This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:
- California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Wednesday that he intends to open a satellite attorney general's office in Washington, D.C., as he prepares to fight the Trump administration.
- The results from California's latest cap-and-trade auction are in, and revenue from the sale of pollution credits was weak.
- A bill that would set up a state-funded legal aid system for immigrants will be amended by its author to allow those with criminal records to apply for assistance.
San Diego County Republican Rep. Darrell Issa said Friday night that a special prosecutor should be tapped to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, a stance that mirrors the calls of congressional Democrats to sideline the U.S attorney general from such inquiries.
Appearing on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," Issa was prodded by Maher, the program's liberal host, on how the congressman, who used to lead the House Oversight Committee, would've acted if Democrats were suspected of improper ties to a foreign government in the 2012 presidential race.
"Say the Russians hacked only Mitt Romney and there was a lot of contact between the Obama administration and Russia," said Maher. "You going to let that slide?
"No," Issa responded.
"Oh, so you're not going to let this slide?" Maher asked of the current controversy facing the Trump administration.
"No," Issa responded again.
"We're going to ask the intelligence committees of the House and Senate to investigate within the special areas they oversee," he added.
That didn't appear to satisfy Maher, who pressed the congressman on whether he favored recusal for Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, President Trump's appointee to lead the Justice Department and an early campaign backer.
"You're right that you cannot have somebody — a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions — who was on the campaign and who is an appointee," Issa said. "You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office," adding it would be insufficient to hand the job off to the deputy attorney general, another political appointee.
Issa then pivoted his attention to Russia, arguing that its president, Vladimir Putin, is a "bad guy" who murders his political enemies.
"We have to work with [the Russians]; we don't have to trust them," Issa said. "We need to investigate their activities and we need to do it because they are bad people."
The rhetoric was notably harsher than that used by the president to describe his Russian counterpart. Trump has denied any past connections to Putin or his allies, but has often said it would be a good thing for the United States to improve its relationship with Russia.