Politics
As he investigates Trump's aides, special counsel's record shows surprising flaws
Newsletter

Essential Politics: In all things, fire and fury

As California battles fires from north to south, there’s cooperation between officials in Washington and Sacramento.

Politics set aside, the message from President Trump on Tuesday was one of solidarity amid a series of fires -- from wine country to Orange County -- that have killed at least 17 people.

"I spoke with Governor Brown last night to let him know that the federal government will stand with the people of California and we will be there for you in this time of terrible tragedy and need and I just want to pay my warmest respects. They are going through a lot," Trump said during a White House event.

Brown quickly responded to the federal disaster declaration later on Tuesday. “I appreciate the fast response from the president," he said.

The devastation, especially in the hard-hit communities of Napa and Sonoma counties, is hard to fathom. One lawmaker, state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), told me on Monday it was the worst fire he’s seen as a native of the region.

“It’s just an incredibly emotional experience," he said after touring neighborhoods leveled by the fires.

FEINSTEIN ‘ALL IN’ FOR 2018 … BUT ALMOST WASN’T

News of the deadly fires dampened what otherwise would be the week’s big story in California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein launching her re-election bid for 2018.

For months Feinstein, 84, was coy about whether she’d seek a sixth term in Congress. And while another campaign by a powerful Democrat in a Democratic-leaning state might not usually be news, these are unusual times in her party.

As Cathleen Decker points out, the lurch by Democrats to the left and Republicans to the right leaves “fewer voters to occupy the moderate middle on which Feinstein has depended."

But then there’s this: Feinstein told a group of donors in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night that she came close to calling it a career.

"I thought, well maybe I've been there long enough. Maybe I should just walk away,” she told the crowd.

Now the big question: Will she be challenged by a prominent politician in her own party? The guy everyone is talking about, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), did everything but sprint away from a Times reporter seeking comment on Monday.

‘LIDDLE’ BOB CORKER, TAUNTS TRUMP

You’d be hard pressed to find politicians from the same party on the local or state level fighting each other as fiercely as Trump and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have the past few days.

The president was back on Corker’s case on Tuesday, deriding the 5-foot-7-inch senator as “Liddle’ Bob Corker” on Twitter. Of course, there are others who say that Corker’s criticism of Trump is only unique in that other GOP politicians are still only willing to whisper it.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, may have tried to change the culture of the executive mansion, but there’s always one person who’s thwarting that: Trump.

NATIONAL LIGHTNING ROUND

-- Is the president really suggesting a comparison of his IQ with that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson?

-- Trump’s unpopularity is notable in some states with key 2018 Senate races.

-- He seemed on Tuesday to endorse changes in tax laws to punish the NFL if its players keep “disrespecting" the national anthem or the U.S. flag.

-- In Michigan, Abdul El-Sayed is running an inspirational campaign for governor at a time the country's politics have never seemed so mean and low.

-- Some questions -- and answers -- about what it means if the president doesn’t re-certify the Iran nuclear agreement.

-- Why are Indiana officials withholding the release of some of Vice President Mike Pence’s emails from his time as governor?

-- Is there really an economic development bill “which nobody knows about" in Washington?

-- Eminem unleashed an anti-Trump rap during the BET Hip-Hop Awards.

OBAMACARE AND DRUG PRICING

Henry Kissinger does not want to pay a 116% increase in his premiums, but that’s what happening."

Probably no one was more surprised to hear the president say that on Tuesday than the former secretary of State himself, who found himself sitting next to Trump during an impromptu pitch for a healthcare proposal slated to be unveiled later this week.

That proposal is likely an executive order to promote the use of association health plans. Here’s how they work.

Here in California, the governor signed a closely watched law on Monday to require new disclosure of prescription drug prices, the centerpiece of an effort to curb rising pharmaceutical costs.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti didn’t do much on Tuesday while visiting Sacramento to tamp down on speculation that he may have an eye on higher office in 2018 or 2020.

-- Hillary Clinton was on the campus of UC Davis on Monday night, telling an audience “There is too much at stake not to speak out."

-- Clinton and former President Barack Obama have issued statements condemning the allegations of sexual harassment by a former big donor to Democrats, Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

-- Trump pushes forward with a plan to limit the foreign born population of the United States. Meanwhile, here are some of the immigration bills pending in Congress.

-- Between fundraising stops in California, Pence pitched Trump’s tax plan in the suburbs of Sacramento on Monday.

-- Southern California’s largest water agency voted on Tuesday to endorse the controversial plan for the twin tunnels project that would transport water from the north.

-- Gov. Brown signed bills on Tuesday designed to help encourage Californians to buy more zero-emission vehicles.

-- Say goodbye to California’s high school exit exam.

-- Accents and other marks on names won’t be included on California vital records, after Brown vetoed a bill promoted by Democrats.

-- Brown also vetoed a measure to create a state task force on opiate addiction, arguing the proposal was duplicative of other working groups already in existence.

-- State lawmakers’ efforts to make it easier for large projects to withstand environmental lawsuits hit another snag.

-- Contribution limits to California legislators' legal defense funds might soon be lifted.

-- Soap star and Trump campaign surrogate Kimberlin Brown became the first challenger to announce a run against three-term Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert).

-- Two-time challenger Bryan Caforio nabbed the endorsement of National Nurses United in his race against GOP Rep. Steve Knight.

-- Get your tickets now for our next big politics event, on Oct. 18 in Los Angeles. Christina Bellantoni will be interviewing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. And I’ll be moderating a panel about the political view from California in the Trump era.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Monday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to politics@latimes.com.

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
66°