The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Apr 20, 2018

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

Deepest apologies everyone for the late start. Technology was conspiring against me.

Here we go...

Please press the button

I promise this wasn't a Chris Situation

What do you think of the AP mandate? Seems smart to me. The only polls I believe now are counted votes.

My thoughts:

It's fine to use polls to tell you where things stand and what is working. I think where many (including us) have gone wrong is going too predictive. Someone cane be down 5 points one week and leading the next. Margins of error can render those differences negligible or non-existent.

We should be smarter about all of this and how we present polls. I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

What's your read on the political side? Think it looks like the Dems have the ultimate case or sore loseritis.

I'm not sure what this accomplishes. The ultimate arbiter of Trump's fate will be Congress if it's not Mueller. This seems like a way to press the case and make it look like Democrats are DOING something, but I don't know that it means much beyond that.

And it's not like this was going away?

What is the definition of a "leak?" I always assumed (yes, I know the joke) that something that is "leaked" was something meant to be kept secret or hidden. Since the Comey memos were unclassified and not meant to be kept secret... weren't they simply "released?" Or, were they secret as far as the investigation goes?

I believe it was still a leak because they weren't officially released with someone's name attached to them. There was a reason the Justice Department hadn't given them to Congress yet and hadn't released them publicly yet, ostensibly.

That said, I'm not sure it's the biggest leak in the world. Comey talked about what was in them, after all.

Seems to me that if I were Comey or a number of other people Trump has attacked in Tweets and other media, I'd be lawyering up for a defamation suit. Why hasn't that happened? It seems that only women who claim to have had unhappy sexual encounters with him have used this option.

When you are a public figure like Comey, it's VERY difficult to win defamation suits. It's a different standard. The women have a lower bar because they haven't sought out the public spotlight and the scrutiny that comes with it.

...5th Cylon? If you're not a sci fi fan, never mind.

No idea what this means. I played sports.

If a nominee can't get the committee vote, but gets put before the full Senate, why do we have committee votes?

Ostensibly, what the committee that is tasked with holding hearings and knowing the subject matter thinks about someone like Pompeo would be important. But in such a polarized country, that certainly means less than it once did.

So his case has been referred for prosecution, meaning what? From 0 (never see's court) to 100 (time in the slammer), what are the chances that he's prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to a fine/probation/jail?

I would imagine that if the U.S. attorney's office thinks he lied to the IG, as the IG believes, they would charge him. That's a big no-no in the Justice Department, as Comey remarked Friday.

But evaluating the likelihood here would require knowing the McCabe IG report chapter and verse, and unfortunately I haven't been able to analyze it that closely.

Lawyers don't tape conversations.

A lawyer is actually providing legal advice, which it doesn't seem Cohen spent much time doing. Making payments your client doesn't know about, for instant, doesn't meet the definition of lawyer-ing.

It's not a very busy news day... I was wondering where you were.

This coffee shop's wifi was not a fan of the Ask Aaron live chat. Let's just say that.

And apparently talked about Hookers! I guess Melania now thinks there's a bit more than 1% that the Steel Dossier is true.

My take on this:

Hi Aaron, What's your take on what role, if any, the recent tax law will have on the 2018 midterms?

Probably a slight rallying effect for GOP donors and people who notice the difference. That said, I don't think polls have shown tons of people have noticed the difference.

Advantage of SF, you can still do it after age 40.

Golf called. It would like a word.

Congrats to the Post on two well-earned wins! Just curious how it works though when it is awarded to a group of reporters. Did you get a Pulitzer? Where is the line drawn in the newsroom about who gets one and who doesn't?

Let's just say I have been going around introducing myself as "Pulitzer Prize-winner Aaron Blake."

No, in seriousness, there were a group of stories submitted in which our great National Security and White House teams broke big stories. I didn't contributed to any of those. So while it goes to the national staff of The Post and I'm on the national staff, it's really about 8-10 reporters.

I could be wrong but did the standard used to be that a news organization needed 2 independent sources to report a story? It seems like now many organizations will go with just one source, which seems potentially problematic no matter how reliable they have been in the past.

I think it depends on the subject matter, but generally speaking relying on one source for any big claims is asking for trouble.

I haven't seen any mention of whether Comey addresses staying silent on the investigation into Russian links to Trump's campaign in his book. If concerns about the legitimacy of a Clinton adminstration prompted his October announcement why didn't those concerns apply to the Trump Russia investigation?

Jake Tapper pressed him on this Thursday. It's a really good question.

Comey's answer was basically that the Russia investigation wasn't focused on Trump at the time, so it wasn't as much of a consideration that he could be delegitimized, whereas the Clinton probe was clearly about her own potential wrongdoing. 

So, do the latest developments mean that no one is going to offer him a short-term job so he can get his retirement?

If I were them, I'd probably table that offer for a bit!

Recently he released a passionate four-minute video defending science. Can you se him stepping into the political arena? If so where?

I hadn't thought about this. Interesting prospect, though I wonder if he reasons he can do more as a private citizen.

The past week has no doubt been embarrassing and annoying for her, but long-term, have her ambitions been helped or hurt by the distance created by her announcements and the Trump administration distancing itself?

I keep going back to the Confederate flag thing. Did this and that win her big headlines lauding his independence? Of course. But I wonder if she is also alienating the White House and potentially Trump supporters. What she did this week was basically out Trump for changing his mind -- which the White House clearly didn't want to do.

Does Trump understand what Kim means by de-nuclearization? Its not the same as what the US means...something tells me Trump doesn't full understand that.

Does it mean less nuclearization or no nuclearization. I can see Trump taking the former and calling it a big win. Of course, that was something the GOP railed against when it came to the Iran deal. The devil is in the details.

Sorry, I thought you were talking about sports.

I'm going to say something controversial here:

You are very wrong.

The latest NBC poll sampled 900 Americans (out of 326,870,573) with 40% being Democrats and only 33% being Republicans. Isn't that always going to skew better for Democrats?

There are generally more Democrats in an election than Republicans, because GOP leaning voters are more likely to be independents. This is the case even in elections that Republicans win.

There are also more Democrats in America more broadly. So especially when you're talking about a poll of registered voters, there will be more Dems. With likely voters, it could be tighter, but a 7-point margin is hardly unheard-of -- especially with Democratic enthusiasm higher right now.

This is something a lot of people cite, but it means less than they think.

Republicans subpoenaed the memos from Justice. They were provided, then leaked by... Republicans? The Justice Department? Who? Different stories are saying different things. If R's did leak these... WHY?!?

I think the theory has been that they reveal Comey to be a leaker. Trump tweeted about it. I'm not sure what this adds to that conversation, though.

your thoughts on Scott vs. Nelson ?

Perhaps the biggest referendum on Trump there is.

I mean traditionally you release the Bad News after 5 on Friday, so what'll it be this week?

I have made it clear to Mr. Mueller and the White House that they are not allowed to do this to us today.

Don't you figure her public slap back was a calculated response? It's not like the administration toadies get much reward for their servility.

It could also have just been that she saw what Kudlow said and wanted to put him in his place. I imagine the whole thing irked her pretty bad; if I were her, I would've been steaming mad. She was scapegoated and thrown under the bus.

Hey Aaron, I was thinking that if Putin had something really damaging on Trump, he would've released it by now (especially after the Syria strikes). Or is Putin waiting for something bigger, like "If/when we invade the Baltic states, if NATO pushes back then I'll release all the material I have on Trump"?

The thing about kompromat is that, once you give up the information, you have no more leverage. 

I still can't believe we're having this open a conversation about this. If anything, that's what Comey's book tour has produced.

Rosenstein/Mueller firings? Apparently police departments are being alerted of potential demonstrations.

Bloomberg reported last night that Trump has said he isn't firing them because he isn't a target of the investigation. If that changes, who knows?

He's been raising beaucoup bucks for his campaign against Devin Nunes. Will that translate into either a victory or at least the closest contest Nunes has faced in a while?

It'd have to be a big wave to take out Nunes. That's a district Trump won by 9.5 and Romney won by 15. Not out of the question, but tough.

The work of his staff doing what they thought he wanted?

I suppose it's possible. But I don't know how you greenlight a sanctions announcement without making sure the president is on-board. That's a really big decision.

How long has he been salivating to join Trump's inner circle? Way to bring in alternate viewpoints. The White House echo chamber must be really deafening by now.

My read is that it may be in large part about Cohen. Rudy, after all, comes from the U.S. attorney's office that is probing him: The Southern District of New York.

Yeah, kind of like a real-life spy novel, isn't it? My wife grew up in the USSR so we have an interesting dynamic in our household. She will take Putin's side in any issue, no matter how egregious.

Sounds like the plot of a sitcom in the Trump era!

Two words: Conor Lamb.

1) That was a special election, in which turnout is lower and bigger swings can happen

2) Lamb came from a unique area in which the Democratic Party still has a pulse and there remain lots of conservative Democrats. Nunes's district isn't comparable.

So isn't that an indication that he Would fire them if he Was part of the investigation?

Seems like a logical conclusion, doesn't it!

Fall will be here all too soon.

This is unwarranted negativity. 

So President Trump hired the only attorney with fewer clients than Michael Cohen?

Pay the man, Shirley.

He has not served in that office in decades. I doubt whether he has all that much clout there anymore.

He's close enough to it that he got tipped off about the Comey announcement in 2016!

Wasn't Obama more of a moderate centrist, than a socialist Marxist liberal? “If Barack Obama is writing anything that deals with the Parkland students, it should be an apology,” he said. “His liberal no-discipline-for-rule-breakers policy was a contributing factor that enabled the shooter to wreak the havoc that he did… It was Obama’s school discipline policies that prevented faculty members from having students arrested, even for severe and repeated discipline issues.”

I wouldn't call him a moderate centrist by any means. But Obamacare wasn't exactly socialism (no matter what it's opponents argued). And while he was certainly ideological and perhaps less-than-pragmatic initially, it wasn't like he was out there calling for job guarantees and single-payer and $15 nationwide minimum wage. In fact, relative to the 2020 Democratic field, he probably WILL look like a moderate.

Walking, now that's a sport.

There are plenty of sports that don't involve sprinting but do involve athleticism, strategy and practice.

Nearly perfect Dem candidate and nearly worst Rep candidate

I don't even know if I'd go that far. But I do think people miss how unusual the Appalachian region is. Dems won in a tough district here 6 months before they got drubbed in the 2010 midterms! And Dems held on to power in West Virginia long after they had been killed off in the South.

"He's close enough to it that he got tipped off about the Comey announcement in 2016!" Indeed, though reports about that seem to indicate his sources were in (or connected to) the FBI field office, not the prosecutor's office.


There's your sport that "involve[s] athleticism, strategy and practice." Can golf really be a sport if POTUS does it so much?

C'mon. Chess boxing isn't really a thing.

...since you were 14 minutes late starting?

That's what I'm doing! 9 more minutes. 9 more minutes. 9 more minutes.

And is the award passed around, like the Stanley Cup?

We also split it with the New York Times, so it's more like 15 people. I think each of them rightfully gets to claim the whole metal though.

This is like when Sputnik took off! Russia has gotten ahead of us in Hookers! Oh the Shame!

Not sure how Trump could have let this happen. What happened to making the red-light districts of America great again?

So you had to leap up from the coffee shop and run back to the WP building? Or did you find another wifi?

My technological genius kicked on and I figured it out. It's a banner day for the Blakes.

Keep saying that Trump isn't under investigation -- until he has such a rock-solid case versus Trump that firing Mueller can't make the case go away.

Except he needs to be honest.

Or, like team medals in sports competitions, each team member gets a medal?

They usually mount them on the wall in the office. I imagine that's what'll happen for a staff award.


Don't be shy.

is the US getting our nukes out of the Korean peninsula and Japan and probably taking our nuke armed subs out of the area. What we mean is North Korea giving up its entire nuclear program. Totally different. This was reported by Korea experts months ago.

That would be a pretty big difference in definitions. 

Hi, Aaron. Would you agree that it's too late for congressional Republicans running for re-election to distance themselves from the president? (I'm being charitable by assuming any of them have any real desire to do so.) And if so, then does that free Democrats to tailor their campaigns to local conditions--e.g., denounce Trump loudly and often in blue states, less so in purple ones, and little or not at all in red ones?

I truly think plenty of them would like to do it. But they have seen what happened to the members that did, and it hasn't gone well. Trump's power exists because he has locked down the base and made Republicans afraid to cross him.

We'll see you next Friday at noon. And I promise to get started on-time!

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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