Newsom dismisses Trump criticism as ‘noise’ but stops short of rebuking president

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Gavin Newsom | AP Photo
Gavin Newsom. | AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

OAKLAND — Gov. Gavin Newsom dismissed as “noise” President Donald Trump’s lecture to governors over their responses to demonstrations and riots, but stopped short of criticizing the president for his rhetoric as tensions flare over the Minnesota death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Earlier Monday, Trump excoriated some governors in a phone call for their “weak” response to demonstrations exploding around the country and prodded them to make more arrests. Asked for his response twice, Newsom said he would prefer to eschew the tit-for-tat of Trump clashing with antagonistic governors.

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“I could be part of the daily back-and-forth in the news cycle,” Newsom told reporters, but the California governor said he preferred to focus on addressing Californians because “I care more about them than some of the noise I heard on a morning phone call.”

The governor was once one of Trump’s chief antagonists but has shifted gears since the coronavirus pandemic began. He has avoided criticism of the president this year, and even praised the White House at times for its response to California needs.

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As tensions remain hot, Newsom’s administration ordered all state offices in cities shut Monday, while the state Senate canceled its business at the state Capitol.

Newsom said he does not intend to institute a statewide curfew and will defer to California cities, many of whom have already barred residents from going out in the evenings. He also is letting cities determine whether they need National Guard help or can rely on mutual aid from law enforcement elsewhere in the state.

Like other states, California cities have experienced days of peaceful daytime protests, followed by violence and looting at night. Newsom said extremist groups unaffiliated with protesters, many from outside the cities they are damaging, are “creating havoc.”

He said 4,500 National Guard personnel stand ready to be deployed, and while he said National Guard members were principally present in Southern California, others had “preassembled” in a state of readiness in Northern California.

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