The State of California sued the Trump administration on Tuesday over the Federal Railroad Administration’s decision to cancel a nearly $1 billion grant for a high-speed railway that the state admits it no longer intends to build as planned.
Last week, the federal government followed through on its threat to cancel the $929 billion in funding, which it made earlier this year after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in his “State of the State” address that it “would cost too much and, respectfully, would take too long” to complete the high-speed rail project, which originally was meant to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles. Newsom said he still wanted to complete part of the project in the rural Central Valley.
But President Donald Trump said that California should return the $3.5 billion he federal government had spent on the understanding that the state would be building a train that could travel between the two cities in under three hours. The governor disagreed, saying: “This is CA’s money, allocated by Congress for this project. We’re not giving it back.” He later claimed that Trump’s efforts to claw back the money were “political retribution” for California’s lawsuit against the administration’s attempt to construct a border wall — one of dozens of lawsuits it has filed against Trump’s policies.
For Trump, however, the effort to recover the money is as much about principle as it is about politics. In the private sector where Trump made his fortune, contractors who fail to deliver can expect to face demands that they return the money. Experts have noted that Trump’s approach is almost unheard-of in government; the Obama administration, for example, gave California many reprieves, partly because it shared an ideological commitment to high-speed rail.
Trump generally favors infrastructure spending, but also promised voters he would “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.