Gov. Jerry Brown of California suggested on Wednesday that pressure related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia contributed to the Trump administration’s decision to file a lawsuit challenging new California laws protecting immigrants.
Speaking to reporters in Sacramento just after Attorney General Jeff Sessions touted the new lawsuit in a speech there, Brown indicated that the suit was the result of desperation on Sessions’ part to counteract the headlines from the Mueller inquiry.
“Let’s face it: The Trump White House is under siege. Mueller is closing in. There are more indictments to come,” Brown said, without explaining the basis for his prediction. “So, obviously, the attorney general has found it hard just to be a normal attorney general. He’s been caught up in the whirlwind of Trumpism.”
Brown also speculated that Sessions’ appearance at a law enforcement gathering in California was intended to boost his standing with President Donald Trump himself.
“I do think this is pure red meat for the base, and I would assume — this is pure speculation — that Jeff thinks that Donald will be happier with him and Donald will be tweeting his joy at this particular performance,” said the governor, a Democrat and frequent critic of the administration.
The suit, filed on Tuesday night in federal court in Sacramento, seeks to invalidate three California laws by asserting that they interfere with federal immigration enforcement. Justice Department lawyers argue that the so-called sanctuary legislation defies the Constitution’s supremacy clause by intruding on a policy area Congress has comprehensively regulated.
Brown also invoked Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, comparing Sessions’ lawsuit and his speech to those attempts to influence American politics.
“It’s about dividing America,” the governor said. “There’s been a lot of concern about people foreign people trying to sow division and discord. Now, we have the attorney general doing precisely that.”
Flanked by California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, Brown repeatedly accused Sessions of lying during his presentation, including by asserting that immigration authorities were being blocked from picking up immigrants at California jails and prisons. The governor sought to buttress his accusations of dishonesty by invoking the series of convictions Mueller has obtained of individuals who admitted to lying to investigators.
“We’ve seen in the Trump administration, with the investigations going on, pleas of guilty to lying, countless individuals, colleagues. So, there it is,” Brown said. “We know the Trump administration is full of liars. They’ve pled guilty, already, to the special counsel.”
So far, only one former Trump administration official has pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation: former national security adviser Michael Flynn. He is awaiting sentencing after admitting in December to making false statements to the FBI.
Two former Trump campaign advisers — Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos — have also entered guilty pleas to lying and are cooperating with Mueller.
In addition, Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch attorney, pleaded guilty last month to lying to Mueller’s team. He’s not known to have any connection to the Trump administration or campaign.
Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, has been charged by Mueller’s prosecutors with lying to the Justice Department about his Ukraine-related work. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go trial on those charges in September.
Spokespeople for Sessions did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Brown’s criticism.