San Francisco mayor and Trump in war of words over environment, homelessness

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Even though his primary mission during his two-day visit  to California was to raise millions for his re-election campaign, President Trump made a point of deriding the state's handling of its homeless crisis, specifically saying that there is a lot of pollution created by the situation including needles that end up flowing into the San Francisco bay.

"It's a terrible situation that's in Los Angeles and in San Francisco," Trump told reporters as he returned to Washington. "And we're going to be giving San Francisco -- they're in total violation -- we're going to be giving them a notice very soon." 

Trump made those comments aboard Air Force One, hours after he issued a long-expected challenge to California's authority to reduce car emissions. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed didn't keep quiet. In a statement, Breed called Trump's remarks "ridiculous" and said storm drain debris is filtered out at city wastewater treatment plants so that none flows "into the bay or ocean."

She added on Twitter: "The President is cutting clean air and clean water standards, restricting our ability to regulate car emissions, and denying climate change even exists. He’s cut funding for homelessness and affordable housing. In SF, we’re meeting the challenges on our streets.”

San Francisco has long struggled with problems of human waste and needles on the streets in the Tenderloin district, where many addicts and homeless people are found. The city set up public toilets and last year announced formation of a special six-person "poop patrol" team to clean up the human waste. The city also announced funding to hire people to pick up used needles.

Many of those needles came from the city itself. The health department hands out an estimated 400,000 clean syringes a month under programs designed to reduce the risk of HIV and other infections for drug users who might otherwise share contaminated needles.

In her statement, Breed said the city is fighting homelessness by adding 1,000 beds to shelters and wants to pass a $600 million bond to build affordable housing and increase services for people with addiction and mental illness.

It's not the first time Trump took on a Bay Area mayor - and the mayor fought back.

Last February, Trump took personal aim at Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning her city that immigration agents were going to raid the city. And his administration threatened to have the Department of Justice investigate her, which never bore out. Schaaf didn't back down, saying that she was elected to protect her citizens and make tough decisions. 

And it's not just the president's agenda that California has gone after; the sparring has gotten personal, too. The state passed a law that requires candidates for president and governor to release five years' worth of tax returns to appear on the state's primary ballot, a pointed slap at Trump, who veered from historical precedent by declining to release his tax returns.

The president and many Republicans see little downside to him making the nation's most populous state a ready villain.

"The voters that he's targeting in rural America look at California as an out-of-touch liberal state," said Republican consultant Alex Conant. "There's no political cost to him bashing California."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.