Here’s what you need to know ahead of President Trump’s State of the Union tonight.
The Five-Point State of the Union Plan
With the end of the longest government shutdown in American history just over a week ago and the specter of another on Feb. 15, President Trump will deliver his State of the Union address tonight starting at 6 p.m. Pacific time. Though he’s one of the most polarizing presidents in modern history, Trump said last week, “It’s going to be a speech that’s going to cover a lot of territory, but part of it is going to be unity.” One official described the theme as “choosing greatness.” More specifically, aides say Trump will highlight five familiar issues: immigration (especially in light of his demands for funding a wall on the border with Mexico), trade, infrastructure, prescription drug pricing and national security. Whether he stays on script is anyone’s guess.
-- Federal prosecutors in New York delivered a sweeping request for documents related to donations and spending by Trump’s inaugural committee, a sign of a deepening criminal investigation.
-- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam asked staffers to stand by as he decides his fate amid a blackface controversy, while the man who would succeed him, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, also a Democrat, denied a sexual assault allegation.
-- Trump has selected David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, to take over the Interior Department.
Where Food Is Weaponized
Almost certain to come up in Trump’s State of the Union address is Venezuela, where a political, social and economic crisis is playing out as opposition leader Juan Guaido challenges the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro. On Monday, Britain, Germany, Spain and other European nations joined the U.S. in recognizing Guaido as interim president. But amid the international wrangling, many Venezuelans have a more basic concern: severe food shortages. Here’s more from the streets of Caracas.
The Land the Recovery Forgot
Imperial County in the southeast corner of California has long struggled with unemployment. Even amid a rebound from the Great Recession, the county’s unemployment rate stands at 16%, four times higher than the state’s. “This is supposed to be the recovery, and every time there is a recovery, we seem to be the least-benefiting area,” says one county supervisor. Now, the region is looking to energy and the growing of industrial hemp for salvation.
From Fringe to Mainstream?
The Libertarian Party’s slogan is “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom.” Over the years, the party has had more than its share of colorful characters, and its success at the ballot box has been limited. But Libertarians nationwide have been rejoicing since Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt took office; he is not only the most powerful Libertarian ever elected in the U.S. but also shows how his party could carry the mantle of conservatism in California as the state GOP declines.
70 Is the New Fabulous
There was a time not that long ago when female stars were considered washed up in their 40s and out of the game by 50. Today, women like Glenn Close, Dolly Parton and Candice Bergen are doing some of their best work in their 70s, as are Rita Moreno, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in their 80s. “The notion that women naturally aged out of starring roles at 40 didn’t just limit careers and story lines, it reinforced the steel cage for women in general,” writes Mary McNamara, who has returned from the editing ranks at the L.A. Times to begin a new column. More about the back story is here.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The U.S. Constitution mandates that the president “shall from time to time” report to Congress on the state of the country and recommend “measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” But it doesn’t say anything about a State of the Union speech. With a few exceptions, the modern-day practice of an address to a joint session of Congress didn’t start until in 1934 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first televised State of the Union: President Harry S. Truman in 1947. Here’s a look back at how the SOTU has evolved.
-- Former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas’ work as a lobbyist in Sacramento has drawn criticism. An Assembly investigation supported claims that he sexually harassed two legislative staffers in 2016; he has previously denied the allegations.
-- In Yorba Linda, witnesses say a Cessna plane fell apart in the air before it plummeted into a home, killing five people on Sunday.
-- An L.A. County report says officers engaged in inappropriate and avoidable uses of pepper spray to subdue detainees in juvenile detention facilities in recent years.
-- The director of Caltrans has ordered a state audit of expenditures tied to the protection of the agency’s work crews by California Highway Patrol units after a CHP investigation uncovered evidence of fraudulent overtime among its officers.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
-- Actor Liam Neeson has sparked outrage with his comments in an interview about having once wanted to kill a black man out of revenge.
-- The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles has told its members that longtime board chairman John Duran will step down from his post at season’s end. It comes amid allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
-- The Desert X art show in the Coachella Valley is putting a work by Jenny Holzer on hold because of concerns about its effect on nearby bighorn sheep.
-- At the Oscars luncheon, the nominees were celebrated and told to keep things short on awards night: They’ll get one minute and 30 seconds to rise from their seat, walk to the stage and deliver an acceptance speech.
-- Jurors in the trial of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman can finally talk about the case ... to each other, as deliberations begin.
-- Iraq’s constantly squabbling politicians were united in umbrage after President Trump said the United States would maintain a military presence in Iraq to keep an eye on Iran.
-- The U.S. is calling on other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens who traveled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State group and who are now being held by U.S.-backed forces.
-- On Germany’s autobahn, Geschwindigkeitsbeschraenkung is a four-letter word to many.
-- Experts say the Lion Air crash in Indonesia points to a growing over-reliance on cockpit computers that are no substitute for pilot skills.
-- Bill Gross, founder of asset management fund Pimco, is retiring after four years at Janus Henderson. It’s a swift end to a legendary career, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.
-- The Lakers have increased their offer to obtain superstar Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans: six players, two first-round draft picks and a willingness to take back an undesirable contract.
-- After coming up short in the Super Bowl, the Rams have several decisions to make about their roster, and time’s a-wastin’.
-- L.A. County’s supervisors should keep moving beyond bail reform and come up with their own no-bail pretrial release program.
-- Two potent racial symbols — MAGA hats and blackface — are different forms of expression, but they share a certain unfortunate DNA.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
-- Among the State of the Union guests invited by Melania Trump: 11-year-old Joshua Trump, because he “has been bullied in school due to his last name.” (New York Magazine)
-- Problems of the 0.1%: Putting multimillion-dollar artworks aboard yachts has become such a thing among the ultra-rich that conservators are teaching captains and crew how to care for masterpieces. (The Guardian)
-- A 19-year-old student in Michigan created nearly 700 quizzes for BuzzFeed for free. Now, she has plenty of job offers. (CBC)
ONLY IN CALIFORNIA
If you saw the Budweiser commercial during the Super Bowl featuring a Clydesdale-drawn wagon wending its way through fields and a wind turbine farm, it wasn’t in Idaho, Montana or any other big barley-producing state. It was filmed in November at Tejon Ranch, the privately owned property northwest of L.A. that’s been the subject of battles over a planned 19,000-home development. But in true Hollywood fashion, the turbines and the fields of grain were digitally added.