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Newsletter: Russia probe <i>might</i> have an end date, but Trump clashes with Justice Department show no signs of letting up

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Essential Politics
(LAT)

There might be an end date of Sept. 1 in sight for the probe by Robert S. Mueller III — if what Rudy Giuliani says is right — but events from this weekend suggest President Trump could be heading for an unprecedented clash with the Justice Department over the Russia investigation.

On Sunday, the president tweeted his demand for a review of whether law enforcement began probing his campaign for political purposes. Justice Department leaders responded by asking the inspector general to expand a previously announced review of how the FBI handled the case, but it’s unclear whether that will satisfy the president, Chris Megerian writes.

The weekend also brought another bombshell from the New York Times under the headline “Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election.”

The paper reported about an Aug. 3, 2016, meeting during which George Nader told Donald Trump Jr. “that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president.” Furthermore, the paper reported, social media specialist Joel Zamel “extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign,” and his company drafted a multimillion-dollar proposal for a pro-Trump “social media manipulation effort.”

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“The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election,” the New York Times reported. The meetings are under scrutiny by the Mueller team, the paper said.

You can track developments with the investigation on Essential Washington.

THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

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With a little more than two weeks to go until voters make a pivotal choice in who they want on the November ballot in the race to be California’s next governor, Trump weighed in.

The president’s endorsement of Republican John Cox could have major ramifications in the June primary, Seema Mehta and Phil Willon report. Cox, who did not vote for Trump for president in 2016, and Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach have each been trying to consolidate the GOP vote in a bid to come in second on June 5.

Trump’s nod could be particularly notable to the 4.5 million Californians who voted for him. It’s also a major blow to Allen, a favorite of many California conservatives whose presentation of himself and his policy is reminiscent of the president. (And for the record, Allen says he did vote for Trump. )

Another candidate seeking the second spot in June, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, saw law-enforcement backers pour $250,000 into an independent expenditure committee seeking to boost his bid. The union representing LAPD officers also called on Democrat John Chiang to take down an ad attacking Villaraigosa over his record while mayor of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas became the third supervisor to endorse front-runner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Later this week, we’ll release a series of stories based on the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. Spoiler alert: One of the contests on the primary ballot looks like it will be a photo finish.

Find those stories and keep up with these races in the moment via our Essential Politics news feed on California politics.

A CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN ACCUSED

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Half a dozen U.S. representatives and senators have already been driven from office over sexual misconduct allegations, but Capitol Hill appears to be reacting differently to the recent accusations against Rep. Tony Cárdenas, a Democrat from the San Fernando Valley who flatly denies the allegations as the invention of a disgruntled former staff member.

Sarah D. Wire has the story on why Washington has collectively shrugged over the allegations.

Meantime, a judge has ruled that attorneys can name the Los Angeles politician accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in a recent lawsuit, and serve him with the lawsuit. Cardenas, of course, already has said he’s the politician, and that he is being wrongly accused.

NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

— Mark Z. Barabak takes a look at how the Texas runoff suggests Democrats are struggling to agree on a strategy for the midterms.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) argues in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that his procedural gambit on immigration “may be Congress’ best shot at improving our border security and resolving issues with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.”

A world of complex threats awaits Gina Haspel as the new CIA director.

— The Mexican government has lodged a complaint with the U.S. State Department over President Trump’s recent assertion that some immigrants living in the United States illegally are “animals.”

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— The Supreme Court dealt a defeat to workers’ rights, upholding arbitration for individuals only.

First Lady Melania Trump returned to the White House after kidney surgery.

Plans to open the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side have cleared a major hurdle, but a recent approval from city planners is just the beginning of a long process before construction gets underway.

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.

THE RHETORIC AND REALITY OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

With election day two weeks from tomorrow, both major parties are hammering home broad themes in races from governor to Congress and beyond. No topic seems as talked about among Republicans as illegal immigration.

But as John Myers points out in his Sunday column, in two previous elections where the divisive topic was in the GOP playbook, the party suffered serious setbacks — and yet, it’s front and center again in 2018.

CALIFORNIA’S NEW HOME SOLAR REQUIREMENT

Starting in 2020, all new homes in California must be equipped with solar panels. But there’s one very real concern, George Skelton writes in his Monday column: California is mired in a housing crisis. Buying a home already is unaffordable for far too many families, and now the state is going to add the cost of a rooftop solar system to every new home purchase. But forcing all buyers of new homes to go green could be prudent, desirable and inevitable, Skelton says.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— This week’s California Politics Podcast takes a closer look at TV ads from some of the biggest races across the state this election season.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) was removed from all of her committee posts on Thursday, with the investigation into sexual harassment allegations against her coming to a close.

— On paper, California’s “top two” open primary made sense: When one political party dominated an election, the weaker party could support a consolation moderate, Skelton wrote last week. But the whole theory collapses if voters are so polarized that they refuse to vote for any candidate from the other party, he writes.

— California voters are being asked to weigh in on new borrowing, new government restrictions and a drought-friendly tax break on the statewide primary ballots that will be counted June 5. Here’s our quick overview.

— California Gov. Jerry Brown signed another law to protect immigrants.

— A measure that would expand Proposition 13’s property tax benefits for those 55 and older has qualified for November’s statewide ballot.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) says the California delegation will pick sides in primary fights.

— Democrats in the state Senate have countered Brown’s housing spending proposal with one nearly triple the size.

— Brown approved a $1.95-million payment to compensate a man wrongly sent to prison for more than 38 years for Simi Valley murders he didn’t commit.

— California filed extortion and money laundering charges against owners of the website Mugshots.com, with the attorney general accusing them of posting mugshot photos and then charging those pictured money to remove the photos from the internet.

LOGISTICS

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