This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:
- Gov. Jerry Brown told the Times Wednesday that a decision by President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change would be "tragic."
- Legislators at the state Capitol will winnow down the hundreds of bills pending by Friday afternoon, quietly killing some of them which have been sitting in what's called the "suspense file."
- African Americans in the California Democratic Party want an apology made to Rep. Maxine Water (D-Los Angeles) after her microphone was cut off at last weekend's convention.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein's first statement on Tuesday night's surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey was simple and seemingly accepting of President Trump's move.
The initial two-sentence statement said Trump had contacted her to tell her the FBI needed a change and pledged that the "next FBI director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing in the Judiciary Committee."
Overnight, the California Democrat's tone changed, and she began questioning Trump's motives.
In a second statement, and in her opening remarks before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday morning, Feinstein said she was troubled by the firing of the head of an agency conducting an investigation while it is ongoing.
“The real question we face today is whether Director Comey was fired because of the Clinton email investigation — which could have happened in January — or whether he was fired because of the FBI’s investigation of Trump connections to Russia," she said.
She also backed up the renewed calls of many, including her fellow Californian, Sen. Kamala Harris, for a special prosecutor in the Russia investigation
Feinstein's more pointed and detailed stance appears to have been spurred by White House explanations of the firing.
"As the night went on, more and more stories began to unfold about the events surrounding Director Comey's dismissal," Feinstein told the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
She pointed to news reports that revealed Comey learned he was fired through television news coverage and that Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions had been tasked with coming up with reasons to fire Comey. She also cited reports that Trump had grown angry with the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including Comey's admission to a Senate committee that the FBI was investigating Trump campaign associates.
"As I reflect on the decision to dismiss Director Comey, I become incredulous thinking about the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia's interference with our presidential election and possible connections to associates of the Trump campaign and administration," she said.
Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, also told reporters that Democrats would use a procedural move to essentially slow or stop the panel's scheduled meeting on Wednesday morning
"Given the events of the last 24 hours, I believe members should have the opportunity to speak out about these events," she said.