Newsletter: Essential Politics: Russia, the elections and Trump make for a complicated mix


Donald Trump just isn’t worried about it.

As a new CIA report suggesting the Russians interfered in the November elections sparked a bit of a frenzy, the president-elect dismissed it as “ridiculous.” But a bipartisan group of senators wants to know more.

I’m Christina Bellantoni. Welcome to the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

“I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country. And frankly, I think they’re putting it out, and it’s ridiculous,” Trump told Chris Wallace during an extensive “Fox News Sunday” interview, one of just a handful of public appearances since his victory one month ago.


The dispute marked the first significant post-election pushback Trump has encountered from a Republican Party that only belatedly and reluctantly embraced the unconventional nominee, whose views often clash with traditional GOP ideology.

It came after the president-elect’s transition team mockingly compared the secret CIA assessment that Russia tried to sway the U.S. election in Trump’s favor to the agency’s misjudgments on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

The whole affair doesn’t bode well for how Trump will act as president, said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “He is willing to disparage the intelligence community when it benefits him,” he said.


On Fox, Trump also defended the close ties to Russia of Rex Tillerson, the man he is considering choosing as his secretary of State.


Noam Levey looked at the complicated thicket that is the promise to repeal large parts of the Affordable Care Act. He finds that Trump and congressional Republicans are leaving behind nearly everyone but their base voters and a handful of conservative activists. Not a single major organization representing patients, physicians, hospitals or others who work in the nation’s healthcare system backs the GOP’s Obamacare strategy, and polls suggest far more Americans would like to expand or keep the healthcare law.

Intensifying the political risks for Republicans, he writes, more and more patient groups are warning that millions of Americans are in danger of losing vital health protections and that Republicans need to agree on a replacement plan before they uproot the current system.

With the nation’s votes tallied, David Lauter dives into the numbers and finds that in the end, Hillary Clinton actually won as many votes as President Obama captured to win re-election in 2012 — she just got them in the wrong states.

Matt Pearce explored incoming White House chief of staff Stephen Bannon’s influences — including ancient civilizations all over the world, Sun Tzu’s “Art of War,” the Bhagavad Gita, Ronald Reagan and Nazi propaganda.

Get the latest about the Trump transition on Trail Guide and follow @latimespolitics.



Trump told his supporters that he chose a “killer” investor, Wilbur Ross, to lead his Department of Commerce. The president-elect has a long history with Ross — he helped navigate Trump’s first casino bankruptcy in Atlantic City. Chris Megerian explores their connection and Ross’ track record as an investor in steel and coal, two industries Trump has pledged to revive.


With a late-night 78 to 21 vote, the Senate approved sweeping water infrastructure legislation Friday that changes how much water is pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to San Joaquin Valley farmers and Southern California.

Sarah Wire writes about the bill — co-authored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, who opposed it in the end — which authorizes hundreds of water projects across the country, including new infrastructure to fix lead issues in Flint, Mich., and millions of dollars for projects connected to the Los Angeles River, Salton Sea and Lake Tahoe.

Earlier in the week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy inserted the 90 pages of California water policy that drew Boxer’s opposition, negotiated over the past year by the state’s 14 GOP members, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and a handful of House Democrats.

Wire also has a look at how it all came together in the last few months.

And in case you missed it, here is Boxer’s farewell speech. Cathleen Decker looked at the end of an era as Boxer left Washington defending politics as a “noble” profession.

Keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed for in-the-moment news on California politics and state government.



After building a fiercely loyal following in California, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has sought to parlay some of the enthusiasm he inspired into electoral results in down-ballot races here. In the run-up to the November election, Sanders endorsed several like-minded state and local candidates in California, including them on fundraising drives that went out to his coveted list of supporters nationwide.

Our Revolution, the political group he started to propel down-ballot candidates to victory, also made a major drive in the state by endorsing a total of 17 ballot measure campaigns and candidates for city council on up to Congress.

Christine Mai-Duc reports that while the results were lukewarm — six of those campaigns lost — representatives of some of the failed efforts say Sanders and his allies had an outsize impact that helped them stay competitive, an effect that could multiply if the movement Sanders started continues to grow.


After the Ghost Ship fire, Oakland officials are under pressure to crack down on illegal artist residences throughout the city. But, as Liam Dillon reports, the city’s recent condemnation of an artist warehouse in West Oakland led some former residents to nearly double their rent or remain homeless. Soaring housing costs in the Bay Area are putting enormous pressure on artists and low-income residents in Oakland, long poorer than its San Francisco neighbor.


A fight over how to interpret the new rules under Proposition 54 appears to be brewing between the initiative’s supporters and Assembly Democrats. Last week, Democrats approved new organizational rules that appear to exempt many of their own bills from the new 72-hour rule for public review.


Meantime, the Assembly also appears poised to create hundreds of more bills than in any other legislative session for two decades. In this week’s Political Road Map column, John Myers takes a look at how Democrats say there are just too many good ideas for potential new California laws to pass up.


California’s roads and highways are in dire need of repair, and Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators shouldn’t be let off the hook for it, George Skelton writes in his Monday column. After many promises and delays — thanks in great part to a two-thirds legislative vote requirement to pass a tax increase — California’s politicians must stop talking about fixing the state’s transportation infrastructure and get to work, Skelton says.


— On this week’s California Politics Podcast, Myers leads a discussion of the new efforts by legislative Democrats to fight back against potential Trump administration action on immigration.

— The Field Poll, the survey that’s been sampling political opinions of Californians for seven decades, officially went out of business on Friday.

— A big shakeup in the race for California’s 34th congressional district: former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez dropped out over the weekend, citing health concerns. Meantime, others could join the race to replace Los Angeles Democrat Rep. Xavier Becerra this week, including Sara Hernandez, a former staffer to L.A. Councilman José Huizar.

— Police departments across California will soon have to collect data on the race of those they stop during patrols. Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris just released proposed guidelines for how they’ll do it.

— Noah Bierman paints a vivid picture of how Washington, D.C., where just 4% of the voters chose Trump, must decide how to adapt to the man who will not only run the White House, but also has his name prominently affixed to a landmark hotel just a few blocks away.

— David Savage detailed the obscure constitutional provision that could be trouble for Trump.

— With the final race of the year concluded, the party breakdown in the Senate next year will be a 52-48 GOP majority.

Arnold Schwarzenegger says he isn’t concerned about Trump continuing his executive producer role on “Celebrity Apprentice,” which debuts after the new year.

— When it comes to climate change policy in the states under Trump, Californians may find themselves making sacrifices while the residents of other states are missing in action.


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