President Trump threatened to cut federal money for wildfire relief efforts in California, but neither the White House nor the Federal Emergency Management Agency would clarify what he meant.
The Forest Through the Tweets
President Trump has threatened to cut off disaster relief money to Californians whose homes were burnt by wildfires last year. He tweeted: “Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money.” The Republican congressman who represents the destroyed city of Paradise and surroundings joined Democrats in criticizing Trump’s tweet, though whether it’s bluster or an actual order to end funding is uncertain. About the only thing that is clear: The spelling of “forrest” was later corrected to “forest.”
The Shutdown Show Goes On
Trump will be making his pitch for a border wall today by traveling to McAllen, Texas, where plans for $1.4 billion in new border barriers already funded by Congress have been quietly proceeding. Yesterday, Trump stormed out of a White House negotiating session when Democratic leaders refused to agree to his demand for taxpayer money to build that wall along the border with Mexico. The hostile 20-minute encounter marked a shift for the president, who’s gone from talking about progress during bipartisan talks to threatening to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and use the military to build a wall. Whether Trump could legally pull off that maneuver is subject to debate. Meanwhile, the government shutdown continues, with some Republicans beginning to get nervous about the backlash they may face. Many federal workers are expected to not get their paychecks Friday.
-- Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo made an unannounced trip to Iraq as part of his Middle East reassurance campaign. Iraqi President Barham Salih asked for more help in fighting Islamic State militants.
-- Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who’s been central in overseeing the special counsel’s Russia investigation, is expected to leave his position soon after William Barr is confirmed as attorney general.
-- Billionaire Tom Steyer says he will not seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Instead, he’ll focus on leading a grass-roots effort to drive Trump from office.
Newsom’s New Approach
After Gavin Newsom’s inauguration as governor of California earlier this week, all eyes in Sacramento will be on his first proposal for government spending, which is being sent to the Legislature to meet a deadline of today. Newsom has already promised money for healthcare, low-income housing, education and (attention, President Trump) wildfire prevention. He’s also hinted at “an interesting surplus.” The big question: How much more free-spending will Newsom be than former Gov. Jerry Brown, who was seen as fiscally cautious? As columnist George Skelton writes, there’s a stark difference in styles between Newsom and Brown. Case in point: On his third day in office, the new governor ordered an overhaul of the troubled Department of Motor Vehicles.
Strike That Strike for a Few Days
Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District have postponed their strike, originally slated to start today, until Monday — but not because of progress in contract talks. Instead, it’s because of a legal fight over whether their union had given proper notice to the district. The two sides plan to meet again on Friday. If members of United Teachers Los Angeles walk next week, it will cause disruption for students and families, but for some more so than for others.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
More rain is expected in Los Angeles by the end of this week. Back in 1963, Times photographer Mary Frampton took the picture below during heavy showers in the San Fernando Valley. For her efforts, Frampton won best photograph in the suburban sections at the 1964 Los Angeles Times Editorial Awards.
-- Unruly visitors have made a mess of Joshua Tree National Park during the federal government shutdown. A group of volunteers has been trying to clean it up.
-- Just as a landmark police transparency law is going into effect, some police agencies are shredding internal affairs documents and unions are rushing to block the information from being released.
-- Federal prosecutors are pressing ahead with a novel attempt to dismantle the Mongols motorcycle club, arguing that the group should be stripped of trademarks as punishment for operating a criminal organization.
-- Francisco Ramírez, owner of the pioneering La Princesita tortilleria in East Los Angeles, has died at 64.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
-- After exiting Walt Disney Co. under a cloud, Pixar Animation pioneer John Lasseter has resurfaced with a new job at prominent production company Skydance Media. The announcement sparked an immediate backlash.
-- The Sundance Film Festival has announced two additional documentaries for its lineup: “Leaving Neverland,” which alleges that Michael Jackson began relationships with two boys; and “The Brink,” about political operative Stephen K. Bannon.
-- The first episode of “The Sopranos” was shown 20 years ago today. While the HBO series is celebrated for many things, critic Mary McNamara writes, “it was the women who made ‘The Sopranos’ magic.”
-- “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” winners at the Golden Globes, depict the music scene as a place thoroughly defined by compromise and artificiality. Pop music critic Mikael Wood says that’s not the case.
-- Iranian authorities have confirmed that a U.S. Navy veteran has been detained in Iran, making him the latest foreigner with ties to America to be imprisoned.
-- Trade talks between the U.S. and China have ended on an optimistic note, but differences remain.
-- Amid shortages of gasoline and long lines at the pumps in Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told citizens not to “fall into panic.”
-- As Venezuela falls apart economically and socially, President Nicolas Maduro will be sworn in for a second six-year term today.
-- Herbalife Chief Executive Richard Goudis has resigned over unspecified comments he made before taking leadership of the Los Angeles supplement maker.
-- SpaceX’s long-stated plans to reach Mars could take a big step forward as early as February with a “hopper test” of the company’s spaceship prototype. But its other goals this year are more down-to-earth.
-- Forward Kyle Kuzma thinks the Lakers could have their own version of the Golden State Warriors’ “Death Lineup.”
-- Trump’s “forrest” mismanagement threats are as disturbingly uninformed as they are authoritarian.
-- Direct democracy in California has been a dangerously mixed bag. It doesn’t have to be.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
-- Was Barack Obama a good or bad president? Some Democrats are reevaluating his legacy. (Vanity Fair)
-- Artificial intelligence and the myriad ethical issues surrounding its use. (Harvard Magazine)
-- Before radar, these odd concrete blocks, called sound mirrors, protected Britain from German zeppelins. (BBC)
ONLY IN L.A.
Framed posters of the Sex Pistols and New York Dolls line the stairwell. Eight-track tapes and band T-shirts are arranged in stacks. And then there’s a master mold used to make the signature “energy dome” hats worn by Devo. Is this collection of more than 100,000 pieces in a punk rock museum? Not exactly. It’s the two-story headquarters of the Kill Your Idols indie media company, which has published more than 40 books and zines over the last two decades. Perhaps it should be renamed Save Your Idols?