Assembly GOP leader steps down amid pressure on climate vote

Republican Assemblymen Chad Mayes, of Yucca Valley, left, and Tom Lackey, of Palmdale, leave an Assembly GOP caucus meeting after Mayes resigned as Assembly Republican Leader, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Mayes is leaving his post after weeks of pressure from his party over his support for major climate change legislation, was replaced by Assemblyman Brian Dahle, of Bieber. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Assembly’s top Republican said Thursday he’ll resign his leadership post, following weeks of party pressure for him to step aside over his vote for major climate change legislation.

Assemblyman Brian Dahle will take over Sept. 15 as the Assembly GOP leader, replacing Assemblyman Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley.

Dahle, a farmer, is a third-term lawmaker from the tiny town of Bieber in one of California’s most northern, rural counties. He voted against the climate bill but did not join in the harsh criticism of Mayes.

Mayes, who at first resisted calls to step down, praised Dahle as a successor who shares his vision for governing.

“His heart and his character and the vision that he has is symbiotic with what I believe as well and so he’ll do a fantastic job,” Mayes said.

Mayes had vowed to withstand pressure to resign after he led a group of seven Assembly Republicans in backing an extension of California’s cap and trade program, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by charging polluters.

The California Republican Party’s board took the rare step of calling last week for him to step down.

Critics argued that he delivered Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown a win on the cap and trade legislation while abandoning Republican Party principles. Mayes stood side-by-side with Brown and Democratic leaders at a news conference celebrating the program’s extension.

“The cap and trade vote was not bipartisan, it was capitulation,” said Harmeet Dhillon, a member of the Republican National Committee who circulated a petition calling on Mayes to resign.

Mayes argued it was a good deal for business and would help the Republican Party appeal to a wide swath of California voters. Some Democrats praised him.

“Some of the more extreme elements of the Republican caucus didn’t treat Chad very well,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Los Angeles-area Democrat. “He was always trying to move the state forward. I think that was his first concern whereas I think others were more concerned about their own personal politics.”

Dahle voted against cap and trade and a measure to improve air monitoring. He emerged late Wednesday as a consensus pick that would please Republicans who wanted Mayes gone and would satisfy those who believe Republicans need to have a seat at the table in Sacramento, where they hold a super-minority in both chambers.

Dahle said he will pursue policies that “move California in a direction and make it a place where people want to buy a home and have a career, send their kids to a good school and live the California dream.”

Dahle’s district is one of the most conservative in California. He won the district by roughly 75 percent in the 2016 election.

Dahle said he will aim for Republicans to have a seat at the negotiating table with the Democrats.

He was one of two Republicans to back a bill that spent some cap and trade money on biomass plants, which he said would save jobs. And he co-authored a bill with several Democrats this year to expand broadband internet access in rural areas.

Republicans “hardly ever have an opportunity to be at the table with any type of relevance,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant and aide to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I think Dahle will be a leader to look for an opportunity to influence policy if he gets that rare chance.”

Still, Stutzman said the drama around Mayes reveals deeper issues for California Republicans. The state party should be spending more time recruiting candidates for statewide office than wading in on legislative leadership battles, he said.

“If this is about winning elections it appears to be a lot of misplaced time and energy,” he said.


Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed reporting.

Lawyer says Trump Tower in Russia considered during campaign

FILE – In this Dec. 16, 2016 file photo, Michael Cohen, an attorney for Donald Trump, arrives in Trump Tower in New York. Cohen acknowledged Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, that the president’s company considered building a Trump Tower in Moscow during the Republican primary, but that the plan was abandoned “for a variety of business reasons.” He said that at one point he reached out to the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin about approvals from the Russian government. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Aug 28, 2017 3:31PM (GMT-07:00)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s personal lawyer confirmed Monday that the president’s company pursued a project in Moscow during the Republican primary, but said that the plan was abandoned “for a variety of business reasons.” The attorney, Michael Cohen, also said he sent an email to the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of the potential deal.
The confirmation that the Trump Organization was actively considering doing business in Russia during the presidential election could provide special counsel Robert Mueller fodder for probing Trump’s personal and business finances, a line Trump has warned him not to cross.Cohen disclosed details of the deal in a statement to the House intelligence committee, which like Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Associated Press obtained the statement Monday.

In the statement, Cohen said that he worked on the real estate proposal with Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate who he said claimed to have deep connections in Moscow.

The discussions about the potential development occurred in the fall of 2015, months after Trump had declared his candidacy, and ended early last year when Cohen determined that the project was not feasible, according to a copy of Cohen’s statement obtained by The Associated Press. Cohen also disclosed that Trump was personally aware of the deal, signing a letter of intent and discussing it with Cohen on two other occasions.

In a statement, the Trump Organization emphasized that the licensing deal “was not significantly advanced,” noting that no site or financing materialized during the negotiations. The company also said it was never paid any fees as part of the deal, and the signed letter of intent was nonbinding.

“To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia,” the company said.

The negotiations of the possible Trump Tower Moscow deal were first reported Sunday night by The Washington Post. On Monday, The New York Times reported on an email in which Sater appeared to boast that the real estate deal could help Trump get elected. Sater did not respond to a request for comment from the AP on Monday.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email, according to the Times. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

He also said in another email about a possible ribbon-cutting: “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”

In the two-page statement obtained by the AP, Cohen said he emailed Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, after Sater suggested that “the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government that had not been issued.” Cohen said he did not recall any response to his email, or any other contacts with Peskov or other Russian government officials about the project.

Cohen portrayed the proposal as one of “countless” that the Trump Organization has received for developments around the world, noting that Trump had properties and developments in about a dozen different countries.

The project, Cohen said, first came to his attention in September 2015 when he received a proposal for a “Trump Tower Moscow” that would house a luxury hotel, office spaces and condominiums.

Cohen said he “performed some initial due diligence” to determine whether it was a good fit for the Trump Organization, and Trump ultimately signed a nonbinding letter of intent with a Moscow-based developer, I.C. Expert Investment Co., on Oct. 28, 2015.

After the signing of the letter, Cohen said the Trump Organization sought building designs from architects and held “preliminary discussions regarding potential financing” for the building.

Cohen said he also communicated extensively with Sater, who was brokering the deal and stood to receive payment from the Russian developer if it came to fruition.

Sater was a former real estate executive at Bayrock Group LLC, a development company that leased space in Trump Tower and also partnered with him on various deals. Sater was previously convicted of assault in 1993 for stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass. He later became a government informant upon his conviction years later in a $40 million Mafia stock fraud scheme.

A judge is reviewing requests by news organizations and others to unseal court records detailing his cooperation on behalf of the government in what prosecutors have described as national security matters. Federal prosecutors have opposed disclosing such information, arguing doing so could jeopardize investigations and put lives at risk.

In his statement, Cohen downplayed the comments Sater made in email correspondence about the Trump Tower Moscow deal.

“Over the course of my business dealings with Mr. Sater, he has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship’,” Cohen said. “As a result, I did not feel that it was necessary to routinely apprise others within the Trump Organization of communications that Mr. Sater sent only to me.”

Cohen said that Sater “constantly” invited him to travel to Moscow and encouraged him to bring Trump. But Cohen said he rebuffed the overtures. He said he has never traveled to Russia, and never considered asking Trump to go to Russia, which he said he only would have encouraged if there was a “definitive agreement in place.”

Cohen said the proposal, which was contingent upon the developer finding an appropriate property and getting necessary permits, was under consideration until the end of January 2016. At that point, he said that he determined the “proposal was not feasible for a variety of business reasons and should not be pursued further.”

He said neither the decision to pursue the development nor the decision to abandon it were related to Trump’s presidential campaign.


Associated Press writers Stephen Braun and Jake Pearson in New York contributed to this report.