Newsletter: Essential Politics: Trump makes good on his change for climate rules

Essential Politics

For the first time in a few weeks, executive action by President Trump is generating as much political news as congressional clashes. And while California is watching, this time the state is easily positioned to go its own way.

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and there’s not much concern here -- for now, at least -- about Trump’s newest rollback of national climate change policy.

But across the country, it’s definitely a big deal.


The president’s action Tuesday to cancel the Clean Power Plan wasn’t a surprise. It had been promised for weeks, part of Trump’s effort to roll back former President Barack Obama’s efforts aimed at combating climate change.

Still, it marks a major milestone in the national and international debate. The former mandate for electricity providers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t mesh with the new president’s vision for the nation’s energy future.

“My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump said on Tuesday. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy to reverse government intrusions and to cancel job killing regulations.”


While previous environmental policy shifts from Trump have sent shock waves west to California, this one hardly registered for the Golden State.

As Chris Megerian explains, California is already on its own path toward historic milestones on renewable energy -- a direction largely unaffected by Trump’s action.

Still, that didn’t stop the state’s leaders from lashing out at the decision, an about-face that raises questions about the future of U.S. commitment to the international climate agreement forged in Paris in late 2015.


The lack of immediate impact in California from Trump’s decision didn’t stop the state’s chief champion for the cause from taking aim at the president.

“It defies science itself,” Gov. Jerry Brown said on Tuesday. “Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else.”

Brown teamed up with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pledge that California and New York would continue working to slash emissions. Both states have set ambitious targets for fighting global warming.

Meanwhile, Trump could face a legal blowback from California and its allies around the country. In a joint statement on Tuesday, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra and his counterparts from other states said they were willing to fight Trump in court.


It was the court of public opinion, meantime, in which the president’s immigration chief made Trump’s case on Tuesday night in Sacramento.

The reception was unsurprisingly chilly. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan kept going.

“We prioritize criminals,” he told roughly 300 people packed into a gym at a Sacramento County probation building. “We focus our resources first on those who are a national security threat and those who are a public safety threat.”

Homan, invited by Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, was met with jeers from the crowd, and two prominent Democratic lawmakers who rallied the crowd outside: Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.


Back in Washington, the temperature continues to rise over Tulare Rep. Devin Nunes’ ability to chair the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into alleged Russian communications with the Trump campaign last year.

Nunes revealed on Monday that he had met at the White House last week with the source who provided information about surveillance that may have inadvertently picked up communications from Trump transition officials.

Now, his greatest nemesis may be his fellow Californian and the intelligence panel’s ranking Democrat, Burbank Rep. Adam Schiff.

“I believe the chairman should recuse himself from any further involvement in the Russia investigation,” Schiff said on Monday.

And then there was the news that a lawyer for former acting Atty. Gen. Sally Yates wrote in letters last week that the Trump administration was trying to limit her testimony at hearings focused on Russian meddling.

By the way, check out George Skelton’s take on Nunes and Schiff -- like their districts, they are worlds apart.


They may have taken some knocks from the president in last week’s high-profile collapse of healthcare efforts, but the House Freedom Caucus is likely undeterred from flexing its political muscles. And ardent supporters are praising last week’s events.

“These guys saved the Republicans,” said Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, a group that organized a North Carolina rally on Monday in honor of the group’s leader, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).

“As beaten and battered as they are, we’ve got a group that’s willing to take the hard decisions. If you’re going to drain the swamp, these are the guys who are going to do it.”


Even with the missteps and setbacks the president has faced in recent weeks, some of his supporters are emphatic that they haven’t lost faith.

As Noah Bierman found when he traveled to Pennsylvania, Trump backers say it’s Washington, not the president, to blame for recent events.

“Give the man a chance,” said Crystal Matthews, a 59-year-old hospital employee. “They’re just going to fight him tooth and nail, the whole way.”


California officials will begin the process this spring of awarding $103 million in grants to programs for inmates centered on rehabilitation, substance abuse and reentry into society.

The efforts will be funded with dollars saved from prison spending under Proposition 47, the sweeping 2014 ballot measure that downgraded six drug and theft crimes to misdemeanors and allowed defendants to renegotiate their punishments.

For the large coalition of criminal justice advocates that poured millions into getting the proposition passed and has closely tracked its implementation, this is a huge and long-awaited step. Other states have passed similar laws. But California is the only state to invest those savings into services meant to help people stay out of prison.


-- California’s attorney general filed 15 felony charges on Tuesday against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, the activists accused of secretly videotaping Planned Parenthood officials in an effort to discredit the organization.

-- New reports from state and regional officials and UC Berkeley researchers argue that California will need to spend billions of dollars on housing and transportation improvements as well as build housing almost exclusively in already developed areas to meet aggressive goals to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

-- Two camps have quietly formed inside the White House over trade: one committed to the protectionist policies of the campaign and the other to free trade.

-- The U.S. Supreme Court set aside a death sentence on Tuesday for a Texas inmate who as a 13-year-old could not tell time or name the days of the week, concluding he should not be executed in light of his mental disability.

-- The conversation on healthcare costs is turning to how sprawling hospital chains may be leading to higher prices. A new California bill would take aim at how health systems establish market dominance through contracts.

-- Following outcry over soldiers being forced to repay enlistment bonuses, a California National Guard official told state legislators on Tuesday that he hopes the issue will be resolved by mid-summer.

-- California GOP lawmakers have introduced six bills aimed at helping veterans in the state.

-- A Los Angeles-area legislator returned to the Capitol this week after more than two weeks out of the office. His staff said the absence was due to unspecified medical reasons.

-- Another endorsement in California’s 34th congressional district special election shows the nationwide interest it’s receiving: The leader of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation endorsed Wendy Carrillo, who spent weeks at the pipeline protest earlier this year. And locally, L.A. City Councilwoman Nury Martinez endorsed hopeful Sara Hernandez.

-- It’s not just Berniecrats who might have a big say in the outcome of next Tuesday’s congressional race. Korean Americans, who are already turning out in big numbers in this district that includes most of L.A.’s Koreatown, could sway the vote for Robert Ahn, a former L.A. planning commissioner who would be the only Korean American in Congress if elected.

-- RSVP now for USC’s special event on April 26 examining the first 100 days of the Trump administration. The event features a discussion of the USC/LA Times Daybreak poll that garnered so much attention last year, as well as a number of panel events with politicos from across the country.


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