The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Aug 10, 2018

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

What's on your mind? Mueller? Ohio special election? Dems 2020? Omarosa and Ingraham? Chris Collins indictment?

Let's get right to it.

Why do we have to keep hearing that the President's lawyers are afraid he will fall into a Perjury Trap if he talks to Mueller? (1) You do not get prosecuted for Perjury because the prosecutor believes another witness (Comey) was telling the truth. You get prosecuted if you say one thing under oath today and something different under oath tomorrow. (2) They are not worried about perjury. They are worried that, regardless how limited the questions, Trump will go off the reservation and inadvertently tell the truth. See: Holt, Lester.

I would differ with No. 2. They may indeed worry he'll just cop to the whole thing (or part of it), but they also have to be legitimately concerned that he would get caught in a false statement, too. And the Holt thing wasn't quite an admission, even though I know some read it as that.

What significance to you attach to the fact that Robert Mueller's investigation has been leak-proof thus far, while the Trump White House leaks like the proverbial sieve? Is it that Mueller's integrity inspires great loyalty?

A big part of it is that law enforcement officers generally abide by confidentiality better. It's more part of the job. The White House is kind of a loose confederation of officials who Trump seems to like to pit against one another and who have to deal with an unwieldy boss. The result is leaks.

Did he make the classic Washington gaffe by actually telling the truth?


How will they finish in Premier League this year?

I would be happy with 2nd, but they need to at least keep it somewhat close with City. I am SO excited for this team though -- probably even more than the Kirk Cousins-led Vikings.

Do you expect any kind of statement from Trump on anniversary of Charlottesville?

It's a REALLY good question. My guess is someone will ask him to say something about how the protests in DC by Unite the Right need to be peaceful. But he'd probably insist open something both-sidesy, which means they scrap the whole thing.

The Post has an interesting article about Dems being worried about Pelosi being a drag on the house race. Is there any real data on this? All politics is supposed to be local. Is this age of a hard split in our country do you think someone who would vote for a Dem Congress person would vote for the Republican just because Pelosi would be speaker? I think such a person would not vote for a Dem congress person no matter who would be speaker.

1) It's not necessarily for swing voters as much as for motivating the GOP base. And given the GOP base isn't as motivated as the Dem base, this will be key.

2) There is evidence it works. If you look at her overall favs/unfavs, they aren't all that different from Paul Ryan/McConnell/Schumer. But the PASSION of her opposition is unique

It's gonna be like "Rocky II," isn't it? They'll both go down, but O'Connor will get up before the 10-count.

I doubt Dems will be as competitive in a general, especially if Balderson has incumbency. It's the kind of seat Dems probably needed to win now if they want to have it in January.

Hi Aaron: I love your chats and you also do well on your appearances on TV. I also realize that many reporters also appear on TV regularly and I assume you are paid for TV appearances as well as by the Post for print. Please clarify something. Isn't this a conflict of interest? If you or colleagues get a scoop who gets it, the Post or TV? Also a large amount of reporters have lost their jobs the past years. One of the causes is considered the constant cable news. Are you guys helping that along?

Thanks! People who are "contributors" are usually paid, but I don't have a contract with anyone, so I rarely get paid. I think any Post reporter would be careful to break news in print before talking about it on TV. 

Hi Aaron -- thanks for taking questions today. Rudy G says that Mueller has to wrap up his investigation by September 1. Where's that deadline coming from? Also, his tactic seems to be insisting that Mueller finish up, while at the same time continuing to dither and disassemble about what exactly Trump will and won't answer, which will only make it more difficult for Mueller to finish by the imaginary deadline. How is that strategy working?

Two options:

1) They keep placing artificial deadlines on this to make the argument that it's taking to long (even though it's been relatively brief compared to other similar investigations in recent American history).

2) Trump may be demanding that it gets wrapped up, so they go on TV and suggest it's almost over to keep him tuned in and to stop him from doing something desperate.

They're fun.

No federal ones till November! And honestly, August is pretty ridiculously late for one. They usually stop about 6 months before the general election.

Corey Stewart, the Republican nominee for Senate and a native Minnesotan, came out with a plant that argued for possible secession. Tis made me to check to discover that of all the State-wide elected officials in Virginia only Governor Northam is a native of the Commonwealth. This influx of people from elsewhere may be the major factor in turning Virginia Blue. Is Corey's strategy a good one?

Tim Kaine is a native Minnesotan too! 

I don't think there is much hope of Stewart joining the Senate. This race is not a priority for Republicans in a blue-trending swing state, and Stewart is bad for the party's brand.

Aaron, I never even would have thought about members of Congress serving on boards of directors of common is this? Do members of Congress need to disclose this information before they vote on issues which may be conflicts of interest? Yikes...there oughta be a law!

Something tells me there may be a push for some new rules. The argument against it, I supposed, would be that the whole thing didn't really have anything to do with him being in Congress.

Not counting disease caused deaths, like rabies or plague. Hint: No NFL team is named after it.

The dog?

19 after and still only the're usually speedier than this! it's not a Hax chat, after all!

oh gosh I pulled a Cillizza. Sorry!

Aaron, the volume of political ads on TV increased noticeably in the Madison market this past week. One was taking Leah Vukmir (one of the GOP candidates for US Senate) to task for once saying that Trump was "offensive." The implication is that she wouldn't be on Trump's side if she got to Washington. Not being part of the right wing universe, I'm not sure how effective attacks like this will be. Just an observation.

Sounds similar to the attacks Adam Putnam is facing in Florida. He denounced Trump's comments about the Khans and his "grab em by the p****" tape, and those are now being used against him.

Could she really torpedo the Dems chances for retaking the House? If so, is anyone trying to convince her to announce she won't run for Majority Leader?

I'd imagine some would like her to say something like that. The problem is she has done so much for the party, it's hard to force her to do anything. And she's clearly stuck around this long so she can be speaker again. She's not just going to let that go.


Aaron, the general trend of Democratic Party voting has been to support less extreme candidates at the expense of more extreme candidates. Yet STILL the established narrative that the party's "extreme" base is pushing the leadership "towards the left" (which is never defined). Why don't you be the one to abandon that narrative, which is currently being used to "balance" the real state of affairs which has more and more extremist Republicans winning nominations?

It's true the party is still largely pragmatic with its nominees, but that IS starting to change somewhat. Just look at the 2020 hopefuls coming out in favor of Medicare for All and abolishing ICE, for instance. It's not on-par with the GOP's shift right, but it is shifting.

Gee, I don't recall Republicans worrying about President Bill Clinton falling into a Perjury Trap when he was being investigated over Whitewater (even, or especially, when it veered off into the Monica Lewinsky situation). In fact, they seemed to relish it.

A so-called "perjury trap" only applies if you've done nothing wrong. They think Trump has done nothing wrong. I imagine those same people felt Clinton's adultery was wrong.

The Space Force, transgendered soldiers, a big military parade down Pennsylvania avenue, trading land with the Taliban for a truce in Afghanistan, etc. Why would a President "order" these policies via tweet despite having zero military experience and with the Pentagon largely against it as well as the Judiciary?

Because he's the commander in chief? That sounds flippant, but we invest powers in the presidency regardless of their military pasts or know-how.

It's beyond ironic that Kansas' Secretary of State Kris Kobach is presiding over an election -- his own election!!! -- with apparently a greater discrepancy in voting tallies than anything found by his voter-fraud commission.

I've been trying to figure out the most ironic part. But just imagine if he loses by a few votes? He will cry voter fraud, and it will get ugly.

Seems like it could be a replay of Franken's election to the Senate.

It won't be THAT close -- at least not as a percentage of the overall vote. Minnesota was an electorate much bigger separated by just 312 votes.

is is because she's a woman? I am a liberal, but my vote is not at all affected by the real or potential GOP speakers of the house. I just don't get it.

Liberals certainly say it is. I don't know any way to say with any certitude, based upon polling, whether that's the cause.

What if Mueller's investigation heads into pay-offs to women for the (alleged) affairs that Trump had with them? Will those same people who thought Clinton's behavior was wrong take the opposite tack with Trump's?

My guess is that they would justify it to themselves by believing Trump didn't actually have the affairs.

If Trump's boosters are so sure he's done nothing wrong, why would Nunes make the pitch that keeping the GOP in power is the only thing that will save Trump?

I guess because they are convinced Mueller is out to get Trump and that a Democratic Congress would impeach and remove Trump from office? But they need 2/3 of the Senate to remove, so Nunes's comment doesn't really make sense.

How hard would it be for the Democrats to fight back with the following idea? The Republicans clearly are anti-woman, especially older women. Sure, they'd find a way to use the same argument somehow no matter if the lead Dem was a man, but in the year of the woman, push back hard.

We might very well see that. Dems have been less shy about playing that card.

Clearly she has credibility issues but does that mean everything she says should just be dismissed immediately? Your newspaper has documented thousands of factually inaccurate things that President Trump has said but the media certainly doesn't dismiss his remarks so then shouldn't the same standard apply to everyone?

We apply skepticism to everything Trump says, and it is measured against his past comments. The same should be true of Omarosa. Just because she's saying things the left likes and fits its narrative doesn't mean we should treat it any differently. I feel like we're in Michael Wolff territory again here.

really has the ability to drop any huge political bombs. I just don't think her position gave her access to them. But she certainly has a flair for making the personal seem very dramatic. Is there a chance she has the ability to seriously embarrass this White House? Or are they inoculated by what has already leaked?

I imagine if she had the goods, she would have produced them. Instead her book cites three unnamed sources. There's no way to prove or disprove it.

will it happen? If not, what does that mean? I find the whole "perjury trap" concept bizarre. This isn't a sting or undercover operation. Its not like leaving an open truck of high end athletic shoes in a poor neighborhood.

I have no idea. We have no precedent for a subpoena fight, given Bill Clinton wound up voluntarily talking before the whole thing got worked out.

That's why she's the boogey woman. She is a far left liberal from CA. Easy target.

She is from San Francisco, but she's actually cautioned her party against stuff like single-payer and impeachment. She governs as a pragmatist. She's certainly a liberal, but I'm not sure she's much more liberal than Paul Ryan is conservative. And yet he's not the left's bogeyman.

Will your antenna (and the rest of the press') be this far up when Woodward's book hits, or will his reputation provide "cover" for all the unnamed sources he'll quote (he too says he has tapes, just like Omarosa does)? Asking for a friend....

Like Trump and Omarosa, Woodward's use of unnamed sources will be judged against his track record. Given he has been such a careful journalist all these years and doesn't have such a history of ridiculous claims and exaggerations, that means less initial skepticism.

Aaron, I know this will have little influence on whether Kavanaugh is confirmed, but he will probably be asked by Senate Dems if he would recuse himself on issues related to the Mueller probe. Do you think any GOP senators would push him to recuse himself? Should he recuse himself?

I honestly don't know, but I would be surprised if he didn't recuse himself (and perhaps Gorsuch too). I imagine, though, that he won't tip his hand on hypothetical cases in which he would recuse. He'll argue that every situation is different, and he doesn't want to prejudge anything.

If Republicans start pressing him on this, then maybe he'll have to show some leg.

You wrote "Given he has been such a careful journalist all these years and does have such a history of ridiculous claims and exagerrations, that means less initial skepticism." I assume you meant "does not"?

Typo fixed.

As of recently, I heard they still don't communicate.

I am an Independent and think Pelosi has been one of the worst Democratic leaders ever. One of the D candidates in a recent close special election pledged not to support her for Speaker and I think that helped him win. She is not an effective communicator in the least. Bill Kristol recently suggested that she could help her party by pledging NOT to run for speaker and having her encourage all other over-70 members of their caucus to do the same. I actually think that's a great idea and would help a possible blue wave, especially to get move younger voters to the polls.

I have little doubt that it would help her party to make such an announcement, at least on the margins. But again, I think it's a big ask for someone who most everyone in the party truly respects.

…..wouldn't decades of Trump's personal & business tax filings have been leaked by now?

Pay the man, Shirley.

Kimmel's question to Kanye about Trump "caring" compared to him past statement about Bush "not caring" was compelling and profound. What struck me was how Kanye couldn't defend his past actions/feelings compared to what Trump is actually doing right now as President. Is that how some Trump supporters see things, can't answer a hard but fair Trump question, or just compartmentalize it away?

If you look at focus groups and even polling, there is A LOT of compartmentalization, but also a sense that he's only don't what everyone else does. Moral relativism is key here.

What’s going on down thar? Has Scott suddenly become more popular or is the state trending more red?

The state is pretty static, politically speaking. Scott has always been on more solid ground than I think a lot of people realize. And his self-funding is not to be undersold in an expensive state.

If Ron DeSantis is the GOP candidate what does that do to the Dems chances of taking the Governor? Which Dem candidate has a better chance of prevailing?

It improves their chances, certainly. Maybe not a huge amount, but it does.

As for who would be the best Dem, I honestly have no idea. The conventional wisdom is it would be Graham, given her name and more moderate past.

Two questions on her 1.) Is she shaping up to be the next Pelosi in terms of firing up the base on the right? 2.) Do you think its premature for her to be stumping for candidates nationally before she even gets to Congress and accomplishes something? They say all politics is local and I'm not sure how well her message was received in places like Kansas and Missouri

1) I'm not sure I've seen that kind of potential from Ocasio-Cortez yet.

2) She's free to do whatever she wants, given there's no chance she loses in November. I do wonder how much she moves the needle in those areas.

Which of the man-child's sycophants has the courage to tell him that the NFL players don't work for him, in any capacity? The more he rages incoherently, the more likely it is that they will keep protesting all year, which I believe is their constitutional right. And the sillier he looks, if that is at all possible, but he keeps surprising me...

I don't necessarily agree that this is backfiring on him. I think:

1) He loves creating an unwinnable situation for the NFL as payback for its treatment of him.

2) This is a culture war that has legitimately split the country in half and roused his base -- more than it has roused the opposition, I'd argue.

Thanks everyone! See you next Friday at noon. Have a wonderful weekend.

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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