California governor gently confronts Trump on climate

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President Donald Trump listens as California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a briefing at Sacramento McClellan Airport, in McClellan Park, Calif., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, on the western wildfires. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Gov. Gavin Newsom had President Donald Trump one-on-one on live TV Monday, a perfect opportunity to spar with Democrats' public enemy No. 1 just 50 days before the election.

But Newsom dropped the fiery tone he has employed in recent weeks about climate change and its role in five of the largest fires California has ever seen. Instead, he engaged the president in a respectful conversation that included both men hailing their good relationship.

Just last week, Newsom declared he had “no patience for climate-change deniers," saying people must “disabuse ourselves of all the BS that's being spewed by a very small group of people.” On Monday, Newsom told Trump they “can agree to disagree" on climate change and asked him to “please respect ... the difference of opinion out here.”

“We've known each other too long and, as you suggest, the working relationship I value,” Newsom told Trump during a meeting at McClellan Park, a former Air Force base near Sacramento. “We come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real."

Trump and Newsom have butted heads repeatedly during both men's first terms in office. Last year, Newsom was fond of saying that he was proud California is “the most un-Trump state in America.” And in February, during Trump's previous visit to the state, the president told a group of California farmers he would pressure Newsom to give them more water or else “you're going to get a new governor.”

But Newsom has been noticeably reluctant to criticize Trump publicly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as California has relied heavily on aid from the federal government to respond to the crisis and balance its budget. That has continued during wildfire season, when the state has applied for and received federal grants to fight massive fires that have so far burned more than 3.2 million acres.

Newsom even thanks Trump during his weekly news conferences — comments that have ended up in some of Trump's political ads.

“We actually have a very good relationship. Good man,” Trump said of Newsom on Monday.