Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown on Trump and the Pope: ‘Don’t underestimate the power of the Holy Father’

Gov. Jerry Brown, who met with Pope Francis two years ago and spent his formative years as a Jesuit seminarian, has criticized President Donald Trump’s lack of environmental conviction – calling Trump’s remarks about climate change being a Chinese hoax “so stupid” that it takes his breath away.

But on Wednesday, after Trump met with Francis at the Vatican and Brown prepared to retake the world stage on climate with a trip to China, the Democratic governor expressed faith in the bishop of Rome’s ability to convert the wealthy former developer of Manhattan skyscrapers.

“It’s very good that the Pope met with President Trump, and very good that President Trump met with him. I remember there was some negative discussion a few months ago,” Brown told reporters in San Francisco, where he spoke at a climate conference hosted by the California Environmental Protection Agency and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.

Said Brown: “The pope is talking about climate change, he’s handing him the encyclical. Don’t underestimate the power of the Holy Father.”

The governor added that the Paris climate agreement signed by the Obama administration and other nations, including China, also could exert a kind of global peer pressure.

“Not just liberals or social Democrats, but there are many conservative leaders in the world that are supporting climate change. And I think the fact that China is asserting such a world leadership role, in joining with other countries ... and in fact joining with California ...” he said. “I don’t think that president Trump will want to stand aside as this climate story unfolds.”

Brown seemed to indicate that his remarks were shaded by Trump’s evolving views on the world stage, mentioning specifically the president’s statements about NATO and Islam. Brown suggested the U.S. would make progress to help protect against climate change. While Trump is not moving as fast as he would like, he said the administration’s approach is “not as disastrous as we were thinking just a few months ago.”

“President Trump is a realist, and there’s nothing more real than the atmosphere and the chemistry that determines our weather and our long-term climate,” he said.

When a questioner asked Brown if he wants to challenge Trump in 2020, the 79-year-old reached for a reference to a Roman patrician and military leader to quell such notions.

“I’ve already expressed my views,” Brown said.

“Like Cincinnatus, after saving the Republic, he went back to the plow,” added Brown, who plans to retire to his 2,500-acre family ranch in Colusa County. “That’s exactly where I plan to go.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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