I'm Christina Bellantoni. This is Essential Politics.
Wednesday was a relatively quiet day on the campaign trail, with all of the consequential stuff happening behind the scenes.
We have more on the big Trump staff shakeup below, but in another story of interest, Don Lee introduces readers to Peter Navarro, a 67-year-old UC Irvine professor who ran unsuccessfully four times for public office as a Democrat, and is now one of the leading voices on Donald Trump's economic advisory team. Except here's the unusual thing: He's never met with or spoken to Trump on the phone.
As for today, Trump will be in Charlotte, N.C., and Hillary Clinton will be in New York City.
HOW TRUMP LEARNED TO LOVE THE BOMB
Evan Halper finds that not since Ronald Reagan's re-election at the tail end of the Cold War have nuclear weapons played so big in a presidential race. Historians have to reach back even further, to decades before Reagan, to find a nominee who has talked about nuclear war as loosely as Trump does.
The GOP nominee has plunged into an issue presidential candidates gently sidestepped for years. U.S. policy for when and how nuclear arms should be deployed has been one of the rare points of bipartisan foreign policy agreement.
Among his positions:
Trump has suggested America use nuclear weapons to bomb Islamic State. He has proposed that Japan and maybe even Saudi Arabia build their own arsenals. And he may have weakened the deterrent effect of nuclear missiles in Europe by suggesting a Trump administration would not come to the aid of NATO members who owe the alliance money.
If you haven't been watching the tracking poll lately, Clinton's edge over Trump has narrowed a bit.
FROM BREITBART TO THE CAMPAIGN
"I've known both of them for a long time. They're terrific people, they're winners, they're champs, and we need to win it," Trump told the Associated Press after announcing a staff shakeup at the highest levels of his campaign.
Who are they? Seema Mehta takes a look at Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, Team Trump's new leaders. One has never been involved in a political campaign before and the other previously worked for Trump's last-standing rival in the GOP primary.
And don't miss Matt Pearce's look at the evolution of Breitbart, the news outlet, and how it became pro-Trump under Bannon's leadership.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG TRANSPARENCY FIGHT WILL BE ON BALLOT
The battle over a bill to increase transparency of prescription drug prices — one of the most anticipated end-of-session showdowns, came to an abrupt halt in Sacramento Wednesday, when the bill's author, Sen. Ed Hernández (D-West Covina) pulled the legislation. Hernández was displeased with recent amendments to the measure, which proponents said fatally weakened it.
Melanie Mason and Sophia Bollag report that the focus now turns to a drug pricing initiative facing voters in the fall and pharmaceutical companies have built a significant war chest to defeat the measure.
CAP AND TRADE COMPROMISE?
Senate Democrats are hoping to shake loose the two-year impasse over allocating money from the state's cap-and-trade auctions. Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) released a $1.2-billion spending proposal on Wednesday that includes $150 million for a program offering subsidies to low-income people buying low- and zero-emission vehicles.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) responded with a note of caution, saying there will be a spending plan passed by the end of the month, but lawmakers should wait to see the results of the most recent cap-and-trade auction before making decisions.
In a related issue, does Gov. Jerry Brown want to save the Earth or his bullet train project? With little time left in the legislative session, he'll have to prioritize one one or the other, George Skelton writes in his Thursday column.
For the latest on these negotiations and the scramble toward the end of session, keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed.
We're closely tracking the blazes that are ravaging both Southern and Northern California. Follow our coverage here.
— Two Democrats in the Legislature unveiled a new plan to fund the state's crumbling roads and other transportation programs, highlighted by a 17-cents-per-gallon gas tax hike. And Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) said he'd be willing to go to a November lame duck session to pass it.
— A long-delayed bill that would legalize Internet poker in California is being amended to address concerns by a group of Native American casino operators who had opposed the measure, setting the stage for a possible vote in the state Assembly on Monday.
— Rep. Ami Bera's father will be sentenced Thursday. Defense attorneys for the 83-year-old who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations said he should get probation, not prison.
— Here are the details of the open carry gun rights lawsuit we told you about last week.
— Clinton hung out privately with Paul McCartney before his concert in Cleveland Wednesday.
— Trump said Democrats take the black vote for granted.
— I'll be a panelist Friday morning at USC Dornsife's "Blazing the Trail – Lessons from Women Leaders" event. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The free event honors Tracy Hernandez of the Los Angeles County Business Federation, Lindsey Horvath of the West Hollywood City Council and retired Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Burke. The other panelists are Kathryn Barger, chief deputy supervisor in the office of Supervisor Michael Antonovich; Ana Guerrero, chief of staff to Mayor Eric Garcetti; Los Angeles County CEO Sachi Hamai; Close the Gap founder Mary Hughes; former West Hollywood council member Abbe Land; Councilwoman Nury Martinez; Michele Siqueiros of the Campaign for College Opportunity; and Vice President of SoCalGas Sharon Tomkins.
— What do you think of Clinton? We want to hear from you.
— Who will win the November election? Give our Electoral College map a spin.