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Essential Politics: Trump's 'fire and fury' warning to North Korea

It was just two days ago that our newsletter suggested that it could be “a quiet week in politics."

Nope.

That quiet was been shattered by a single comment — a dire warning — made by President Trump about the nuclear weapons program in North Korea.

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and the comment by the president was made during an event that was supposed to be about the nation’s opioid drug crisis.

But as we’ve seen so many times before, it’s the unscripted Trump that overshadows what’s otherwise supposed to be on his agenda.

THE ‘FIRE AND FURY’ AND HOW IT’S PLAYING

“They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen." It was that stark warning from the president that is now driving the news cycle in American politics.

As our team of reporters makes clear, the comment took some military leaders by surprise and came on the heels of reports that North Korea has developed a nuclear warhead that can sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Meanwhile, Barbara Demick has a sharp FAQ on the issue. What happens if the “fire and fury" begins?

(By the way, Trump did get back to talking about the nation’s opioid problem. He suggested law enforcement efforts are a key part of the solution.)

THE QUICK POLITICAL ROUNDUP

The second-in-command at the State Department tried to boost morale of the agency’s workers on Tuesday during an hourlong meeting.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was seeking common ground with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

There are reports that some federal scientists are worried the Trump administration will try to suppress a new report on climate change.

Before his warning on North Korea, Trump had been busying himself in a war of words with a Democratic senator over Vietnam.

And on the Russia investigation, California’s northernmost congressman calls it “a bunch of crap." Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Chico) offers that assessment in a chat with The Times’ Phil Willon.

OF LAMALFA AND LIEU

LaMalfa’s comment was made after a town hall event he held early Monday morning in his district — a tense setting, where a man critical of the GOP politician’s vote on healthcare changes said this:

“I hope you die in pain.”

We’ve been tracking town hall meetings during recess on our Essential Politics news feed.

Javier Panzar spoke with Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) when he held an event in Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s Orange County district. As one of the regional vice chairs in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Lieu helps the party with House races in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii.

Lieu said he isn’t worried there are so many candidates running in competitive districts. “We are going to have a lot of messy primaries in a lot of these districts. But at the end of the day there will be a strong general election candidate," he said.

Read the rest of our Q-and-A with Lieu here .

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR CALIFORNIA’S ‘SANCTUARY STATE’ BILL?

When lawmakers return to the state Capitol in less than two weeks for their final sprint to the end of the 2017 session, perhaps no bill will loom larger than the proposal to extend “sanctuary" provisions to all communities across California.

But what changes might Gov. Jerry Brown require to embrace it? He suggested last weekend that the proposal needs work. On Tuesday, the state’s powerful association of sheriffs said it’s working with Brown on possible amendments. The question: Will legislative Democrats go along?

A CONSERVATIVE LEGAL GROUP WANTS VOTER DATA FROM CALIFORNIA

The next six days will be an interesting showdown between Secretary of State Alex Padilla and a conservative legal group seeking detailed records on millions of California voters.

Will Padilla give it to them?

The group, Judicial Watch, alleges that the number of voters on two lists — the “active" and “inactive" registration lists — is greater than the voting-eligible population in 11 counties. As my story points out, the counties dispute that assertion. Judicial Watch declined to give specifics on its methodology for crunching those numbers.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- The state will financially support Los Angeles’ bid for the Olympic Games in 2028, according to letters from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.

-- In the tiny Sierra Valley town of Loyalton, the city’s four retired city employees became the first in California to see their pensions sliced after the city defaulted on its payments to CalPERS.

-- A Bay Area city delayed a vote on a big housing project despite a push from a gaggle of state lawmakers to approve it.

-- Death and hunger strikes plague a California immigration detention center.

-- Dave Min, a Democrat running for Congress against Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) has released his first campaign ad, and it’s unabashedly anti-Trump. He uses the tactic of tying Walters to Trump’s agenda, one that didn’t work out so well for Democrats last year.

-- The ongoing dispute over the California Democratic Party chair’s race continues. Really. Candidate Kimberly Ellis called for binding arbitration on Tuesday, and the party called it “a desperate Hail Mary pass."

-- Here's what the first month in Congress has been like for L.A.'s Rep. Jimmy Gomez.

OTHER VOICES

Here's some of what else we’ve been reading on the latest political news:

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Nanette Asimov reports that former UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks will still receive his $434,000 salary while on leave.

The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg reports that some intelligence officials are uneasy with the political approach to the job brought by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

In Politico, Eliana Johnson reports that Vice President Mike Pence’s new chief of staff is there to help preserve the veep’s future political options, whatever those might be.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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