What would Brian Sandoval do?


Gov. Brian Sandoval says he’s aware of an Associated Press report that the Trump Administration considered enlisting the National Guard to help with immigration enforcement in states including Nevada, but wouldn’t consider mobilizing the Nevada Guard for that purpose.

Sandoval’s comments about the memo, written by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly five days after he was confirmed,  were posted on Twitter by Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Colton Lochhead and confirmed by the governor’s spokeswoman on Friday morning


The Department of Homeland Security draft memo outlining a plan to use tens of thousands of National Guard troops to round up people without papers in Nevada and ten other states is just that, a draft memo. So far.

And, from the AP, which obtained the memo:

Governors in the 11 states would have a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo, written by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general.

Spokespeople for several of those governors, including Nevada’s Brian Sandoval, told the AP that they hadn’t seen the draft memo and it would be premature to comment on it.

So if, or when, Trump moves beyond the draft memo stage of the mass deportation component in his fearmongering xenophobic agenda, we have no way of knowing if Sandoval will protect people living and working in Nevada, and refuse to authorize guard troops to participate in a forced roundup.

We do know that when courts tossed the Muslim ban, it was because states, most notably Washington and Minnesota but also several others, stood up to and challenged Trump. And we know Nevada was not one of those states.

But then, it’s not as if Nevada Republicans have set a tone of principled resistance upon which Sandoval might draw for support.

For instance, if Sandoval had wanted to join other states in challenging the Muslim ban’s constitutionality, he couldn’t just order Attorney General Adam Laxalt to file a suit. After all, Brian Sandoval is not Sheldon Adelson, so Laxalt doesn’t have to do whatever Sandoval says. If Sandoval determines it is necessary to stand up to Trump, whether it’s to nix a deportation force or protect Nevadans’ health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, if he needs a lawyer, he’ll likely have to hire one. The prospect of Laxalt, the putative Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2018, willingly challenging Trump or the Trump agenda is unfathomable.

Of course the two Republicans in Nevada’s congressional delegation, Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, have so far demonstrated zero willingness to resist Trump.

The most powerful Republican in the state Legislature has gone, if anything, even more full-Trump than the delegation. In his latest political makeover, Michael Roberson, the state senate minority leader, has dug in his heels again and again – on school vouchers, property taxes, and most recently sanctuary cities – each time asserting non-negotiable positions laced with uncompromising undertones of Trumpian authoritarianism. It just goes to show Nevadans counting on state leaders to stand up to Trump can’t look to a would-be career politician who lost a Republican congressional primary to Danny Tarkanian.

Some people expect White House implosions and scandals to reach a critical mass to the point that Republicans will eventually flee from Trump, all rats-on-a-sinking-ship like. If that pans out, when Sandoval stands up to Trump on behalf of Nevadans, he may be doing it as part of a chorus signaling Trump’s demise.

Others worry about a different scenario: The longer Republicans neglect their responsibilities — the longer they allow the Trump administration to fester unchecked — the more time for the White House to concentrate authority, rendering it all the more difficult to effectively challenge, let alone contain, Trump’s assaults on the country’s laws, institutions, principles and people.

In that case, if and when Sandoval stands up to Trump, he may be doing it with little or no help from his own party.

Sean Spicer says the AP report is “100 percent not true.” Much as I would like to embrace the broken-clock-right-twice-daily method of analyzing Trump surrogate statements, the truth is — the facts show — that virtually nothing uttered by anyone in the Trump administration can or should be believed by anyone anywhere.

I want to think Sandoval would not participate in a militarized round-up of people whose biggest mistake may have been coming to a country that’s too politically dysfunctional to enact sensible immigration laws. I would also like to think Sandoval will do everything in his power to resist any attempt to take health care coverage from Nevadans or rob them of their voting rights. And I’d like to think Sandoval will aggressively resist any other Trump initiatives that will harm Nevadans.

Yes, with Democrats all but powerless in the federal government, Heller is the individual Nevadan in the best position, from an institutional standpoint, to rein in Trump’s excesses. But, well, it’s Heller, which means that as a practical matter, the role may fall to Sandoval.

Trump is not fit to be president. We have to hope Sandoval knows that, and we have to hope that he will act accordingly.

But it’s just a hope.