Trump met with protests during rare trip to LA; downtown road closures in effect

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- President Donald Trump is making a rare visit to several cities in California, a Democratic stronghold where he is expected to rake in millions of dollars during a series of fundraisers for his reelection effort that are almost certain to be met with jeering protests.

The events - which will be spread across two days in Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area - are expected to bring in an additional $15 million, according to a Republican official familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

Road closures were in effect around the Wilshire Grand Center in downtown Los Angeles, near where Trump is expected to spend the night Tuesday. Figueroa Street from 6th to 8th streets, Wilshire Boulevard from Flower Street to Beaudry Avenue and 7th Street from Flower to Bixel streets will remain shut down through at least Tuesday afternoon. Street closures caused heavier-than-usual traffic in the area, where many drivers said they were unaware of the president's trip.

Protesters already started circling as Trump kicked off the first half of his money-making venture with a $3 million Palo Alto luncheon, followed by a $5 million Beverly Hills dinner at the home of real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer. He'll bring in another $7 million on Wednesday with a breakfast in Los Angeles and luncheon in San Diego.

By mid-morning, demonstrators had inflated a giant Baby Trump balloon ahead of Trump's arrival in the Bay Area.

"There's not been a president in living history that is as unpopular in the state of California as Trump," said Mike Madrid, a GOP political consultant who is an outspoken Trump critic. "But our money spends the same as everyone else's."

The president has routinely mocked California and complained about the extent of homelessness in the state, which his administration has blamed on Democrats.

"California is a disgrace to our country, it's a shame, the world is looking at it. Look at Los Angeles, with the tents and the horrible, horrible disgusting conditions," Trump said at a rally last month.

However, his visits signal that despite the state's conditions, there are still plenty of wealthy Republicans who support him.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says he hopes Trump will work with the city to end homelessness, adding that the federal government could aid the city with surplus property or money to create additional shelters. The mayor also pushed back on a White House report that suggests using law enforcement in combating homelessness, saying it's not possible for authorities to arrest their way out of the issue.

Garcetti says he has not been invited to meet with the president.

Trump continues to rake in gobs of cash more than a year out from the November 2020 contest, with his campaign and the Republican National Committee pulling in more than $210 million since the start of 2019, Federal Election Commission records show. That's more than all the current Democrats seeking to replace him raised combined during that period.

California was an incubator for the modern conservative movement that swept the state's former Gov. Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980. But demographic changes and an influx of new residents have helped drastically rework the political contours of the country's most populated state, with the former GOP stronghold of Orange County now home to more registered Democrats than Republicans. For Republicans, who have been resigned to political irrelevance at the state level, a donation to Trump can amount to its own form of protest.

"By showing up to a fundraiser deep in the belly of the beast, one is saying: 'I don't care what the liberal politicians are saying and I want to show my support for him publicly,'" said California's Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon, who is an ardent Trump supporter. She added: "I sold $100,000 worth of (tickets), and I could have sold another $100,000 more."

California has long been a key fundraising hotbed for politicians of both parties, which have relied on the entertainment industry and wealthy industry heads to finance their political ambitions. But under Trump, the run-of-the-mill fundraising trip has taken on a complicating dimension due to his harsh criticism of everything from the state's immigration laws to its forest management practices, which he blamed for fatal wildfires.

Earlier this month Trump lashed out at "Will and Grace" TV star Debra Messing after she tweeted that attendees of the Trump's California fundraisers should be outed publicly.

"I have not forgotten that when it was announced that I was going to do The Apprentice, and when it then became a big hit, helping NBC's failed lineup greatly, @DebraMessing came up to me at an Upfront & profusely thanked me, even calling me "Sir." How times have changed!" Trump tweeted.

In August, he took aim at the state's massive film industry, calling Hollywood "very dangerous for our country."

"Hollywood is really terrible. You talk about racist - Hollywood is racist," he said.

That's contributed to heightened security concerns surrounding the trip.

Trump has also complained about the extent of homelessness in California. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is expected to follow Trump to California, if one day behind him, on visits to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. A senior HUD official said Carson will speak on a range of issues, including increasing the supply of affordable housing and incentivizing investment in distressed communities while protecting vulnerable neighbors.

Already, the Backbone Campaign, a Washington state-based progressive group, said on Facebook that it planned to fly a large "Baby Trump" balloon in the Bay Area when Trump is scheduled to be there on Tuesday.

In an unusual move, Trump campaign officials - not his top donors - have been listed as sponsors of the event.

Dhillon said there were concerns that Antifa, an anti-fascist group, could stir violent protests.

"For every person coming to this event, there would probably be 10 more," she said.

Trump began his three-day trip to the West at a rally in New Mexico, which he hopes to win next year despite losing by about 8 percentage points in 2016.

Trump referred to California a couple of times in his speech, and not in a good way.

The president noted that his administration is at odds with the state over fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. He long has made clear he wants to end California's clout in setting mileage standards, and Monday night he said he wants heavier cars because they're safer and cheaper, even if they are less fuel efficient.

"California wants you to do the other cars and we don't," Trump said. "We will end up in big litigation and I am fighting for you," he told the crowd.

He also joked about moving part of the border wall in San Diego to where it would be more appreciated.

"I would love to take that sucker down and move it right now to New Mexico," he said to rousing cheers.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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