Newsletter: The politics of the March for Our Lives events

Essential Politics

Thousands of protesters took to the streets outside of the White House, and a woman went on television to share details of an alleged sexual affair with the president. Either of those two weekend story lines might prompt a tweet storm from President Trump, but he mostly stayed out of the fray.

The Times covered all of the events closely.

The March for Our Lives demonstrations were held from coast to coast. Here’s a roundup of the most powerful speakers and a look at California’s leaders who took to the streets.

More than a few California political candidates showed up to the events. In Orange County, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom pointed to Proposition 63, a 2016 gun control measure he helped pass, as a shining example of California’s resistance. In San Francisco, Sen. Dianne Feinstein touted her work on a bill to ban assault weapons, while Tom Steyer and his group, NextGen, urged youth to register and vote as the focus turns to this year’s midterms.


We examined how the Parkland, Fla., students used a moment of tragedy to plan a national uprising. We’re also watching what comes next. Last week in Sacramento, lawmakers advanced a proposal to put armed peace officers on all California school campuses in response to recent mass shootings.

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Trump flew down to Florida on Friday with his wife and son and spent the weekend shuttling between his Mar-a-Lago estate and his golf club. He stayed out of sight during Saturday’s March for Our Lives events, even taking a different route in his motorcade to avoid protests in the area. Meanwhile, the White House issued a statement supportive of the demonstrators.


Stormy Daniels said she “felt intimidated and honestly bullied” to deny having an affair with Trump, the porn actress said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday night.

Early reviews were friendly for the interview, which generated the show’s strongest ratings in years, and noted that for close watchers of the drama, the interview included little in the way of new information.


There’s been a head-spinning series of shakeups in the president’s legal team for handling the Russia case. First, Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney who has been a frequent critic of the investigation on Fox News, was going to work for Trump. Then on Thursday, John Dowd resigned as Trump’s lead lawyer.

Finally on Sunday, it turned out that DiGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, won’t be representing Trump after all. Jay Sekulow, Trump’s only other personal lawyer, said there were potential conflicts. DiGenova and Toensing’s firm has represented other people involved in the Russia investigation.

The developments leave the president without a seasoned defense attorney as he considers whether to grant the special counsel’s office a high-stakes interview.

Get the latest about what’s happening with the investigation on Essential Washington.


-- The Trump administration early Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the closing of Moscow’s last diplomatic outpost on the West Coast, part of a coordinated effort with U.S. allies to punish Russia for an attack using a deadly nerve agent earlier this month in Britain.

Empty desks throughout the executive branch have heightened the sense of chaos in Trump’s administration and put the president on the defensive. Believing as he does that the best defense is a good offense, the president is striking out — blaming Democrats.

-- More than a decade after Congress created it at the behest of the corn lobby, the far-reaching mandate to blend increasing volumes of corn-based ethanol and other biofuels into the gas and diesel sold at the pump faces a reckoning. Evan Halper takes a deep dive into the scams and shams.

-- Trump’s order late Friday that bans transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces except under “limited circumstances” sets the stage for a legal battle and an eventual Supreme Court ruling on whether the government can discriminate against people because of their gender status.

-- Former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum suggested students should take CPR classes rather than work to change gun legislation.

-- Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said he did not expect major economic fallout from Trump’s recent tariff announcements.

-- Trump’s threat to veto the $1.3-trillion spending bill passed at the end of last week proved empty Friday, but he called the way Washington budgets a “ridiculous situation.”

-- If it’s a new week, chances are there are changes on our guide to all the Trump administration’s firings.

Get the latest about what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington and make sure to sign up for breaking news alerts.


Our team has updated the rankings of the 14 California races that will make the difference in the midterms. Subscribers to this newsletter are the first to know when we make changes, so make sure you are signed up.


Most people are familiar with this phenomenon: You browse the web for a pair of sneakers and suddenly the shoes are following you as you read the news or scroll through social media. It might take days or weeks for you to shake the ads. Picture that, but with Trump or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s face following you around, and you’ll get an idea of what digital advertising will look like as we head into prime midterm election season. Christine Mai-Duc reports that despite the Cambridge Analytica scandal, political advertisers are expected to spend a record $1.8 billion on digital ads this year.

Watch our Essential Politics news feed on California politics for the latest.


Pelosi has been the reluctant star of GOP attack ads for years, typically cast as a stereotypical San Francisco liberal who wants to raise taxes and collect all the guns. Republicans plan to flood the airwaves with ads connecting candidates to the long-serving leader again in 2018, especially with the chance that she could become speaker again.

Democrats appear to have an unconventional new strategy for dealing with anti-Pelosi campaign ads: Disavow her, Sarah Wire reports.


After 168 years of statehood, the California Senate is being led by a woman for the first time. Toni Atkins took over as president pro tem last week, bringing with her the possibility for a new era in the Capitol — perhaps a calmer one, George Skelton wrote in his column.

Atkins’ predecessor, Sen. Kevin de León, proved in his tenure that he’s no slouch, Skelton noted Monday. His broad legislative agenda addressed immigration, climate change and gun control, among other things.

In her first remarks after taking the oath of office, Atkins pledged a new legislative effort to address the issue of sexual misconduct at the Capitol.


Since the return to power of Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, there’s been one advisor who has shaped his agenda more than any other: Nancy McFadden.

Brown and scores in the political world are mourning her death Thursday from ovarian cancer. As John Myers writes, McFadden was a key crafter and defender of Brown’s political renaissance, a Democrat whose behind-the-scenes career began with the 1992 campaign of former President Clinton. McFadden was 59.


Two years ago, state lawmakers approved $35 million for rental assistance and emergency shelters to fight California’s growing homelessness problem. But it took an entire year for the Legislature to find the money to hire new housing department employees to actually figure out how to spend the money. That’s just one example of how state government has struggled to spend dollars earmarked for homelessness, Liam Dillon reports.


About 190,000 single-family parcels in Los Angeles — about half of them in the city — could be rezoned to allow for multi-story apartments and condominiums under major new state housing legislation.

That’s just one of the local impacts from a bill drawing cheers from some environmentalists and housing activists, but also causing major heartburn for homeowner groups and advocates for low-income residents, David Zahniser, Liam Dillon and Jon Schleuss report.

Dillon also went deep on the legislation on the latest “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” talking with the bill’s principal supporter and an anti-gentrification activist in South Los Angeles.


Republican businessman John Cox has nudged ahead of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for second place in California’s race for governor, while Newsom has shored up his front-runner status among voters, according to a new poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.


Even as a major deadline approaches for groups seeking to qualify a ballot initiative for this November, the bigger prize -- the 2020 presidential ballot -- is now in sight.

In his Sunday column, Myers takes a look at a not-so-talked about way that interest groups can get a proposition on that ballot pretty easily -- but only if they act soon.


-- Rep. Mimi Walters was the only member of Congress to report paying for voter data from Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 election.

-- In between helping elect Kamala Harris to the U.S. Senate and Brown as California governor, Ace Smith returned to his first love, chronicling a strange and obscure slice of baseball history, Mark Z. Barabak reports.

-- Appointed Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra was criticized for skipping a debate among the candidates running for the job.

-- In the race to replace GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher where the top-two primary remains a big concern, one Democrat dropped out of the race and endorsed a rival. She asked the rest of the crowded Democratic field to do the same, even though it’s too late for any of them to remove their names from the ballot.

-- A new political action committee aims to boost the low numbers of women serving in the California Legislature, starting with support for women who are pursuing the seats left empty by men whose careers were ended by sexual harassment accusations.

-- The state’s political watchdog panel on Thursday delayed action on a controversial plan that could transfer power from its full-time chairwoman to give other, part-time commissioners a greater say in key decisions.

-- The watchdog panel also voted to reverse itself on whether former Sen. Tony Mendoza could use contributions from supporters to a legal defense fund in connection with an investigation of sexual harassment.

-- A half-dozen state lawmakers introduced bills last week to make it easier to clean up lead paint in homes. Why are they acting now? Legislators say they’re trying to combat a proposed ballot measure by paint manufacturers that would nullify a court judgment requiring the companies’ to foot the bill.

-- New state legislation would make it harder for local police departments to obtain tanks and other military vehicles.

-- National scrutiny is growing around Sacramento police amid more protests over the shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed African American man. Our Metro team has the story.


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