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Emails Show Governor’s Office Wanted Guard To Keep Low Profile While Deployed To Border

President Donald Trump reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego, Tuesday, ...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: President Donald Trump reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Back in April, California agreed to the Trump Administration’s request to send the National Guard to the border. Since then, the Guard has kept a low profile.

California has offered only occasional updates since April when Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to send up to 400 troops to support the Trump Administration’s Operation Guardian Support.

KPBS recently obtained a series of emails from the state, as part of an open records request. Among other things, the emails show members of the governor’s office wanted to keep a low profile from the beginning.

Guidance from the governor’s office asked other members of the administration to limit their comments to the media. On April 18 Press Secretary Evan Westrup sent an email to top members of the administration and the California National Guard where he said the governor’s office will handle all media inquiries, but he mainly wanted the press release announcing the operation “to speak for itself.”

California mainly stayed silent even after President Trump tweeted:

“Governor Jerry Brown announced he will deploy 'up to 400 National Guard Troops' to do nothing. The crime rate in California is high enough, and the Federal Government will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade. We need border security and action, not words!”

Publicly, California held its fire. Behind the scenes, Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Department of Emergency Services, forwarded the tweet and exclaimed in an April 19 email to other top staffers:

“This guy ... unfriggin believable!”

Photo credit: State of California

This screenshot shows an email from Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Department of Emergency Services, to other top staffers regarding California's deployment of guards troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, April 19, 2018. KPBS blacked-out the email addresses.

The series of emails shows the back and forth between the governor’s staff and the National Guard. In early April, California began negotiating with the National Guard Bureau in Washington, after the Trump administration announced operation Guardian Support. California was the last border state to sign onto the operation. The emails show staffers sharing media reports suggested California was backing out, sometimes without comment.

At the same time, California is receiving updates that suggest the National Guard Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security were working on an agreement with the state. They are not supposed to enforce immigration law but work in counter terrorism and transnational drug crime.

Since April, the guard has kept a low profile. Unlike previous border missions under the under the Bush and Obama administrations, California has not given access to its guardsmen working in Operation Guardian Support.

The governor’s office recently announced California will stay in the operation for another six months. California will stay in even after other states opted out in protest over the Trump administration's policy to separate families at the border.

The state guard may not stay there for the full six months. Brown’s term ends in January. Back in April, the leading candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, said he would not be there at all, preferring to reserve the guard for wildfires and other state missions.

“I would have approached it fundamentally differently,” Newsom told Cal Matters. “Because I think the National Guard should be focused on the next two or three earthquakes.”

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