Trump’s shameless flip-flop on high-speed rail

Trump yanks high-speed rail funds after California sues over national emergency order.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (L) and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (C) watch President Donald Trump speak at an infrastructure event at DOT on June 9, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (L) and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (C) watch President Donald Trump speak at an infrastructure event at DOT on June 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it plans to kill a deal to provide $929 million for California’s effort to build the country’s first high-speed rail train.

But while President Donald Trump now mocks high-speed rail on Twitter, calling it “a ‘green’ disaster,” candidate Trump once mocked America for not having any high-speed trains and vowed to be the “greatest infrastructure president in the nation’s history.”

Yet, the only piece of infrastructure Trump appears to care about as president is his border wall with Mexico — and he’s now actually willing to kill infrastructure projects in blue states like California simply because they oppose him on the wall.

Indeed, Trump’s Department of Transportation (DOT) vowed to pull back all of its money for California’s high-speed rail project just one day after the state joined 15 others in a lawsuit to stop Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to fund the wall.


“It’s no coincidence that the administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the president’s farcical ‘national emergency,'” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) said in a statement. “This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by.”

What’s more, the president’s move is pure hypocrisy. In a March 2016 presidential campaign rally, Trump explained that the U.S. needs to invest heavily in its train system to compete with the vastly superior infrastructure in Asia.

“You go to China, they have trains that go 300 miles an hour. We have trains that go ‘chug, chug, chug.’ And then they have to stop because the tracks split, right?” said Trump. “They have trains that go 300 miles an hour. They have trains, Japan, China, a lot of countries … We are like third world.”

That rally led to media headlines like “Trump Agrees With Democrats on High-Speed Trains.” After all, high-speed rail was a major component of infrastructure investment in President Barack Obama’s stimulus 2009 bill, which provided the initial funding for California’s high speed rail project.


Then in June 2016, candidate Trump asserted he would “build the greatest infrastructure on the planet earth — the roads and railways and airports of tomorrow.” He actually claimed that America’s infrastructure problem can be fixed “only by me.”

Yet, as president, Trump abandoned all of those promises. Indeed, in recent days, he has instead been attacking California’s bullet train project.

Last week, Gov. Newsom announced that he was scaling back the plan for high speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles since its $77 billion price tag would “cost too much and, respectfully, take too long.” He pledged to build a much shorter system in California’s Central Valley, connecting Merced and Bakersfield.

“California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump tweeted the next day. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a “green” disaster!”

Newsom called that claim “fake news.”

Then this week, Trump falsely claimed the bullet train would be “hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!” That, however, would represent trillions of dollars. A look at the numbers show that, in fact, the rail project’s projected cost of $77 billion would be comparable to the wall, which the conservative Cato Institute estimated last month would be nearly $60 billion.


The day after California led a 16-state lawsuit against Trump’s emergency declaration, Trump’s Transport Department said in a statement it wants its money back — not just the $929 million yet to be provided, but also the $2.5 billion in funds DOT already gave the state (for a total of nearly three and a half billion dollars).

Trump tweeted “Send the Federal Government back the Billions of Dollars WASTED!”

Whether the Transportation Department actually has the ability to get back already spent funds is unclear and may take a long time to settle in the courts. But what is quite clear now is the president’s remarkable hypocrisy on high-speed rail.