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Former California Governor Gray Davis blasts Trump's threats to cut fed funds

Gray Davis, the former California governor, on Tuesday blasted President Donald Trump's attack on the state and called his threats to take away federal funds counterproductive and something that will be challenged in the courts.

"You can't just take money away from California," said Davis, a Democrat who led the state from 1999 to 2003. "It would be a fight. And he couldn't do it by himself. He'd have to have the support of the Congress."

Trump, in a pre-Super Bowl interview that aired Sunday, told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, that he's "very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime, there's a lot of problems. If we have to we'll defund; we give tremendous amounts of money to California. California in many ways is out of control."

California lawmakers are considering passing a bill making it unlawful to use state and local law enforcement resources to detain, investigate or arrest persons for federal immigration purposes. Another bill protects people from having their immigration status disclosed by landlords.

Davis disputed the president's claim sanctuary cities are crime hotbeds. He countered that the FBI looked at the sanctuary cities and "actually found less crime." Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the major cities in California that limit cooperation with immigration authorities.

Even so, Davis concedes Trump might be able to withhold law enforcement money from California. However, he said such action would need to be able to stand up in the courts.

President Donald Trump
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump

The former California governor said Trump also should want the Golden State to do well since it benefits the rest of the nation too.

"We are the sixth largest economy in the world. We're bigger than Russia. Only the United States, Japan, China, the U.K., and Germany have a larger economy."

Also, Davis said California gives more to the U.S. Treasury than it gets back.

"If he were smart he would look to the future and try to find a way to get along with California, make sure we prosper even more so we could redistribute money to states that he seems to be more fond of," said Davis. "You don't want a bite the golden hand that feeds you."

Last month, California's Democratic state leadership hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as a legal advisor to the legislature as it prepared to wage battle with the Trump administration.

Holder was scheduled to attend a summit in Sacramento on Tuesday where state Senate leaders are looking at ways to respond to policy changes by the Trump administration. Holder declined a request for an interview. The governor's office also had no comment.

As for the secession talk in California, Davis said: "That's always an option for Californians if [the] executive [branch] gets out of control. We'll just keep our money and the United States can keep theirs."

Davis, though, indicated he's "not inclined to sign" the secession petition currently circulating in the state.

He also implied that Trump is acting more like a king than a president.

"When America revolted against the U.K., we did so because we were upset with the arbitrary decisions of the king," said Davis. "Our founding fathers created a system where things can't get done unless there's widespread consensus in the legislature, in the executive and the courts go along with it. He can't get things done without the Congress going along and the courts supporting his action as constitutional."

Meanwhile, Davis also took issue with Trump's characterization of California as "out of control."

"I think things are going pretty good in California," Davis said. "Under Jerry Brown, the budget is back in the black. The last two years we've led the country in job creation. Arguably we're the home of innovation in America."

Davis continued, "Things aren't perfect. But if we're out of control, I'd hate to see people who are in control."

Prior to serving as California governor, Davis was a chief of staff to Governor Jerry Brown and held other state elected posts, including controller and lieutenant governor. Davis lost the governorship in 2003 after a statewide recall; he was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has been affiliated with the national law firm of Loeb & Loeb for the past 11 years.