First, President Donald Trump tweeted criticism Tuesday of both California’s high-speed rail project and the state’s participation in a multistate lawsuit challenging his emergency declaration to pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Then, later in the day, the Trump Administration notified the California High-Speed Rail Authority via letter that it would terminate a $929 million federal grant intended for the project.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2019
Feds Also Want $2.5 Billion in Grants Returned
The U.S. Department of Transportation also wrote that it is “actively exploring every legal option” to retrieve $2.5 billion in federal grant funds already given California. In a news release, the department described the high-speed rail project as “now defunct.”
That was an apparent reference to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s State of the State address last week in which he said that high-speed rail construction would only focus on the section between Merced and Bakersfield.
Later, Newsom accused the media of getting the story wrong and clarified that the ultimate goal had not changed: To construct a system linking the Bay Area to Southern California.
Trump Administration: California Can’t Complete Work on Time
The project has faced cost overruns and years of delays. The Trump administration argues California hasn’t provided required matching dollars and can’t complete work by a 2022 deadline.
Newsom: ‘This Is California’s Money’
Congress nearly a decade ago approved the $929 million that Trump wants to cancel. The state has not started spending that money. But it has already spent the extra $2.5 billion that Trump now wants back. It’s unclear if the federal government can demand that money back before the 2022 deadline.
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16 States Sue Over Emergency Declaration
A group of 16 states, including California, New York, and Colorado, filed a lawsuit Monday against Trump’s emergency declaration. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in San Francisco, alleges Trump’s declaration is unconstitutional.
All the states involved in the lawsuit have Democratic attorneys general.
Using a broad interpretation of his executive powers, Trump declared an emergency last week to obtain wall funding beyond the $1.4 billion Congress approved for border security. The move allows the president to bypass Congress to use money from the Pentagon and other budgets.