Newsletter: Essential Politics: An embassy, an election and more accusations
The biggest political news right now seems to be a lot about what’s right around the corner — from warnings about President Trump’s decision about the Middle East to the effect of special elections and the serious new allegations against a California state Democratic lawmaker.
A MOVE TO JERUSALEM?
Trump is poised to make good Wednesday on a 2016 campaign promise that could add fuel to Middle East tensions: Formally declare his belief that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and order the U.S. Embassy to be moved there from its current location in Tel Aviv.
The embassy change won’t come overnight. “We don’t just put a plaque on the door and open a mission,” said a White House official on Tuesday night.
We’ll have the latest on this on our Essential Washington news feed throughout the day.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT ALLEGATIONS: CONYERS RESIGNS
Since 1965, parts of the Detroit community have had the same member of Congress, Rep. John Conyers Jr.
That ended on Tuesday when the 88-year-old Democrat stepped aside amid accusations of sexual harassment by several of his female employees.
Conyers made the announcement during an interview with a Detroit radio station, and he later endorsed his son to take his place in Washington.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT ALLEGATIONS: SACRAMENTO LOBBYIST NAMES LEGISLATOR
Pamela Lopez, the lobbyist who jolted the state Capitol community with her story of a current California legislator forcing her into a bathroom and masturbating in front of her, identified the lawmaker on Monday as Democratic Assemblymember Matt Dababneh.
The Times had been preparing a report on her accusations against Dababneh, and sought the assemblyman’s comment late last week.
Lopez was joined by another woman, Jessica Yas Barker, who said Dababneh would make inappropriate remarks about sex and women at work. Dababneh strongly denied both accusations.
The allegations prompted a response by two of the Democrats running for governor. Treasurer John Chiang called on Dababneh to resign and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom donated political cash he had received from the San Fernando Valley Democrat.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT ALLEGATIONS: MENDING FENCES WITH MOORE
The allegations that Roy Moore made unwanted sexual advances to teenage girls in years past are “very troubling,” President Trump’s top spokeswoman said Tuesday, but Trump still endorsed the Alabama Republican’s campaign because the president wants to keep the Senate seat out of the hands of a Democrat.
“The president made that decision, and he decided that it was better to have somebody that supports his agenda than a Democrat that doesn’t,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.
Trump’s decision reportedly came after conversations with his former strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, a booster of Moore’s candidacy. And Bannon, in a raucous Tuesday night speech in Alabama, went after Moore’s GOP critics — taking special aim at former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinkie finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA,” Bannon said to cheers from the crowd.
Even so, the fundraising arm of Senate Republicans didn’t change its mind to take a pass on Moore’s campaign in the wake of numerous allegations that Moore had inappropriate relationships in the past with girls as young as 14.
One Republican, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, put his money behind his principles Tuesday by writing a $100 campaign contribution to Democrat Doug Jones.
NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND
-- Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III spent $3.2 million in the first 4½ months of his investigation into whether anyone from President Trump’s team helped Russian interference with last year’s presidential campaign.
-- The quip heard ’round the world: It’s impossible, a Trump lawyer said, for the president to obstruct justice under the law.
-- Paul Manafort ghost-wrote an editorial about his political work in Ukraine, violating a court order, according to a new court filing from the special counsel’s office.
-- “I feel badly for Gen. [Michael] Flynn. I feel very badly. He’s led a very strong life, and I feel very badly about it,” Trump told reporters Monday.
-- After railing against Democrats for weeks and pushing a sweeping tax plan over their objections, Trump reached out to the rivals Monday — a subtle acknowledgment that he’ll need their help to avert a government shutdown at the end of the week.
-- The president formally reconfigured two big national monuments in southern Utah on Monday, shrinking them by more than 2 million acres. “You know how best to take care of your land,” he said to a large audience in Salt Lake City.
-- Trump’s move undercut the wilderness conservation legacies of Democratic predecessors Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, but it’s uncertain whether it will survive court challenges.
-- The Interior Department, charged by the president to evaluate 27 national monuments, is altering land and management practices for public lands across the West.
-- Trump’s scheduled visit this weekend to the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson has ignited controversy among civil rights groups and Jackson residents who have criticized the president’s relationship with African Americans and other racial minorities.
-- The White House press briefing may have reached a negative milestone Monday when a spokesman stood before reporters aboard Air Force One, read a series of statements, then refused to take on-the-record questions.
A BUSY U.S. SUPREME COURT
There has been a lot of action on multiple fronts this week from the nation’s highest court.
On Monday, the Supreme Court gave President Trump a significant victory by ruling he may put his full travel ban into effect while legal appeals are being weighed in lower courts.
The decision, with only two dissents, strongly suggests the justices believe the current version of Trump’s broad travel ban does not exceed his powers under federal immigration laws and does not reflect unconstitutional religious discrimination against Muslims.
But judging from past cases over the ban — which courts have knocked down and revived repeatedly — it’s a decision that could be short lived.
Meantime, the justices gave a mostly skeptical hearing Tuesday to a Colorado baker’s claim that he had a free-speech right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. And on Monday, the Supreme Court appeared poised to legalize sports betting by freeing states from a federal anti-gaming law.
ASSEMBLY SEAT IS FILLED AFTER SPECIAL ELECTION DOMINOES
Wendy Carrillo, a former local radio host and communications manager for a Service Employees International Union affiliate, was elected to the California Assembly on Tuesday in a Los Angeles special election that was the final chapter in a political saga that began almost three years ago.
Carrillo defeated fellow Democrat Luis López and will fill the final few months of a term that expires at the end of 2018.
How did this take almost three years, you ask? It began when former Sen. Barbara Boxer announced in January 2015 that she would retire. Her seat was filled by Sen. Kamala Harris, who was attorney general and was replaced by Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. Becerra’s seat in Congress now belongs to Rep. Jimmy Gomez, and his seat in the Assembly — after a primary and general election — now belongs to Carrillo.
-- Two legislators called Tuesday for changes to regulations for growing marijuana in California to better protect small family farmers from being driven out of business by big corporate cultivators.
-- Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has been asked to testify before the House Select Intelligence Committee this month about a meeting he had on stolen Democratic Party emails with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
-- Ten months after Trump took office, the effect of his policies is showing up in immigration statistics released Tuesday. The numbers of people caught at the southwest border declined, while the arrests of immigrants inside the country surged.
-- Mick Mulvaney is moving quickly to put his stamp on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency he has strongly criticized, even as he continues to spar over who is its lawful acting chief.
-- California will be hit with significantly more intense and frequent droughts, a finding by federal scientists that adds an alarming dimension to the state’s challenge to confront warming.
-- A progressive group is spending six figures on a television ad hoping to convince GOP Rep. Steve Knight to change his vote on the tax bill.
-- Meanwhile, a cancer biologist will challenge Knight in the 25th Congressional District.
-- The secretary of a local Republican Party in Florida, who was convicted in a brutal 2007 hammer attack on a high school classmate Los Angeles, can keep his position, state party leaders decided this week.
-- Rep. Mimi Walters of Irvine joined two other California GOP representatives to advocate for a DACA fix this year.
-- The ACLU is pushing California’s members of Congress to help Dreamers in new online ads.
-- Boxer’s PAC has zeroed in on a second target, releasing an ad Tuesday that highlights Rohrabacher’s ties to Russia.
-- With Republicans in both houses of Congress pushing for final passage of the GOP tax bill, Democratic activists have been staging rallies and protests across the state hoping to dissuade some Republican members from supporting it.
-- Gov. Jerry Brown hit national GOP leaders’ tax overhaul efforts, comparing them to “Mafia thugs.”
-- As wildfires continue to rage across Southern California, Brown’s emergency management chief told lawmakers that the governor was planning to pitch upgrades to the state’s emergency response system in his upcoming budget.
-- Chiang launched a new attack in the gubernatorial race against Newsom by pointing out that a prominent Republican praised Newson’s 2013 book “Citizenville.”
-- A PAC aimed at overturning Citizens United says it plans to spend $35 million in the midterms and four California Republicans are among its targets.
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