Newsletter: Essential Politics: Trump’s team comes into view


With each day that passes, the 45th president of the United States fills in the blanks about who will serve as members of his Cabinet. And as he does so, President-elect Donald Trump is perhaps offering clues about how he intends to govern.

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and we’re prepping to welcome a new state Legislature with Democrats holding a supermajority of seats in both houses.

More on that in a moment, but let’s first update that list of who’s been tapped to serve on Team Trump.



Let’s call the president-elect’s latest Cabinet choices a combination of red meat conservatism, billionaires and Washington, D.C. know-how.

Trump tapped Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of Health and Human Services, the likely offering to his Tea Party supporters of someone who’s passionate about unwinding the Affordable Care Act and possibly even Medicare — the kind of change, write Noam N. Levey and Noah Bierman, that “could make the coming fight over repealing Obamacare a sideshow.”

Meanwhile, Trump has chosen Elaine Chao as his secretary of Transportation. Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is a steady establishment figure and served as Labor secretary to President George W. Bush.


And then there are the wealthy newcomers: a California connection for the prominent post of Treasury secretary in Steven Mnuchin, and financier Wilbur Ross as secretary of Commerce.

Mnuchin is a Hollywood movie producer and former Goldman Sachs partner who served as Trump campaign’s finance chair. He and Ross are both billionaires, with some critics already saying the picks don’t do much for the Trump’s criticism of Wall Street and its connections to D.C.


The photo from Tuesday night’s most-talked-about Manhattan dinner caught fire on social media: Trump smiling, and a bit of an odd look across the table from Mitt Romney.

The 2012 presidential candidate and the president-elect dined on frog legs and prime sirloin as part of one of the more fascinating political courtships of the season.

But Romney played it close to the vest afterward with reporters, who all wondered one thing: Will he be picked to serve as secretary of State?


Chances are the above headline is going to get used a lot. After his weekend tweets of unproven rumors about widespread voter fraud, Trump was back online Tuesday morning suggesting prison time or removal of citizenship for anyone who burns a U.S. flag.


He also tweeted that the United States may back off its new diplomatic relations with Cuba unless the country makes “a better deal.”

And then there was Monday night’s tweetstorm against a cable news reporter.


The weekend tweets from Trump seemed sparked by the efforts of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein to force a recount of votes count in Wisconsin. On Tuesday, Stein paid the money to make that recount happen.

(As Michael A. Memoli writes, though, don’t expect that recount to change anything.)

Even so, Trump and ultra-liberal activists seem intent on debating the merits and larger messages behind the vote tally. And for the president-elect, it’s an odd decision: suggesting fraud in an election in which he otherwise clearly won.

Check out more of our stories on all things Trump later in the newsletter. And we’re following every new development on Trail Guide.



Four years after they first pulled it off — even if it only lasted that time for 81 days — California Democrats have reclaimed a supermajority of seats in both houses of the Legislature.

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What can they actually accomplish with such dominance?

That’s the key question to ask when new and returning lawmakers take the oath of office next week at the state Capitol.

The final piece of the puzzle came on Monday, when Democrat Josh Newman won a hotly contested state Senate race east of Los Angeles. But the state’s biggest party has legislators who don’t all see eye to eye on issues like taxes and regulation. And though a supermajority has a lot of political power on paper, it’s another thing to corral that kind of unanimous support for controversial policy moves.

We’ll keep a close eye on legislative news starting next week on our Essential Politics news feed.


As if to underscore the point about Democrats in Sacramento not all cut from the same cloth, there was this message on Tuesday from the chairman of the California Democratic Party.

We’re liberals. Yep, the “L” word.

John Burton, the former legislative leader and longtime party powerhouse, sent an email to Democrats urging them to get involved in the party operations. And that email laid out a list of “what California Democrats stand for.”

Was it an attempt to buck up the spirits of those saddened by the presidential race? Or was it a shot across the bow of those who see Democratic priorities in a not-so-liberal kind of way? We’ll see as the new year arrives; Burton will step down as party chairman in May.


— African Americans interviewed across Los Angeles tended to view Trump’s election on a scale from nervous hope to doomsday dread.

— California university leaders are asking the president-elect to allow students in the country illegally to finish their studies without fear of deportation.

— Lawmakers reached agreement Tuesday on a measure that would halt recovery of bonuses paid improperly to thousands of California National Guard soldiers. A vote is expected Friday.

— San Clemente Democrat Doug Applegate, who failed to knock off Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), vowed to run again in 2018.

— Several of California’s House Democrats joined colleagues in pitching House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on social media this week ahead of the leadership vote today in which she’s challenged.

— In other Pelosi news, she met Tuesday with state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) to discuss what was described as protecting California’s progressive policies.

Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Los Angeles) will resign her seat in Congress next week to take her newly won post on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.


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