Newsletter: Essential Politics: Donald Trump becomes president this week


With just days left before his inauguration at the nation’s 45th president, President-elect Donald Trump kicked off Martin Luther King Jr. weekend by attacking civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis.

Trump took to Twitter early Saturday to say the Georgia congressman is “all talk … no action” following Lewis’ assertion Friday that he doesn’t see Trump as a “legitimate” president because of Russian involvement in the election. Lewis was beaten repeatedly by police during Southern protests for civil rights and was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.

I’m California delegation reporter Sarah Wire. Welcome to the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

Over the weekend, we saw several Democrats point to Trump’s criticism of Lewis as the reason they are skipping Friday’s inauguration. So far, 12 of California’s 55 members say they plan to stay home, and five more are trying to make up their minds. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who is among the undecideds, is using a poll on Twitter to help her decide.


It will be a busy few days before the inauguration, so keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed, get the latest about the Trump transition on Trail Guide and follow @latimespolitics.


Over the weekend, members of Congress continued to question what effect Russia’s attempts to influence the election may have had and what communication occurred between Trump’s team and the Russian government. Trump’s aides said they want to focus on the inauguration.


Democrats on Friday were frustrated with FBI Director James B. Comey after a confidential briefing on Russian influence in the election and said he used differing standards to determine whether to release information to the public about potential investigations of the presidential candidates.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday classified briefings have laid out a “very sophisticated effort” by Moscow to impede Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and she believes Clinton lost because of it.

And CIA Director John Brennan took issue with Trump’s criticism of the intelligence community, questioning whether the incoming president has a grasp of Russia’s capabilities and intentions.


Ahead of Saturday’s planned Women’s March on Washington, knitters — mostly women — are crafting thousands handmade pink caps with cat ears, a reference to Trump’s vulgar statements about grabbing women’s genitals that were revealed in a leaked video shortly before the election.

Seema Mehta has the story on the California creators of the “pussyhat project” and why people across the world have worked to knit what they hope will end up as a sea of pink hats on the National Mall this Saturday.


California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton has a well-earned reputation as an outspoken disciple of liberal activism — and for spraying vulgarities. The 84-year-old San Francisco power broker and former congressman and state Senate president has helped turn California deep blue during his nearly eight years as party chairman.


Phil Willon detailed how Burton and the party helped the Democrats win a powerful supermajority in the California Legislature, and every election for statewide office since 2010.


Over the last two years, lawmakers have tried and failed to pass major legislation outlining how police officers should handle body worn cameras and when the public should see the footage. The bill’s failure reveals the deep divide among Democratic legislators over privacy and technology issues raised by the cameras, Liam Dillon reports. In the absence of statewide rules, local departments up and down California have filled in the gaps.


Planned Parenthood is no stranger to bruising political battles across the country, but the latest effort to defund the healthcare provider has even affiliates in the friendly territory of California feeling nervous. Melanie Mason reports how advocates and sympathetic politicians are grappling with what role the state should play if Congress successfully defunds the organization, resulting in a $260 million hit to Planned Parenthood California alone.


The state Senate will begin considering Rep. Xavier Becerra’s nomination for California’s new attorney general this week after the Los Angeles congressman was approved by a near party line 56-to-23 vote in the Assembly on Friday. Patrick McGreevy reports that the Senate is expected to confirm Becerra before week’s end.

Though a special election to replace Becerra hasn’t been called yet, 16 people have now said they plan to run to represent the 34th Congressional District. William Rodriguez Morrison, a Republican, and Tenaya Wallace, a Democrat, are the latest to say they’re in the running for the downtown Los Angeles seat Becerra has held for 24 years.



The Times’ Sacramento bureau has been pouring through the $179.5-billion budget Gov. Jerry Brown proposed last week.

Brown’s budget proposes more money for education, but some school districts are expecting they’ll have to make cuts. If that sounds contradictory, then consider the confusing rules that govern school funding.

Also, California expects to spend $8 billion next year on pensions for government workers and teachers.

And Brown’s budget gave a glimpse into the costs and challenges ahead for California’s huge overhaul of prison parole reform.

Brown asked lawmakers to help him safeguard the state’s cap-and-trade program, the centerpiece of California’s climate agenda, and lawmakers put down a marker last week, introducing the first bill to do exactly that. Expect intense negotiations over the controversial program.


During this week’s California Politics Podcast, John Myers leads a discussion on the fiscal and political hurdles facing the budget. The key, it seems, will be how Brown and Democrats in Sacramento view the need to stash cash for any changes coming from Washington.


— Healthcare advocates rallied in Los Angeles on Sunday to protest Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 14 other House members will hold another rally today in downtown Los Angeles.

— Congress passed a law Friday that will allow retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon, to serve in the job if he is confirmed in the Senate.

— Brown issued a terse but pointed response Friday to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy‘s request for input on repealing the Affordable Care Act, warning it would cause spiraling damage to healthcare coverage, premium costs and the state budget. His response comes on the heels of a similar letter from California’s legislative leaders.

— Mark your calendar for Brown’s State of the State speech, scheduled for Jan. 24.

— After losing a race for Congress in November, former state Sen. Isadore Hall was appointed on Friday to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

— Can lawmakers do anything about so-called fake news? Two Democratic legislators have introduced measures to help teach students to better evaluate the information they read online.

Sen. Kamala Harris picked a former Hillary Clinton staffer to be her press secretary.

— Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside) has filed legislation to overturn a 1986 ban on diacritical marks — such as accents, umlauts and tildes — used in birth, death and marriage certificates.


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