Capitol Alert

Trump reelection campaign seeks to capitalize on California lawsuit

California Democrats have decried the Trump administration’s decision to sue the state over immigration enforcement as little more than a political stunt. President Trump’s reelection campaign gave them more ammunition for that critique on Wednesday afternoon.

Just hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to California and publicly unveiled a lawsuit challenging the state’s policies for undocumented immigrants, a joint fundraising committee formed by Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Republican National Committee blasted out a mass email peppered with all-capital letters – the president’s favorite means of expressing displeasure. The subject line: “California vs. THE LAW.”

“The Justice Department is SUING the state of California for violating the Constitution by passing laws that shield illegal immigrants,” the email from Trump Make America Great Again Committee reads. It asks supporters to help Trump push back against the “EXTREME backlash from Democrats and the fake news” by signing their name in support of the lawsuit.

Having fanned supporters’ anger on the contentious issue, the email then takes Trump backers to to a web page where they can submit more of their personal information to the campaign committees as they gear up for 2020.

Down at the bottom of the page, several lines of small print reveal the the committee’s real aim. “By providing your phone number, you are consenting to receive calls and SMS/MMS messages, including autodialed and automated calls and texts, to that number from each of the participating committees in the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Republican National Committee,” it says.

Trump isn’t the only campaign trying to make political hay out of the issue. California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign for governor reveled in the fact that Sessions called him “an embarrassment,” firing off its own email blast to potential donors just hours after Sessions left Sacramento.

“Coming from a man whose legacy is targeting immigrants, re-waging the failed War on Drugs, sucking up to private prison profiteers, and apologizing for white supremacists ... I take that as a HUGE compliment,” Newsom’s emailed pitch continued. “If I’m on Jeff Sessions’ bad side, I must be doing some things right...Help me win this election so we can move CA forward, no matter how much Sessions wants to drag us back – let’s hit 5,000 donations in the next 24 hours.”

Even before Sessions’ remarks before the California Peace Officers Association Wednesday morning in Sacramento, California’s elected officials were already promising to fight the lawsuit. The Justice Department is questioning the constitutionality of three state laws that run counter to some federal immigration enforcement efforts; California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and other leading Democrats disagree.

In a statement released Tuesday night, when news of the suit first broke, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown accused Sessions of coming to California “to further divide and polarize America.”

“These political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!” Brown said.

At a press conference Wednesday, the governor suggested that, given reports of President Donald Trump’s unhappiness with the attorney general since he recused himself from an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Sessions might simply be trying to keep his job.

The back-and-forth between California officials and the Trump administration is only likely to get more heated in the coming days. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Wednesday that the president plans to travel to California next week. He’s expected to attend political fundraisers in Southern California and view several border wall prototypes being built near San Diego.

Brian Murphy, Anita Kumar and Alexei Koseff contributed to this report

Emily Cadei: 202-383-6153, @emilycadei

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