The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Nov 17, 2017

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

I can't even believe how much stuff there is to talk about today.


-Roy Moore

-GOP tax bill

-Trump Asia trip

-Menendez's mistrial

-Gillibrand saying Bill Clinton should've resigned

What's on your mind?

Doesn't this awfully conveniently set up a Senate investigation in Roy Moore, if he wins the Alabama Senate seat?

We were very likely to have that investigation anyway. GOP leaders were already talking about expelling him, which would involve some kind of investigation.

Can you talk to Bernie Bernstein to see if he would be interested in a weekly chat? You and Amber are great but I would really like to hear his perspective on politics and journalism Thanks!

Consider it done. Will have to see if he's not too busy making extremely convenient robocalls for Roy Moore.

Apparently Donald Trump doesn't realize -- or he assumes that his devoted base doesn't care -- that as of this writing the allegations against Trump are far more serious than those against Senator Franken. Glass houses, Donald, glass houses.

Trump wouldn't have gone there unless he felt there was at least a kernel of fact to suggest he's not being hypocritical. In this case, it's that photo of Al Franken with his hands over Tweeden's chest. That's why he focused on that. If Trump is asked about this, he'll say: Well my accusers didn't have photographic evidence! He'll say there is more real evidence of Franken's misconduct than his own.

Does Franken survive? Also, why don't Democrats hit back at Trump when he tweets about someone else's sexual harassment? Trump has been accused by more than a dozen women of harassment. You think this would be one area where Trump would abstain from commenting.

It's difficult to say until Franken says what he believes actually happened -- particularly with regard to the kissing rehearsal. Tweeden describes unmistakably forcible and aggressive behavior, but Franken has cast doubt on that without elaborating.

I think that he may survive this one. If there are other accusers, it become much, much more difficult.

Seriously? That was a Hillary Clinton spokesperson's reply to Gillibrand?

It's remarkable. It's also completely unsurprising from reporters who have dealt with him. He's apparently decided to build his Twitter presence, and this is what you get:

(Edit: Here's a link to the tweet, which contains a reference to a certain sex act.)

Hi Aaron: I am a liberal Democrat so it hurts to write about this: However Sen Franken has admitted this, apologized and we also have a gross photo. It used to be that a picture is worth a thousand words. So what more is needed for anyone to make a decision other than to send it to the committee for it to die?

As I said above, I think his version of the kissing rehearsal is really important here. We need to know more about what he disputes. If he doesn't dispute much about it, then he's in big trouble. But it sounds like he does.

Hi, Aaron: I noticed last week you had a couple of questions about the Electoral College and I wanted to add something to the conversation that is often completely overlooked (and I apologize for the length of this question). The design of the Constitution was that each state would get equal representation in the Senate, but the House would reflect growth and changes in population, etc. This was somewhat subverted when Congress voted to cap the House at 435 members in 1911 (when the population of the U.S. was less than a third of what it is now). Because each state is guaranteed at least one representative, larger states are automatically penalized because the number of representatives is artificially limited. The proper approach would be a new apportionment act that takes the state with the smallest population (Wyoming with a little less than 600K) and make that the standard for all Congressional districts. Based on this, the House would have about 527 members instead of 435, and the disparity between the popular vote and the Electoral College would also largely be resolved. The best part is, it only takes a law (no amending of the Constitution necessary).

Very interesting! (But I have a tough time keeping track of 435 House members, much less 92 more.)

If Republicans pass their tax plan, would there ever be a way to undo the permanent tax cuts for corporations and rich people if they lost control of Congress and the Executive branch?

I imagine a new bill would just have to be passed. Nothing is permanent as long as Congress passes constitutional legislation to change it.

Is it wrong that my question is if are there ANY male politicians (or even any men at all, maybe excluding you) who HAVEN'T sexually harassed someone? To be honest, I've even yelled at my husband from time to time when he has said something about a woman that he may have encountered, or even looking at the television.

I've thought about this a lot -- how common it seems for powerful men to have behaved this way. My suspicion is it's more common with these men because they are actually in positions of power, and they might have a certain kind of personality that both helps them become powerful but makes them more susceptible to this kind of behavior.

I've always argued that you have to have a little bit of a screw loose to want to run for federal office. It takes a certain amount of desire for power and willingness to devote yourself entirely to achieving that goal.

On my computer. Anyone else having this problem?

Here's the actual article (with the disclaimer that it contains a reference to a certain sex act):

I wdould think that those in Congress would tread warily on the Franken matter when it is just one accuser and that could lead any cof them to wonder if there is one accuser out there to qTarget them.

This is part of the reason I doubt he would get expelled or forced to resign. Like I said, unless we found out more or the Tweeden evidence proved more damning.

It's also, by the way, part of the reason I think the GOP won't have such an easy time expelling Moore. If they are setting the standard that accusations can get you expelled, that's the new precedent.

Do you think that sexual harassment reporting and investigations would have blown up the way it has now?

It's hard to say. This is actually something that I think started more in Hollywood -- with Cosby and Weinstein, in particular. So maybe it would have made its way into politics still?

Will there be a chat next week? I'm Canadian so my Thanksgiving already happened and I'll be lonely at work next week without all the WaPo chats to keep me entertained during lunch breaks...

Haha. I would love to make that happen, but I'll be enjoying some long overdue family time. Sorry!

It seems to me that Franken's "best" defense, and probably the truth, is that he was a comedian and it was a sophomoric attempt at a quick laugh. As for the kiss, I am also curious to hear his reasoning though it mat be the same.

Tweeden argues that it was very aggressive and that she told him it was not okay afterward, almost punching him. She also described behavior from Franken afterward that was almost predatory.

In other words, this doesn't seem like it's a matter of gray areas where one person sees it slightly differently than another. But we don't know Franken's side yet.

Are there any Dems willing to challenge Menendez in a primary and if so who ?

Menendez is not hugely popular in New Jersey, but he's still very good at locking down the Democratic establishment in that state. And that matters big in N.J., given county party endorsements mean you get favored status on the ballot -- via "county lines."

I doubt he even draws a serious challenger.

Halfway through the chat Aaron, and no crowing about your team's victory @ FedEx last weekend? Could have sworn I saw you decked out in purple there...

I would never gloat about how badly we owned Josh Norman and made him look like a high-school DB. I would never, ever do that.


Do I need to throw out my Franken/Harris 2020 yard signs?

There is no way he runs. I will eat today's newspaper if he does.

And I didn't think he was ever going to run, truthfully.

Didn't you feel you get enough during 4am feedings?

It is funny how I now look back on those kind of fondly. Of course, I wasn't so fond at the time.

That's all I've got.

Truer words...

Also, Thanksgiving is the best holiday.

Murkowski just said her vote on taxes is contingent on a vote in a separate bill to stabilize the health insurance markets. Since that vote needs 60 couldn't Dems just not cooperate with that bill so she can't vote on the tax bill?

Sure could. I'm dubious this tax bill will pass through the 
Senate. And even if it does, getting both chambers to agree on a compromise?

So it looks as if credible accusations of predatory sexual behavior leads to resignation/termination in the private sector, and possibly similar outcomes in the political sector. Do you think this is permanent? What if anything could happen to cause the pendulum to swing back towards the past handling of these accusations, which was to look the other way? And where does Trump fit in?

We're certainly in a place now where allegations can be enough -- in a way that certainly wasn't the case even a couple years ago. But I think it's still much easier to make the free market punish someone than the political system.

I'm confused. Is finding the originator of the robocalls on anyone's to-do list? Haven't seen that mentioned as possible/impossible. Given what was alleged in the Fox News/Seth Rich lawsuit complaint (filed by the PI involved), it may very well be newsworthy

These kinds of nefarious robocalls happen a lot, and I think it's pretty difficult to trace them.

Um, does he realize he complained about Franken but is silent on that old hound dog Moore? Or does the base not care?

Glad you asked. I argue in a piece that just posted that Trump is effectively giving Moore and the Alabama the GOP a silent nod of approval to press forward.

This has to make McConnell apoplectic.

What are your odds that Sen. Johnson (R-WI) will vote for it? What about it passing? I doubt McCain will change the direction of his thumb.

It sounds like Johnson is a no? I don't think you say what he did and then come back to vote for it. From there, it sounds like McCain is a yes, but if Collins and Murkowski are nos, it's done-zo.

What's the latest down there?

There was a Fox News poll on Thursday showing Doug Jones up by 8. But it also showed a majority of those surveyed liked President Obama and that Obama was more popular than Trump.

That ... doesn't add up.

Has the Fix Team done one since the Election (which feels like a month ago)

Stay tuned! We should have a new Dem presidential line before the new year!

Are politics allowed to be discussed around it, or is there a loud uncle in the family?

My family is pretty good about leaving that stuff behind. And we do have a pretty wide range of views!

I am waiting for the SNL skit on this. Maybe Kevin James can reprise his "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" character.

I would not be shocked to see this sketch tomorrow night -- at all. (Maybe not with Kevin James, though.)

Who buys Cranberry Sauce that comes out of the can as one disgusting tube of jell-o?

I'm doing the actual article this year. Wish me luck.

You should be careful with the threats to eat the newspaper.....remember Dana Milbank!

That's how certain I am. Good thing I have never been wrong about presidential candidates. ::Looks cautiously from his left to his right::

True or false: Steve Bullock would make a great general election candidate but probably a terrible Democratic primary candidate?

The second part is definitely true. I don't even think it's worth him attempting to run -- especially given the part has shifted left even since last year.

Any updates on how Beto is doing? Will the Dems field a truly competitive candidate in TN to replace Corker?

Not sure on those two. I do think the best path for Dems is to win Alabama, along with Arizona and Nevada.

Here's hoping that every single person who ever helped themselves to a man, woman, or child like they were are an all-you-can-eat buffet is sweating bullets waiting for the next shoe to drop. It is gratifying to think of them suffering a similar anxiety and fear that their actions caused their victims to suffer.

I guarantee you there are plenty of politicians in this exact position right now.

Assuming Trump's popularity continues to decline, is there any chance that Jeff Flake or Bob Corker does "a Rubio" and gets back into the Senate race in 2018?

I don't think Trump's popularity will decline by nearly enough. The base is still overwhelmingly in his corner, and primaries are dominated by the most conservative, most pro-Trump voters.

John Edwards made a statement something like this: "People kept telling me that I was special and I deserved this [the affair] and I began to believe them." Explains a lot.

When people tell you how great you are and you reach huge positions of power and stress, I think it becomes easier to justify certain things to yourself.

Given so much readership is now virtual, it would be painless to eat a virtual newspaper. You'll have to come up with a better penalty in the event that Franken runs.

I will eat an entire helping of Lutefisk.

Get the can of whole berries in goo. Pour in a little Cointreau or even Wild Turkey. Stir and serve and spend your time on more important dishes.

I feel the need to try this after work today -- just to make sure it works, you know?

Do you have a single shred of evidence either verifying or corroborating any of the allegations against him? Can you provide any direct evidence (not indirect, anecdotal, or circumstantial) that would suggest these allegations are true?

Our reporters went to great lengths to corroborate details of the stories these women told us. The initial story had 30 sources of information.

But it is virtually impossible to prove that someone only two people were witness to actually happened -- especially 35-40 years ago -- based on physical evidence.

People keep talking about how Mueller has all this leverage in the investigation, that he'll get people to flip to indict the key people in the Trump org, campaign, administration, etc... Is there any reason to believe Trump just won't pardon however looks like they might flip or if indictments get to close to home? We know he has no respect for norms or the rule of law.

There was some thought that he'd pardon Manafort, but Manafort could also face charges in New York, where federal pardons don't work. I think a pardon would be a last resort, though, because it would be a tacit admission of guilt.

Not fair! Since you come from Minnesota, it should be raw Cheese Curds! Or a Packers Cheesehead hat!

Can I tell you something between us? I hate the Redskins more than I ever hated the Packers.

Let's do an extra long one today...

1) His message on the diner waitress's yearbook. 2) His being banned from Gadsden Mall. 3) Contemporaneous accounts by victims to other family and/or friends.

The question was about evidence that wasn't circumstantial or anecdotal, which is why I didn't mention these things.

Since we seem to be in the the same state, can you refresh my memory which politician said the only way he’d get voted out of office was if he was “found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy”?

Edwin Edwards!

We call cranberry juice + vodka a Bloody Pilgrim.

Isn't that just a cocktail with extra fiber? filled with all the Fix-ings.

I see what you did there.

Given the reactions towards and from Trump & Moore vs sexual harassment now partisan?

Everything is at least somewhat partisan. People are inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to people who think like them, but don't give it to people who have opposing views.

Gary Cohn's question to the CEO's assembled at a WSJ conference, asking how many were going to reinvest their tax cut $ in their companies, was illuminating. Why in the world was it surprising to Cohn that very few CEO's were planning to reinvest? It's a low interest environment for borrowing, companies are making record profits, wages are stagnant - it's apparent now that reinvestment is low on the priority list. Why does the Administration believe the tax cut will magically change the equation on what to do with lots o money?

I know plenty of folks are seizing upon this. I'm not sure I read so much into it. The question was about if the bill passed, would CEOs reinvest the money. But there are two bills, and you could tell some of them were kind of unclear as to what they would be agreeing to by raising their hands.

One thing that's clear, though, is that businesses only tend to reinvest money if they see it leading to profits. So I think without knowing exactly what they'd be reinvesting the money in, it's hard to agree with that statement.

also had a bumper sticker saying "Better the lizard than the wizard" (referring to his Republican opponent, Klansman David Duke).

I can't believe he lost his most recent congressional campaign in 2014. The man was a sloganeering genius.

Am I the only who's puzzled by the argument from christian evangelicals saying that Roy Moore was forgiven by God and whatsover to justify their support in spite of all the allegations? How can they say that? How can they know he's been forgiven? I just don't understand that argument....

I don't want to judge anyone's religious beliefs, but forgiveness implies he has repented and asked for forgiveness. He hasn't admitted to anything, so it's not clear what he'd be given forgiveness for.

Which outcome in the AL race is worse for the GOP leading up to the mid-terms: Moore winning or losing? Seems like a lose-lose, to me. But I'm biased.

I kind of wonder if the GOP might be better off with Jones in that seat. He'll have to vote with Republicans on lots of stuff if he wants to hold the seat, and Moore would be a constant distraction with his ethics investigation and potential expulsion. Plus Moore might vote a lot like Rand Paul and not be there on some big-ticket items.

To whomever reads this, great work, please keep it up!

Thank you!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone! (Even you folks in Canada!)

See you in 2 weeks.

In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake is a senior political reporter, writing 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 family and trusty dog, Mauer, in Northern Virginia.
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