Newsletter: Essential Politics: About that phone call from President Trump to Vladimir Putin

Most presidents battling the perception of being too chummy with Russia might think twice about picking up the phone offering congratulations to the Russian leader on his election.

Most presidents, that is, except for President Trump.


On Tuesday, Trump recounted for reporters his “very good call” to congratulate newly reelected President Vladimir Putin, after Russian officials had already confirmed the two leaders had chatted.


“We had a very good call,” Trump said, “and I suspect that we’ll be meeting in the not-too-distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.”

Not a fan of the call: Arizona Sen. John McCain. “An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement and online.


There’s new legal and political jeopardy for Trump in both California and New York. A former Playboy Playmate is suing to break a confidentiality agreement that keeps her from discussing the president, at the same time that a judge in the Empire State has rejected his request to quash a lawsuit stemming from a charge of sexual assault.

Those legal challenges are on top of the ongoing battle over an adult film actress’ insistence that her own confidentiality agreement is invalid.

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-- A California law that requires pregnancy centers — even those that are faith-based — to inform clients about abortion faced sharp, skeptical questions in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

-- The nation’s election systems, targeted by Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential race, need stiffer defenses to block future cyber-assaults, a bipartisan group of senators said Tuesday.

-- Trying to persuade Trump to back down from his increasingly public battle with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Republican leaders turned Tuesday to the approach that has worked for Fox network personalities: They talked to him through the television screen.

-- Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a longtime analyst for Fox News, told colleagues he is done with the network he says has become “a propaganda machine” for President Trump.

-- Democrats see the tumultuous Trump presidency as the means to finally oust a five-term Republican congressman in Colorado, one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents in the November midterm election.

-- Congressional negotiators laboring to write a trillion-dollar plan to fund the federal government are caught up in last-minute partisan disputes over abortion rights, healthcare costs and the fate of a Northeastern railway tunnel that Trump has sought to derail.

-- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced blistering questioning from House Democrats on Tuesday as they confronted her on gun control, racism and LGBTQ rights.

-- As the Trump administration barrels ahead with its plan to apply stiff tariffs on imported metals starting Friday, governments and businesses across the globe are in a fog as to what is happening and are bracing for at least a short-term hit.

-- A study says the coalitions behind the nation’s two major political parties have grown steadily apart over the past decade. Democrats are increasingly racially diverse, younger and college educated. Republicans have remained overwhelmingly white and non-college-educated.

-- A wall on which border? “We might need to build a wall between California and Arizona as well,” said Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday.


The small city of Los Alamitos is making big news for its rejection of California’s new “sanctuary state” law that limits the immigration assistance provided by local law enforcement officers.

Los Alamitos leaders on Monday approved an ordinance that exempts their city from Senate Bill 54, a state law that took effect Jan. 1. It marks a rare effort by a city to challenge the sanctuary movement, which has wide support among elected officials.


Californians appointed to state posts could soon be barred from writing checks to lawmakers who must vote on their nomination.

A Central Valley assemblyman has introduced legislation to outlaw contributions to state senators by political appointees for up to a year between the time they are chosen by the governor until their required confirmation.

“The state Legislature should safeguard the public’s confidence in our government institutions,” said Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced).


-- Here’s how California Republicans are responding to Trump’s attacks on Mueller and to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe‘s firing.

-- The Los Angeles Police Department’s practice of keeping video from body cameras and patrol cars under wraps will end after the agency’s civilian bosses approved a policy Tuesday that requires the release of recordings in the future.

-- New state legislation would end a city of Los Angeles policy giving council members veto power over proposed homeless housing projects in their districts.

-- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is on a two-week visit to the U.S. that will include a visit to Los Angeles to meet with entertainment and defense executives, and Silicon Valley to meet with tech leaders.

-- Despite pleas from relatives of those killed in the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, leaders of the state’s largest public sector pension fund have rejected a proposal to consider divesting from retailers who sell assault-style rifles.

-- California privacy advocates are asking Facebook to stop opposing their proposed November ballot measure after the Cambridge Analytica debacle.

-- Gov. Jerry Brown took aim at opponents of his signature high-speed rail project, cursing at those who argue that rising cost estimates threaten the effort’s viability.


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