Newsletter: Essential Politics: Few border agent hires for Trump, multiple crises to juggle for Gov. Newsom


The two political leaders don’t exactly deserve a split screen at this point, but this is a fascinating moment in time for two men at the pinnacle of their respective worlds, President Trump and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

At this point, it seems Trump is getting less than he wanted while Newsom’s probably getting a lot more.

Sign up for the Essential Politics newsletter »



For the president, it was one of his key pledges — right up there with building a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border: Hire more border patrol agents and immigration officers.

Not only has it not happened, but a consulting firm that’s been paid $60.7 million so far has only been able to produce 33 new hires.

“We have had ongoing difficulties with regards to hiring levels to meet our operational needs,” a Homeland Security official told The Times on Saturday.


-- Trump “wants his $5.7 billion” for a border wall and another government shutdown is possible in three weeks, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers prepared to return to work.

-- By leading the country through the longest shutdown in history, Trump inadvertently revealed how intertwined the government is with millions of households, businesses and the entire U.S. economy.

-- Constituents applauded Republican Rep. Steve King on Saturday at the Iowa congressman’s first public event since being rebuked over racist comments he had made to a newspaper earlier this month.

-- About a dozen employees at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, N.Y., were fired earlier this month because they are undocumented immigrants, according to interviews conducted by the Washington Post with the workers and their attorney.

-- Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, teased a potential independent White House bid on Sunday, drawing condemnation from Democrats who see a threat to their efforts to unseat Trump.


From the finances of California’s largest school district to those of its largest investor-owned utility, the first three weeks on the job were challenging ones for Gov. Gavin Newsom. One crisis has been solved, the other is a slow-rolling train toward potential chaos. As Phil Willon reports, it’s a real trial by fire for the Democratic governor.

Not that everyone thinks it’s so bad. Consider this observation from Sean Walsh, who was a top advisor to both Govs. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Newsom’s got the best of all worlds now…. He’s rolling, rolling, rolling in money right now with the budget surplus, and he’s got problems that aren’t seen as his problems. So he can be seen as a problem solver.”


California’s junior U.S. senator made her political aspirations official on Sunday with what sounded like an existential question for the nation’s democracy.

“We are here at this moment in time because we must answer a fundamental question,” Sen. Kamala Harris said to a large crowd in Oakland. “Who are we? Who are we as Americans? So let’s answer that question, America. We are better than this.”

The event was the bookend that completed her weeklong rollout of the 2020 race for president. So, how well have the past seven days positioned her to be at or near the pecking order of Democratic hopefuls?

“She really took a large step toward demonstrating — not telling people, but demonstrating to people — she’s a candidate who can go the distance,” said Anita Dunn, a onetime political advisor to former President Barack Obama.

And while her heart may be in California, her electoral aspirations may hinge on the Palmetto State. Few states are being as closely studied, sized up and sifted through by the senator’s campaign as South Carolina, which has a crucial early place on the 2020 calendar.


-- Power lines and utility equipment in California sparked more than 2,000 fires in three and a half years. Critics say a lack of safety oversight by the California Public Utilities Commission is one reason why the state is experiencing a wildfire crisis.

-- Newsom is leading a state government effort to sue Huntington Beach over its lack of an affordable housing plan. And the Orange County city is suing the state, too — angry over a 2018 law designed to boost housing construction.

-- In the latest “Gimme Shelter” podcast,” the focus is on the difficulty in building housing for middle-income Californians and whether Newsom’s proposals will help.

-- Newsom pledged last week to switch oversight of California’s Juvenile Justice Division from corrections officials to the Health and Human Services Agency, continuing a shift away from the incarceration of young people.

-- Just days before her office announced a rare follow-up audit for the City of Industry, state Controller Betty Yee met privately with a Democratic donor embroiled in a dispute with the beleaguered city. After the meeting, her office agreed to review a draft of that lawsuit — one that could benefit not only the donor but also another well-known figure in the Democratic Party.

-- This week’s California Politics Podcast focuses on Harris’ presidential bid, Newsom’s challenges with Pacific Gas & Electric and last week’s decision of a GOP legislator to switch parties. (That legislator is Assemblyman Brian Maienschein.)

-- Newsom has made aggressive, early moves on his gun control agenda for California.

-- The California Public Records Act doesn’t allow citizens who are denied documents to appeal. One Republican lawmaker in Sacramento says it’s time to change that.

-- A bill introduced in the California Legislature on Thursday would close the book on a centuries-old livelihood and vestige of state heritage: commercial trapping of native mammals for their pelts.


Essential Politics is published Monday and Friday.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Friday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.