The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jan 12, 2018

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

I promise to keep the vulgarities to a minimum. Let's do it.

So what percentage of his base is not offended? All of it?

I would hazard a guess that 80% of Trump's supporters (not just the GOP but those who still approve of Trump) thinks the comment is entirely justifiable, if perhaps a bit impolitic.

I heard its so much bigger and it actually works!

I wouldn't do that to you guys again!

Will any Republican who was in the S-Hole meeting confirm or deny exactly what Trump said? Why or why not?

Any of them who tries to ignore the question might as well just confirm that he said it. And just on a basic level, avoiding the question would be pretty cowardly.

Why is this being negotiated -- if it happens, when, where, the format, the topics, and so on. I didn't realize a subpoena is optional?? Isn't anyone called for an interview or to testify legally required to submit?

It's a good question. Many witnesses participate in these kinds of negotiations before talking. I think subpoenas are something of a last resort if they can't reach an agreement on a mutually agreeable set of conditions. I think Mueller's team would probably prefer not to have to go the subpoena route, because that ratchets up tensions even more.

I'm seeing the S-word that Trump spoke yesterday all over the WaPo site. In this chat, should we use the actual word, or will s---hole be OK? I'll note that the P-word used to be off-limits until Trump's infamous Bus Tape came out.

We are allowed to use the word because the president used it. This verdict came from the top

That said, I think everyone in this room knows the word and that he actually said it, so we don't need to be gratuitous.

Well this episode be forgotten by Monday, or sooner?

I think this will stick around for a while. That doesn't mean it will change much of anything, but I just think it'll stick in our memories like the McCain POW thing.

I know your paper did not do this thankfully. However I find it insulting for any media, written or otherwise to not print or broadcast the exact words from our President. How can people judge anything if they don't know exactly what was said?

I think if you explain that Trump actually said the word, then it's probably an honest portrayal. But if the president is using this kind of language, I'm not sure it serves anybody well to be prude about it and constantly have to make clear that he said the actual word.

Aaron— Regardless of whether Americans agree with or despise what Trump said yesterday—this is another mess that slows our country down. In this chat, you have been far from bullish on impeachment or the 25th amendment chances. Sadly, I think we are looking at our reality until at least 2020.

There is plenty that will allow Republicans to justify this comment to themselves. And they will still be scared to death of sticking their neck out to go after Trump. They've been burned before.

Today is the President's check-up. I must confess that I have not had much interest in these in the past. What do the medical team usually release? Broad strokes like height, weight, and blood pressure? More detailed information like cholesterol and blood sugar? Or more prescriptive information, like the President is in very poor (or very good) health, and needs to start taking better care of himself (or nothing to worry about here, folks). I am a few years younger than the President, and during my annual physical my GP does a couple of things to check mental function. Will that be part of this examination?

The great Jenna Johnson has your hook-up on all of this! The short answer is that they'll release whatever they want. And of course, Trump's health disclosures have been very dubious and incomplete.

According to the UN Human Development Index, Norway, for the 13th consecutive year, is the best country to live in. So why would a Norwegian want to move to a shithole country like the United States?

Lower taxes? Warmer climate?

Why doesn't our WH press pool have the courage to say the same to Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

I can't sit here and defend everything that every reporter has ever done, but we've seen some pretty tense briefings. 

I saw a couple of seconds of Kellyann Conway talking to someone on CNN. With regard to the wall—she said “there are rivers involved, I’m told.” Why is someone this lacking in basic knowledge about our nation being put out there to talk about the wall?

Far be it from me to defend Conway's TV appearances, but I'm guessing this was intended as a joke.

During Trump's televised meeting with lawmakers, I got the impression that he just wants to sign legislation and would prefer to leave the nuts-and-bolts of crafting policy to Congress. This is not the first time he seemed more interested in a "win" than in the actual details of any given policy. It would be very difficult for Democrats to regain control of Congress in 2018, but for the sake of argument let's say they do just that. Do you think Trump cares more about his base or winning? Would he sign anything the Democrats put in front of him or would he stay true to his base? He loyalty to individual people seems unreliable. Would he treat his base with the same disregard if he saw a chance to score some wins?

One qualifier: The White House apparently turned down the first offer from Congress on the DACA deal.

But I think the biggest takeaway is that he wants a "win" that he can take to his base and not have them hate him for it. So as long as the deal has enough border security to make that case, I think he goes for it. He's made pretty clear -- including in that call with Pena Nieto -- that the wall was always more of a political tool than a true goal.

Down here in Florida, we're sick of all these people coming from these s*%thole states like New York and New Jersey and Illinois. Why can't we have more nice people coming from places like Minnesota and Wisconsin?

Go to the Gulf side! Lots of great ex-Midwesterners over there!

Chances she gets through the primary?

If BOTH Arpaio and Ward are still in it, they're better, because I think they split the most conservative vote. I'm still not convinced Arpaio is in it for the long haul, but we'll see.

Do you think there is there anything that Trump could do that wouldn't be rationalized and defended by his base?

Of course. I don't want to speculate on what that might be. But I do think Trump says lots of things that give him plausible deniability. I don't think it's as haphazard as some people think it is.

Stay tuned to The Fix for more on that.

Flake did on record to Jake Tapper

His confirmation was secondhand -- that is, he said he heard it from Durbin and a GOP senator who was present.

Other than a handful of rank and file members, I don't think I've seen comments from the Republicans' Congressional leadership. Why the silence? Seems like this is a pretty easy comment to condemn, especially in an election year when a wave is building against you.

They are waiting to see if it blows over. That may not be courageous, but that's what they are doing.

What race do you think will be more competitive than expected, but isn't on folks' radar?

I don't think it's out of the question that Cruz gets a somewhat tough challenge from Beto O'Rourke.

Is it pretty much dead? Would the Democrats grow some testicular fortitude and shut down the gov't. I am a DoD worker and I'd be willing to make the sacrifice for the Dreamers.

I don't think it's dead, for one main reason: Trump keeps saying he wants DACA. I don't think he's ultimately going to go to the mat to stop something that he has admitted her wants.

That also, by the way, doesn't strike me as a great bargaining posture.

Are they happening? Were you personally nominated? Did you push for a nomination?

They are this coming Wednesday. I would just have to say: It would be an honor to be nominated.

THE PRESIDENT IS THE HEALTHIEST HUMAN ALIVE! POSSIBLY OF ALL TIME! WE ARE SKEPTICAL HE IS EVEN A HUMAN BEING, HIS HEALTH IS SO BIGLY AMAZING! I mean come on, what else do you expect them to say?

The doctor performing it isn't Bornstein, though. It's a doctor who has done this before with a reputation to protect. So unless Trumpitis is contagious, we should hopefully have a sober evaluation. The question is how much detail we get.

If you could ask Trump one question in an interview what would it be?

"Why don't you try harder to tell the truth? Do you think the truth is important or not?

How much should these generic congressional ballot polls be considered this far out? Are these polls useful?

They are very useful in figuring out what the overall political environment is like. That doesn't mean anything is guaranteed, but if Democrats continue to lead by double digits on the generic ballot headed into Election Day, they will undoubtedly make big gains.

Aaron, didn't the White House provide multiple statements yesterday in which they had a chance to deny or refute that Trump made the shi*thole statements and did not do so? Yet Trump tweets this morning that he did not make the statement. Was the White House simply not able to communicate clearly internally about what was said and what the White House would admit in statements? Or did Trump simply initially think it was good that he said it and only tried to refute it after the backlash got bigger than he and his staff thought it would get? It just seems that once again the White House has no idea how to respond when Trump does something like this.

They didn't deny it because he said it. Even if you look at Trump's denial, it's incomplete. He suggests he didn't say it specifically about Haiti, but doesn't deny saying it about Africa. And he denies some of the language, but doesn't say what language.

If he didn't say it, the White House would have denied it right away. Period.

Important to note that this still didn't get him to answer the question.

Exactly. You can press a politician or spokesperson repeatedly. The only thing that actually makes them answer the question is if they think they'll be punished for not doing so. And people seem to have less and less shame about openly ignoring the question.

...where has "Sloppy Steve" Bannon gone off to? I bet some fake money that he'll be back in Trump's Good Graces before he leaves the WH.

I'd give it 50/50 odds that Trump accepts his counsel at some point.

Do they cover -5?

I'm less worried about covering and more worried about winning. The Saints are a tough matchup and they've been just about as good as the Vikings since they started 0-2.

You gave two questions. The second is the most important: Do you think the truth is important or not?

It's also less likely to elicit an answer that says much. He'd just say, "Yes."

Personally, I'd go with "What did you really mean by tweeting covfefe?"

It's the biggest question of the entire presidency.

I heard the number of Congressmen declining to run for re-election is getting close to the difference between R's and D's. What is it at right now?

It's getting close to the NUMBER OF TAKEOVERS Democrats would need, not the total gap in seats. The split right now is 47 seats, so Democrats would need 24 takeovers.

Caveat though: Most of the retirements aren't in competitive districts

How likely is it that North Carolina redraws voting districts fairly in time for the 2018 election?

As I understand it, they have to, per the judge's ruling.

Those people ruined the Ocean side and now they're coming over here because it's cheaper than Lauderdale. We don't need a wall at the border, we need a wall at the Broward County line.

Controversial!

Is Trump going to make any campaign appearances to help the party win that seat in Pennsylvania? Or is he afraid he'll get "Moore-d" again?

If he has to show up to save the seat, the GOP is in trouble.

Let's say there's the Mother of All Waves. Who do you think he would blame the next day?

Not who, but what: Voter fraud.

That’s funny. I would put Florida high on a S***hole state ranking. There’s a reason Florida Man is a thing.

Oh man, we have a good old-fashioned slobberknocker going up in here.

Can the Netherlands just tell Rex Tillerson to "Recall your Ambassador"?

They can ask. But that would be an extraordinary request.

"Unforrtunate and unhelpful"?? That was his delayed response?

Things we said. Offense was taken. Regrets were had.

Sounded like Trump was trying to think of "kerfuffle" but couldn't quite get it right.

I always assumed it was "coverage." Pretty sure that's it.

What do you make of the WSJ interview, where Trump seems to think DACA and Dreamers are two different situations?

I was trying to make heads or tails of that. I failed.

Extraordinary Comments demand extraordinary requests!

That may be! I'm just talking practically about a country that probably needs the US more than the US needs it.

It's true. We have many Sinkholes. Unfortunately, they're not on I-95 at the border.

Touche. Touche.

Steve Bannon seems like the smart one, JAVANKA come off, really, really really bad!

Well just remember that Bannon seemed to be Wolff's co-author, in a lot of respects. Perhaps it's not surprising that he came off as smart.

Do you agree the statement that Trump didn't intend to be elected President, just make a lot of Money and Publicity off of running for it?

I have no idea. I will say that I don't trust much of anything in that book. When you have so many errors in your book, you kind of forfeit any real trust.

I’m old enough to remember MD Gov William Donald Schaeffer overheard asking a legislator: “How’s that s*ithouse of an Eastern Shore?” There was a storm, obviously not with the racist tinge. But it blew over, as far as insults go.

I think the racial undertones are what make this -- almost completely. I would gladly call Madison, Wisconsin, any number of derogatory things, but it doesn't carry the same connotations.

I dunno. Seems to me this administration is getting the book it deserves.

As I've argued, just because someone else shuns the truth doesn't mean you should do the same. Conceding the moral high ground is for partisans, not journalists. 

What are the chances that Democrats and maybe some Republicans are recording meetings with Trump on their smart phones these days? Seems like an insurance policy to combat lies, but is it legal?

I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't allowed to bring phones into the Oval.

Do you think Wolffe made those because he was too quick with putting this out to press, or were they made intentionally?

He only moved up publication by a few days. And I don't think that's really an excuse. It's just so sloppy.

Thanks everyone for coming out. I promise I would never say anything bad about the places that any of you come from.

-Aaron

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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