What was and was not true when Donald Trump blasted California, Gavin Newsom at CPAC

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Former President Donald Trump, in an lengthy and falsehood-riddled speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, spent some of his parting words chastising California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Trump, speaking at the annual gathering of conservatives Saturday, said that he wished Newsom, a Democrat, was running for president against him in 2024: “A lot of people think Gavin Newsom is going to run. In a certain way, I hope so,” Trump said. “I hope so. Because he’s destroyed California.”

Newsom has repeatedly said he is not running for president in November.

Trump, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, used his hour-and-a-half-long speech to espouse embellished anecdotes, blame others and his own inexperience for shortcomings during his presidency, and paint an evidence-lacking dark picture if President Joe Biden were re-elected. To applause from the supportive crowd, Trump mocked Biden’s age and mental capacity, criticized the media and claimed he would be a form of savior if elected in November.

“Our country is run by people that are destroying it,” Trump said as part of his closing, “We’re not going to let it happen again.”

Before heading to South Carolina to see himself win the state’s primary election, Trump ranted about California’s policies on immigrants’ rights, water and elections. Here are some of his claims that were based in fact, and others that were not.

California rights for undocumented immigrants

Trump said Newsom enticed undocumented immigrants by offering pensions, health care, education and even a mansion.

“When you have an idiot like Gavin Newsom saying, ‘if you come up, we’re going to give you pension funds. You’re going to have pensions, you’re going to — we’ll give you a mansion.’ Do you ever see the things that he’s promising? Free health care? Free education? Who the hell wouldn’t?” Trump said. He joked, “I may move there myself, actually.”

Newsom has not promised mansions for immigrants arriving in the U.S. unlawfully.

Undocumented workers can apply for disability insurance and paid family leave in California — but they do not get Social Security retirement benefits, even if they pay federal taxes. Newsom vetoed a bill last fall that aimed to open California’s Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants to undocumented people who are blind, disabled or over 65. CAPI currently offers a monthly benefit only to lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylum seekers.

As of this year, individuals regardless of their immigration status between the ages of 26 and 49 are allowed to qualify for Medi-Cal, California’s iteration of the federal Medicaid that serves low-income people. (That means all undocumented immigrants are eligible now.)

California has measures to help undocumented students, most of whom come from low-income backgrounds, receive financial aid and in-state tuition. The California counterpart to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for undocumented students is the California Dream Act Application: People without Social Security numbers cannot complete the FAFSA form.

California drought and water

Trump claimed unnamed California congressmen once told him there was no drought, which is historically false.

“They have so much water,” Trump claimed. “I said to some of our great congressmen that asked me to help them with a problem up in that area, up north in California. I said, ‘I see you have a drought.’ They said, ‘no, we don’t have a drought. We have so much water you don’t know what to do.’ But they send it out to the Pacific. We’re not going to let them get away with that any longer.”

Due to an unusually wet winter last year, California became drought-free for the first time since 2020. No one has lived in a drought area in California since November 2023.

There have been significant recent droughts in California, including from 2012 to 2016.

California indeed flushes a significant amount of water to the Pacific Ocean, something which angers many farmers and bipartisan lawmakers — particularly people in the Central Valley, California’s massive agricultural belt.

Last year, after atmospheric rivers offered much-needed water, almost 95% that had been added to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta flowed out to the Pacific, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Delta supports the state’s farming industry and provides drinking water for about 27 million Californians.

Rules on flushing to protect endangered fish there have long angered those who rely on the Delta’s water supply. The Trump administration in 2019 controversially said that increased water deliveries to farms and municipalities through the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project connected to the Delta would not threaten fish. Litigation blocked these plans, saying the review failed to account for several environmental factors.

California elections

Trump insinuated that rampant voter fraud prevented him and other Republicans from winning in California. The rhetoric tapped into his false claims that Biden’s 2020 presidential victory was rigged.

“How many people from California know people that got 6, 7, 8 ballots? Our elections are so corrupt,” Trump said. “I think we’d do very well. I think I would do very well in California, actually.”

California sends a mail ballot to every registered voter. In a rare instance that more than one ballot is sent to an individual, as pointed out in an Associated Press fact-check from the 2022 election, counties have procedures to prevent duplicates from being counted.

An overwhelming portion of the state’s voters are Democratic: Almost 47%, according to a Jan. 5 report from California’s Secretary of State’s Office. About 24% are Republicans; 22% are registered as “no party preference” and 7% with the four other state-qualified parties.

The last time a Republican won a statewide race in California was in 2006.

“I always hear Republicans can’t win California, you can’t win,” Trump said. “I will tell you, if God came down and God was the vote-checker, I believe we would win in California.”