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Essential Politics: From Trump to Brown, lines in the sand are drawn

This is shaping up to be an era of bold strokes in American politics, and the past 24 hours have seen several high-stakes moves — from the statehouse to the White House.

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and after his big speech Tuesday, there’s not much confusion about where Gov. Jerry Brown stands on the change that’s come to the national political scene.

More on that in a moment. But first, let’s get caught up on another big day to come, and one in the books, for the new administration of President Donald Trump.


It certainly wasn’t hard to miss the message on Tuesday, as the president gave the thumbs-up to resuming two big oil industry projects while hitting the pause button on what the public hears from federal environmental officials.

First, the oil: Trump signed orders reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects. As Evan Halper and William Yardley write, the decision could pay big political dividends among those who see the decision as more about jobs than the environment.

Speaking of the environment, the president’s team faces a lot of questions about its decision to impose a gag order on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The move not only imposed a media blackout for agency officials but also a “temporary suspension” of any new EPA business activities.

(And then there was a fascinating few hours of Twitter activity from someone associated with Badlands National Park.)

Those actions come as a new national poll finds 55% of those surveyed said protecting the environment should be among the top priorities for the new president.

No doubt that’s a sentiment with which California’s chief executive agrees.


How many ways can someone talk about the president without ever mentioning his name? That’s one way of thinking about Tuesday’s State of the State speech by Gov. Brown, the most sweeping rebuke he’s offered so far of the nation’s 45th president and the new Republican domination of Washington.

Brown, who is nothing if not a believer in California as an exceptional example of what the nation can do right, made it clear where the battle lines are drawn in the year to come. His most forceful, impassioned comments came on the rights of those Californians who are in the U.S. illegally.

“We will defend everybody — every man, woman and child — who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state,” he said.

There’s a good chance Brown and his fellow California Democrats will be talking a lot about immigration later today.


Trump tweeted late Tuesday night that he intends to announce action today on his plans for a border wall with Mexico, and it also appears he could reverse long-standing policy on the issue of “sanctuary cities” as well as impose a new ban on the arrival of Syrian refugees.

That will no doubt please those groups critical of illegal immigration that have been demanding action in these early days of the new administration. But it remains to be seen whether the president will also address the fate of nearly 750,000 immigrants who are in the U.S illegally and were brought here as children.


No doubt news on the immigration front will get the attention of California’s new top state lawyer, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. This is the Los Angeles Democrat’s first full day on the job, after taking the oath of office Tuesday during the governor’s State of the State event.

Becerra told reporters that a key question will be how the Trump administration defines a “criminal” in any effort to increase deportations of those who have run-ins with the law.

“Is someone who has a broken tail light a criminal?” he asked. “I hope that’s not the definition that the administration in Washington, D.C., will use.”


The president saw his choice for United Nations ambassador, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, win confirmation on Tuesday.

Haley’s fellow South Carolinian Rep. Mick Mulvaney largely escaped any tough Senate questions about the more than $15,000 in taxes he failed to pay for a former nanny in Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for his selection as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Tougher questions, though, continued to be asked of Georgia Rep. Tom Price in his effort to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services. Price again tried to offer assurances on Tuesday that the Trump administration would not simply abandon those who obtained health benefits through the Affordable Care Act — targeted for repeal by Trump and GOP leaders.

But Democrats paid close attention to the wording of Price’s comments when he pledged that the goal is to ensure “every single American has access to affordable health coverage that will provide the highest quality healthcare.”

The key word, of course, is “access.”


It’s not called a State of the Union speech in an inaugural year, but it’s pretty much the same kind of big event. The president will address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28.

As always, we’re tracking all of the big news on the new administration on our national politics news feed.


It’s a big day for students and leaders of the University of California, as regents gather in San Francisco. By Thursday, they are expected to approve a new budget with the first UC tuition hikes in six years.

The decision comes as students and families ponder the governor’s plan to phase out scholarships for middle-class Californians.


— A conservative Colorado judge is a top contender for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

— The White House press secretary tried to defend the president’s unproven assertion of widespread voter fraud on Nov. 8.

— An island of Trump supporters in Los Angeles also happens to be rich in followers of Scientology.

— Where will the energy and passion of last weekend’s women’s marches go from here?

— California’s House delegation split along party lines Tuesday on a bill to permanently prohibit the use of certain federal funds for abortions.

— A new poll shows that the number of Californians supporting seceding from the United States increased after Trump was elected president.

— Overhauling the state’s main environmental law governing development, the California Environmental Quality Act, is a perennial debate at the state Capitol. But changes have been slow-going.

— California’s landmark cap-and-trade climate program faced a big day in court on Tuesday.

— Now that Becerra is officially California’s attorney general, here are all the people running to replace him in Congress.

— The Democrats in California’s 2018 race for governor are treating Trump like a political piñata.

— As the California-versus-Trump battle garners more attention, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon hires a former deputy press secretary to President Obama.


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