A ‘Chilling Message’: Trump Critics See a Deeper Agenda in California Feud

Twenty-three states have now sued the Trump administration over the move. While not all of those states followed the California standard, attorneys general for the states said they saw the move as an unlawful infringement on states’ rights that would prevent them from taking action to combat climate change in the future.

All the state attorneys general on to the suit are Democrats, but some represent states that Mr. Trump won in 2016, or hope to win in 2020, including North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Mexico.

“The Trump administration has assaulted states’ rights,” said Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, “and Exhibit A is this clean cars law, where states have taken it upon ourselves to protect our citizens and now they are unlawfully trying to strip us of our authority.”

Collateral damage aside, Mr. Trump has seen the moves as focused on California, which has filed 60 lawsuits against the Trump administration over issues ranging from immigration to health care. Even as the threat of impeachment swamps his presidency, Mr. Trump remains fixated on California.

On Wednesday, he said, “We just sent a violation to the city of San Francisco, unsafe water, unsafe conditions.”

“With all the talk about the E.P.A.,” he continued, “there’s needles and drugs all over the street, there’s tents, there’s people that are dying in squalor in the best location in San Francisco.”

Mr. Trump was enraged in July when four automakers that opposed his plan to roll back the Obama administration’s vehicle pollution standard had signed a deal with California to comply with its tighter emissions standards, even if the broader rollback goes through.