Capitol Alert

Did Newsom call Trump one of the smartest people he’s ever met? “That’s not what I said.”

The president of the United States and the governor of California engaged in a game of “he said, he said” recently over whether Gavin Newsom’s praise of Donald Trump included privately calling him “one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”

That was the claim Trump made in his hours-long speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative movers and shakers. Trump added that Newsom would probably deny the compliment.

Newsom disputed the allegation in an interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper.

“You can’t make this up Anderson,” Newsom said with a laugh.

The governor told Cooper he called Trump privately to thank him for visiting Butte County in the aftermath of last year’s deadly wildfires, the cause of which was its own source of discord between the two men.

“I wanted to express the fact that the people in those communities were grateful to him. I was grateful to him,” Newsom said. “Somehow, that got conflated. I think we hear what we want to hear. So no, I can’t admit that’s what I said to the president privately because that’s not what I said.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.