LOS ANGELES — Fresh from San Diego where he visited prototypes for his border wall, President Trump dropped into Los Angeles on Tuesday, sheltered within a bubble of security and secrecy usually reserved for chief executives’ surprise visits to dangerous foreign nations.
After arriving at Los Angeles International Airport at 3:32 p.m. PT, Trump traveled by helicopter and then by motorcade to a westside location for a tony fundraiser with 90 Republicans. A White House pool report later disclosed that Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Ed Glazer and his wife were hosting the gathering — at their gated Beverly Park estate, located off Mulholland Drive on the eastern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Hosted by the Republican National Committee finance chairman Todd Ricketts, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy, the event was expected to raise $5 million for Republican candidates. The wealthy supporters, who paid $35,000 to $250,000 to spend a few hours in Trump's company, were asked not to disclose any details of the event.
Miles away in Beverly Hills, a few hundred people gathered amid spirts of rain in a park to protest the president. "Dismantle white supremacy" and "Stand with immigrants" were among the protest signs.
Protest organizer Carlos Marroquin of Los Angeles said Trump's positions have done nothing to help the nation.
"He picks things that divide people," Marroquin said. The U.S. is "hated around the world" because of Trump.
Marroquin brought up housing, a particularly pressing issue for California. Instead of a border wall, Trump should be building walls to house senior citizens and students, he said.
Trump visits California to see border wall prototypes
"The people of Southern California are very discontented with the policies of Donald Trump from day one," Marroquin said.
Michael Shapiro, a medical clinic’s facilities coordinator from Santa Clarita, stood along Santa Monica Boulevard in a T-shirt that said, “Hope.” His son, Benjamin Shapiro, held a sign that said, “I’m 16. I want a better tomorrow.”
They came to the protest because they saw it as a platform, a way for a father to help his son be heard.
“It’s my opinion that Trump is leading us in the wrong direction,” Benjamin Shapiro said. “I don’t want to go back to the Stone Age.”
A small number of Trump supporters also came to the Beverly Hills park. Reporters at the scene saw a few people shoving early on but the crowd was generally calm.
Josh McCutchen, a YouTube comedian, was live-streaming the protest to his YouTube channel, and wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat.
"I’m supporting our country and trying to offer a counterpoint," he said. He said he found it "distressful," to be outnumbered by protesters, and had expected more Trump supporters to show up.
Trump's visit to the city comes just days after his Justice Department announced that it is suing California to block the state's "sanctuary" laws meant to protect illegal immigrants.
It's notable that the president was not greeted at the airport by any Los Angeles leaders. Instead, he was able to shake hands with Republican Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel; her husband and RNC committeeman, Shawn Steel; and Andy Gharakhani, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the New Majority, a Republican-supporting political group.
The hostility to Trump’s brief visit to California was hardly surprising, since he lost the state to Hillary Clinton by a crushing 30 percentage points, and the 4 million ballot difference in their finish accounted for the president’s failure to carry the popular vote. Since then, his popularity has further declined in the Golden State, according to the most recent statewide poll, which shows 66% of Californians disapproving of Trump’s performance in office.
In many ways, California, which the president has described as “out of control,” is the antithesis of the America Trump conceives as great. More than 10 million Californians, or 27% of the population, are immigrants — the largest percentage in the country.
Of the more than one in four Californians born abroad, slightly more than half now have become naturalized citizens, while about 2.5 million are undocumented. More than 200,000 of the so-called “DREAMers” reside in California. As a consequence, Californians of all ethnicities overwhelmingly support legalizing those in the United States without papers and giving them a “path to citizenship."
Democrats hold super majorities in both state legislative chambers and occupy all of California’s statewide offices. No Republican candidate is given a viable chance of capturing one in the next election. Trump is so unpopular in California that none of the state’s beleaguered GOP congressional representatives has agreed to campaign with him in the upcoming mid-terms, except Orange County congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Former Los Angeles labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, a Democrat, has plastered the heavily Latino L.A. district where she is campaigning for a state Senate seat with billboards that read, “Disobey Trump.”
Trump’s first stop in California since becoming president was viewed as a presidential poke in the eye, as was Attorney General Jeff Sessions recent announcement in Sacramento that the Department of Justice is suing California over its sanctuary laws. The sentiment has been reciprocated by California officials, including state attorney general Xavier Becerra, who has so far sued the Trump Administration 28 times over various issues, from immigration to health care.
Trump’s decision to sue California over its sanctuary laws, according to Gov. Jerry Brown, amounted to a declaration of “war against the state of California, the engine of the American economy.” In San Diego,Trump responded by telling reporters that Brown has "done a very poor job running California."
Brown responded to the criticism in a Tweet: "Thanks for the shout-out, @realDonaldTrump. But bridges are still better than walls. And California remains the 6th largest economy in the world and the most prosperous state in America. #Facts"
Special report by USA TODAY NETWORK:
Contributing: Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, and Thomas Kisken, Ventura County (Calif.) Star. Follow Arlene Martinez on Twitter: @avmartinez