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Newsletter: Essential Politics: No special prosecutor for Russia investigation, Trump’s team says

The White House on Sunday again smacked down calls for a special prosecutor to look into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, and President Trump dismissed coverage of Russia-related queries as “FAKE NEWS.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista became the highest profile Republican in the California delegation to say a a special prosecutor should be tapped to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

I’m Sarah Wire, I cover the California delegation in Congress. Welcome to the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

Trump is scheduled to give his first speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday — but remember, it’s technically not a State of the Union speech, it only gets that name after he’s been in office a full year. In it, Trump’s expected to give the country a glimpse at what may be in the federal budget he’s expected to release next month.

Get the latest about the Trump administration on Essential Washington and follow @latimespolitics, and keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed for California political news.

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TRUMP’S WAR WITH THE MEDIA

Trump’s criticism of the news media continued last week in a speech to supporters and was followed by the White House barring reporters from several major news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, CNN and Politico, from attending an off-camera press briefing. Over the weekend, the president announced he does not plan to speak at the annual White House Correspondents Assn. Dinner.

GOP CONVENTION IN SACRAMENTO

California Republicans gathered in Sacramento over the weekend to celebrate Trump’s victory and pave a path for the 2018 election.

On Friday, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt spent much of his speech praising the president’s policies and appointees.

After being removed from the state Senate floor Thursday, Orange County’s Janet Nguyen became a folk hero at the California GOP convention.

In a speech to delegates Saturday, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) urged California Republicans to be bold and push ballot initiatives that could be a tough sell with the state’s voters, like increasing offshore oil drilling and eliminating the state income tax. In a separate speech, Issa said Republicans have to do a better job listening to the concerns of all Americans, even those critical of the GOP.

Delegates easily passed resolutions supporting key tenets of the Trump administration’s agenda, and picked Jim Brulte to lead the party for a third two-year term. Brulte vowed to improve the California Republican Party’s fortunes in 2018.

MARIJUANA ENFORCEMENT

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Trump to work with California on marijuana regulation.

Patrick McGreevy has the story on the letter from Newsom, a leading supporter of the proposition that legalized recreational marijuana in California, which urged the president not to follow through on threats to increase federal enforcement against recreational marijuana firms.

The letter came a day after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters, “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement” against recreational marijuana.

TOWN HALLS AND PROTESTS

Demonstrations have continued outside the offices, and even the homes, of members of Congress.

By the end of the week, the staff of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) said it would no longer meet with protesters, and people holding a vigil outside Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s Costa Mesa home were dodging sprinklers.

Several Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank faced large crowds at town halls. Activists even held some events on behalf of Democrats who didn’t schedule their own town halls.

Members are starting to schedule town halls for the next several weeks. Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) will hold one next week, and his staff will be checking IDs at the door to make sure those who attend live in his district.

BALANCING CALIFORNIA’S ROLE

Taking the national stage as a leading foe of Trump’s policies, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Friday told the Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta that his state is fighting federal efforts to roll back protections for immigrants and the environment. The national Democrats also picked a new party chairman, Tom Perez, at the meeting.

Becerra said Trump will strike out if he continues to try to undermine important state policies.

In a news conference Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown walked a fine line, talking about ways the nation’s largest state can work with the new administration. Brown also unveiled a $437-million plan for shoring up some of California’s most pressing water and flood-control needs.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— Trump’s pick for Navy secretary, Philip M. Bilden, withdrew from consideration late Sunday, becoming the second White House nominee to bail on a top Pentagon position because of problems untangling his financial investments.

House Democratic Caucus Vice-chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier) gave the caucus’ weekly speech, and she urged Americans to protest, call their members of Congress and turn out in droves at town halls.

— Mexico has informed the Trump administration that it cannot accept non-Mexican nationals whom U.S. authorities arrest along the border and seek to remove from U.S. territory.

— If you think it’s time to rein in money in politics, look to Sacramento or California’s voters, John Myers says in his column this week.

— Developers of affordable housing in California are on pins and needles over Trump’s tax plan, Liam Dillon reports.

— The Republicans who made Reagan president are mourning the party they once knew.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day for the latest and greatest. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

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