invented domestic enemy,” Newsom said in a statement after Trump’s announcement.

“There is NO basis to Trump’s claim that the service of Patriotic transgender people impacts our military readiness,” Newsom added. “On the contrary, the President today has weakened our military and by doing so, diminished both our security and our standing in the world community.”

A spokesman for the California Military Department told INSIDER that the Cal Guard would continue to abide by federal regulations and directed all other inquiries to the governor’s office.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday evening.


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‘California will not be part of this political theatre’

While the Cal Guard’s disagreement with Trump’s transgender-service policy may have been subtle, Newsom was less restrained in speaking about Trump’s calls to deploy troops to the US-Mexico border.

On Monday, Newsom moved to undermine Trump’s plan to deploy an additional 3,750 service members to guard the border, which would bring the total number there to about 6,000.

In a press conference with the state’s National Guard and Highway Patrol chiefs, Newsom announced he would withdraw most of the roughly 360 members of California’s National Guard deployed at the border.

“The border ’emergency’ is a manufactured crisis,” Newsom said in a statement from his office. “And California will not be part of this political theatre. Which is why I have given the National Guard a new mission. They will refocus on the real threats facing our state.

“This is our answer to the White House: no more division, xenophobia or nativism,” Newsom said, adding that the troops who were withdrawn would be assigned other missions.

About 110 Cal Guard troops would be redeployed for “fire prevention and fire suppression efforts,” the statement said, while about 100 troops are expected to continue conducting “counter narcotics search and seizure operations targeting transnational criminal organisation around ports of entry.”

California’s National Guard and the federal government have long enjoyed a symbiotic relationship, particularly during national emergencies due to natural disasters. Additionally, members regularly deploy in support of foreign allies, such as Ukraine, in addition to combat deployments during the war on terror.

The California National Guard says it has deployed over 50,000 times since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and responds to “an emergency incident” about once every three days in California.

A former senior Cal Guard official described the focus on California fire prevention as “a good use of National Guard troops.” State authorities are thought to be close to deciding how to allocate assets for the next wildfire season after experiencing the deadliest in the state’s history.

“In the end, I think National Guard troops are more suited, certainly for California, for things like wildfires,” the former official told INSIDER. “It’s when they’re inundated with so many fires that all the firefighting capabilities in the state can’t keep up with the [operational] tempo.”

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