The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jul 21, 2017

The Fix's senior reporter Aaron Blake chats with readers in his weekly politics chat series.

Hello and welcome to NEWS!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/us/politics/sean-spicer-resigns-as-white-house-press-secretary.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

What's on your minds?

He just quit his job in disgrace. Is he radioactive in republican circles at this point?

Something tells me he will do just fine. I don't know that many reporters would like to work with him in a PR capacity at this point though.

And as I wrote on Twitter, this was a pretty convenient excuse to resign -- not getting a promotion that you felt you deserved.

OJ says he's lived a conflict free life. Fake news?

Fake news is deliberately meant to deceive, not just something that is questionable or incorrect!

That's really all I have to say. Kudos to him for lasting this long, I guess?

It was the worst job in Washington, and he lasted six months. I'm not sure he "lasted" so much as he hung on for dear life.

I don't recall this level of chaos and sheer lunacy being displayed.

Neither do I. Of course, in my case there's a reason for that.

Who's up next at the guillotine?

I feel like Huckabee Sanders has probably performed to Trump's liking enough to get that job. I'm not sure who else would take it on.

Isn't there anyone who will tell Trump that trying to intimidate the Independent Investigator will backfire?

I don't doubt he's getting that advice. I also don't doubt he takes it was a grain of salt and will do whatever he wants.

Good decision for him but unless there is a change in the WH & Press relationship nothing will improve and the President must take the lead on that.

We have certainly seen many of the same things from Huckabee Sanders, though she never had the inauguration-crowd moment.

Dibs on Melissa McCarthy's roiling podium.

Ugh you beat me.

Didn't the Clinton White House have a lot of chaos?

There is chaos in every White House. I'm not sure we've seen anything like this -- the constant leaking of unflattering information and infighting.

Sean Spicer for losing the job as WH Press Secretary or Susan Huckabee Sanders for getting it next?

Donald Trump Jr. for being under investigation.

OJ said that he's never been accused of holding a weapon on anyone. Isn't this because they're dead....and wasn't this statement meant to deceive?

It was certainly some pretty blatant spin.

I think that by escaping, Spicer had the Best Week in Washington. At least for him. (P.S. I think Melissa McCarthy's rolling podium should go straight to the Smithsonian.)

I think Spicer is probably releived to have an excuse to resign that didn't make it look like he just couldn't handle the job anymore.

Also, the podium should go to the Newseum.

The subhead on the NYT story says Spicer "vehemently disagreed" with the appointment of Scaramucci. Do you know why?

I don't know enough about their personal history. Perhaps Spicer wanted that job?

What would it take to shake it? The Russia mess doesn't seem to make a dent.

I honestly think the most damaging thing is for there to not be progress on the issues they care about: Health care, tax reform, etc.

I've argued that this is when members and the base may desert, because it makes all the controversy and distractions no longer worth it.

How long before he tweets a pic of himself mowing his lawn?

The Boehner special.

I don't know how much effort is going on here on behalf of the White House, but it really does beg the question, if nothing illegal happened regarding Trump, his campaign, etc., why is there so much effort to do everything to thwart this investigation? At some point these activities start to sound like obstruction. I get hiring attorneys (I suppose), but the efforts seem really misplaced: instead of addressing any possible allegations, they are instead looking for every possible way to prevent the investigators from doing their job. In my eyes, this makes the WH appear ever more suspicious in its activities.

The appearance that they are afraid of what this investigation would show has been a mainstay throughout. The lack of transparency and all of this stuff suggests something to hide.

Of course, as I argued today, maybe this is just Trump being Trump and not like being questioned at all. Maybe he truly thinks this is an effort to delegitimize him. And maybe he views this as a struggle to consolidate power.

If Donald Trump employs Presidential pardons for aides, family, even himself, and Congress finds them inappropriate, could those fall under the category of "high crimes and misdemeanors"?

I would have a difficult time seeing how that wouldn't fall under that heading, if Congress decides it does.

Doesn't it look really bad when your lawyers are looking at pardon options? Kind of like looking for a plea deal?

A plea deal with yourself!

Aaron, do you think that Jeff Sessions' apparent indifference to Trump's disapproval of him is a reflection of Trump's diminished status in Washington? Sessions seems to be saying "I'm going to carry out my agenda whether you have confidence in me or not", yes?

I think it's more that those around Trump knows he does this. They can't take it personally. I'm sure Sessions knows Trump doesn't like that he recused, and he'll just hope they can move past it.

In an NYT article, Trump said that Mueller would be crossing a "red line" if he looked at any Trump family finances not related to Russia. 1. Can Mueller look at anything he wants to, Russia or other wise? 2. What are the odds Mueller is already looking at Trump financial documents not strictly tied to Russia? 3.Would Trump necessarily know if Mueller had the docs?

My understanding is that Mueller has extremely broad latitude, which is part of the reason Trump didn't like putting this in the hands of a special prosecutor.

Greetings AAron Perusing your articles I notice that every one has "Trump" in the title. Have you ever authored an article in which Donald Trump didn't reside in your brain? There doesn't appear to be a lot of square footage available.

He is the president, and the news tends to revolve around him -- most recently when a top staffer just resigned and he was reported to have been considering doing something a president has never done: Pardon himself. This is all news. 

Also, here are a couple things I wrote this week that weren't about Trump. Enjoy!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/07/15/why-would-the-gop-want-to-pass-a-hugely-unpopular-health-care-bill-lets-debate/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/07/18/a-majority-says-the-democratic-party-stands-for-nothing-except-the-only-thing-that-matters-in-2018/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/07/19/this-poll-is-a-warning-sign-for-democrats/?utm_term=.ff074edf12b9

How long before he presents his report(s), charges, etc.?

I don't think there's any way of knowing. It goes on as far as the evidence takes it.

Doesn't the acceptance of a pardon constitute an admission of guilt to a criminal charge? Wouldn't that demand revocation of security clearances as well as forgoing 5th amendment protections?

A very good question. Though I have a difficult time believing Kushner would stick around after being pardoned.

Apparently he so disagrees with Trump about Putin that he wouldn't even sit in on their meetings at the G20. But that's not enough for him to resign?

Pretty much anybody who works for Trump has to put aside their convictions one one or two fronts. We've seen it over and over again.

Being that you're a political reporter, how come you never write things that aren't about politics? Ha.

You got me!

I paid good money for my pardon from Bill Clinton, and I don't appreciate pardons being talked about here in such a cavalier fashion.

Marc! Didn't know you were a fan of The Fix.

No, it does not in of itself. There are conditional pardons, but generally if one is pardoned for a crime then they cannot be charged or prosecuted. There is no guilt to be admitted to (other than in the public eye, of course).

Important context.

Reports are he didn't want Scaramucci to get the job. It seems like he has been almost out of a job for months now - is he next to go?

Spicer and Priebus have both reportedly clashed with Scaramucci. I guess we'll see. There have certainly been warring factions in this White House before.

I'm sure he told his staff something like "OK people, you heard Mr. Trump. No one is to go looking into his finances at all."

Just to play a little devil's advocate: This kind of "working the refs" sometimes works on a more subconscious level. Maybe Mueller or people he's working with aren't going to say what you just said to themselves, but if it makes them a little more sheepish about pushing in one direction or another -- known they could find themselves targeted by the president -- that's what Trump is going for. It happens a lot in journalism too.

Will he now issue a statement saying that there were more people at Barack Obama's inauguration?

I imagine he'll disappear for a while and will try to avoid litigating his past statements.

Would you say that some members of the press are crisis junkies? Isn't this to the detriment of the people they're supposed to serve, given that many important details are not in crisis form?

That's certainly one way of looking at it. Another is that big news happens and it's worth providing as much detail and context as possible. Covering a story in depth doesn't mean you know where it's leading, necessarily. I also think there has been so much here that's unprecedented, and you have to cover it as such.

Sending him good wishes in his fight. Didn't always agree with him, but never doubted that he wanted to serve his country.

Seconded. I don't know many people who don't think he's a good man.

Gerald Ford used to carry a scrap of paper in his wallet with a legal opinion on it that said an acceptance of a pardon was acceptance of guilt, so he could show it to people who were mad at him for pardoning Nixon.

That may have been more his interpretation of the law -- and a convenient one at that -- than actually the law.

Loyalty is apparently a one-way street for Trump. People associated with his campaign and administration are hiring lawyers because of the Russia investigation. Many of those people will be hard pressed financially by lawyer fees. Doesn't Trump invite people to turn on him just when he needs them most by his behavior?

You do have to wonder, at some point, who is going to be loyal enough to stick by him. It may just come down to family.

Why is Sessions hanging on? Too stubborn to quit? Thinks he can outlast Trump? Has the goods to torpedo Trump, and is just waiting for the right opportunity/final piece of evidence? Immune to embarrassment? Some combination of the above?

I think being attorney general of the United States is difficult to just give up because of a momentary setback. And if he quits now, it looks like he was forced out by Trump.

I think, with Trump, you stick it out and hope you can return to his good graces.

Somehow, Trump's intimation that he may have incriminating evidence against Robert Mueller reminds me of nothing less than his veiled tweet threat that James Comey had better hope Trump didn't have any "tapes" of their Oval Office conversation, except only he later confessed there was no such recording. But until then, Trump managed to raise doubts in some people's minds in an effort to tarnish Comey's veracity.

Yep. He does this a lot. He LOVES the not-so-veiled threat.

Isn't it good news that the jobs number is good (above what was expected) and that the unemployment number is low?

Certainly. The numbers look a lot like a continuation of what we say in 2016 as far as jobs created per month, though, so if the argument is that this is a big win for Trump , I'm not sure it holds water. It seems to be a trend that has continued.

I'd ask if it was Trump himself that told him to say the inauguration crowds were thee biggest 'period'

We already know the answer to that question is yes. There was no other way Spicer comes out and does what he does.

I see your point - and who know what's going on in Trump's head - but I don't really think Robert Mueller and his staff do the "sheepish" thing really well.

In both law enforcement and journalism, you're taught to neither fear nor favor. And I don't think you make to to where Mueller did if you don't do what you think is right. Comey was the same way; you can disagree with his decisions, but he was trying to be principled.

Latest report. Looks like Mooch was not a popular choice, having no communications expeirence.

It's certainly a curious appointment. Communications is a very specific skill set.

Aaron, Isn't there a difference between covering a story in depth and beating a dead horse?

Of course. Bipartisan congressional investigators and the special counsel appointed by Trump's own Justice Department clearly don't think this is a dead horse.

Have a great weekend!

In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes and edits for The Fix. A Minnesota native and graduate of the University of Minnesota, Aaron has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Aaron lives with his wife, baby son and trusty dog, Mauer, in Northern Virginia.
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