The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jan 18, 2019

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

Hoo boy. Once of those days. Sorry for a bit of a late start. What's on your mind?

Cohen?

Shutdown and Trump-Pelosi drama?

2020?

Something else?

Hey Aaron, is there evidence that the Trump admin leaked details about Pelosi's commercial flight to Afghanistan? If yes, shouldn't there be some repercussions associated with that? If no, then did Pelosi's team just make that story up?

I don't know the chapter and verse, but I imagine leaking such details would be a pretty serious matter.

As for whether it happened, I'm working to figure that out. Knowing Pelosi's spokesman, I doubt this is something he'd invent whole-cloth.

The question on everyone’s mind; How long does the shutdown last?

I'd say late January/early February. One more pay period I think lights a fire.

Hi Aaron -- is she running or no? And if so, any thoughts on what we might expect from a Klobuchar/Trump match up?

I can't imagine a bigger contrast than Klobuchar vs. Trump, personality-wise. It would be fascinating.

I guess I expect her to run, but you never know. You're usually more surprised by who DOESN'T run than who does.

I guess there are no furloughed employees in Kentucky?

I thought Paul Kane said it well here:

“McConnell’s absence is completely misunderstood. Many think that there is no deal because he is on the sideline, but in fact it’s the opposite: He is on the sidelines because there is no deal to be had, at least not yet."

Is there a strategy to sending him out on interviews?

Yes -- to get ahead of potentially bad news. When he spilled the beans on Trump actually knowing about Cohen's hush-money payments and reimbursing him, lots of people assumed it was a colossal gaffe. In fact, he was softening the blow, because he knew it would come out.

The questions in this case is whether he KNOWS something will come out, or just assumes it might because of the Manafort/Kilimnick news.

Is it me, or has the GOP been very silent on this?

Extremely, as my colleague Colby Itkowitz noted. The administration isn't even denying it -- just saying it's ridiculous and not worthy of their comment.

 

Since the trip was supposed to be top secret doesn't Trump's outing of the planned trip violate the law and constitute a felony?

I don't know about a felony. I would guess that it's not, in fact. But it did seem to run afoul of security protocols, at the least.

And it's not the first time, as I wrote just before this chat.

how do all these Posties end up on MSNBC? Philip Rucker over Philip Bump. He spilled water on some girl from NYT. Keep up the good work.

I don't know what this is about, but I'd like to.

What have you heard about their credibility? Not trying to be snarky, just curious as to what the traditional press thinks of them.

I think you really need to evaluate it based on the story they've written and the people who wrote it. They seem extremely confident.

There was a story in late 2017 that raised some questions, as Philip Bump wrote at the time.

Odds of impeachment?

I'd say they went up significantly today. I don't want to speculate on where they're at. But certain Democrats at least have to feel somewhat emboldended.

Am I a bad person for loving the shutdown for nothing other than the decrease in traffic?

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT I DEFINITELY HAVEN'T THOUGHT THAT SAME THING TO MYSELF TWICE A DAY FOR THE LAST 4 WEEKS.

To me, the only way the shutdown ends is for Trump to back down, but to somehow craft a message that actually, "I won!" Is there anyone on the current White House staff who can come up with that convoluted scenario to let him think he's saving face, and get these people back to work?

I tend to agree that this is the most likely scenario. But I struggle to think how they might sell that to him.

You do realize Cohen wasn't the source, right? Which makes the Trump/Giuliani response even less valid.

An important point. They can attack Cohen all they want as a liar, etc., but this wasn't him telling them this. In fact, he didn't comment.

Can't quite get a handle on the guy. He seems like he should be a Bush-era establishment Republican, but he's agreed to be AG in a chaotic, ethics-challenged administration. Or does he think he can be the Guy in the White Hat who rides to the rescue of the Republic? Is he to be trusted to put the interests of the USA first, before party and President?

I honestly am right there with you. The stuff he said in 2017 and '18 sometimes ventured into Nunes-conspiracy-theory territory. But he seemed to mollify Democrats quite a bit. I have no idea what the expect.

I'm all in. Add Sherrod Brown and I will actually send money.

I feel like this ticket would be about 15 married couples I knew growing up in Minnesota.

I noticed that while you are fully reporting the Buzzfeed story, as far as I can tell there's been nothing on the NYT site. Is there a reason why you'd report it but they haven't yet?

Every newsroom has to decide how much to rely on others' reporting. Lawmakers are responding to this story and even talking about impeachment. Cohen will be testifying in 2.5 weeks. I'm not sure how you ignore it -- as long as you include all the applicable caveats.

How soon before we see the hammer from Romney? The Cohen story along with the Pelosi security protocol breach seem like a fastball right down the middle.

He's been holding his fire -- and even joined the Senate GOP's whip team.

My guess is he doesn't want to be the guy always speaking out, because it diminishes the impact when he does. But things are certainly building.

Last week I posted in Carolyn's chat that you've tagged her with the nickname Low Energy Hax -- and she did not care at all. Maybe you should STEP IT UP.

Oh man. Talk about being an instigator.

Too bad Low Energy Hax doesn't even have enough energy to defend herself. I haven't seen someone shrink from a confrontation like that since Tim Pawlenty and "Obamneycare."

Didn't Lanny Davis already say that Cohen can't talk about what's been reported? My guess is that his hearing might be a lot of "the special counsel said I can't talk about that".

That's what I'd expected, but I think we've gotten conflicting signals and theories. And honestly, I'm not sure how plugged in Lanny is.

Democrats should authorize $5.3 billion to pay for increased border agents, immigration judges and support personnel, border crossing inspections, and improvements to border surveillance and infrastructure, but not the wall. That would neutralize the president's claim that Democrats are weak on border security and show that it is not security in general, but a wall specifically, that he wants.

Yeah that's plausible too. But I think Democrats would worry about setting a precedent by really giving Trump ANYTHING. If they do that now, who's to say he won't make another demand and shut down the government later?

To me, this rises to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor. Will Congress agree?

No. If it comes out that he did something in those meetings somehow that was nefarious and he wanted to keep secret, maybe. But just being secretive (whatever you think of it) won't tip the scales.

Since he's now fundraising on the unfair treatment he has received from the radical liberals (?!), and seems assured he won't be censured, was anything really accomplished by slapping his wrist?

I think a precedent has been set that he's persona non grata. He may still win reelection, at which point Republicans have a REAL problem on their hands. But they decided that was a gamble worth taking.

How many times have you said that since innaugration day? 50,60,100?

I try to limit myself to 5 "hoo boys" a month.

... in order of likelihood: (1) Trump wins 2020 (2) Trump impeached or (3) Trump resigns.

1, 2, 3

If you said "removed from office" instead of impeached, it would be 1, 3, 2.

How seriously are people taking the Buzzfeed story? It's HUGE story if true. But, I don't see it as the top headline most places, which leads me to believe that the major news sources are being very cautious about jumping on this. If true though, Republicans will have to act, right? Or am I overly optimistic?

As I argued this morning, it would be very significant politically. This comes down to potential impeachment and removal -- not a jury trial. So much of this collusion and obstruction stuff is complicated and subjective and will allow Republicans to explain it away. If there were clear evidence that the president told a witness to lie in an investigation involving himself, though, I don't think Republicans can so easily explain that away. At that point, you could perhaps get the 20 Senate Republicans needed for removal.

Aaron, do you know the significance of the old boxing glove? Was it worn by a famous boxer, or was it meant to convey a more sinister message?

Interesting question. No idea.

I know there are rules against strikes by Federal Employees, but is there anything to stop the TSA people to get together and do a massive one or two day sick out? Is that the only way this ends?

My guess is they'd be jeopardizing their jobs -- and the back pay that they'll eventually get. That's a pretty good disincentive.

What else, besides withdrawing military flights, can Trump lawfully do to Nancy Pelosi? I assume his team has compiled a whole list of potential retaliations against her if she stands firm against Trump.

Something tells me we will find out over the next 23 months.

What if turns out no one cares if there is one?

I am very pro-written State of the Union. Bring back the 19th Century!

Do you think he makes a public statement? I mean, he has the most to gain by letting this thing gain steam, right?

I mean, you could say that about lots of stuff. I think he'll be quiet just because he always is.

I get the reasons for the debate, but it's all academics since no way THIS Justice Dept. ever indicts Pres. Trump, right?

Or probably ANY Justice Department. This has been a guideline for a while. But you're right that it's probably even MORE academic now.

Okay, I'll bite. How could he be removed from office without being impeached? Or do you mean "not reelected in 2020"? In which case you are saying it's more likely that he's reelected than defeated?

Sorry. I meant removed from office by the Senate (2/3 vote) after being impeached by the House. The impeachment was inferred, because you can't removed from office without it.

Trump may have to give his State of the Union in a written format. Help him by providing State of the Union in 1 tweet.

The state of the union is WHOA IF TRUE.

Do you think Gov. Bevin's bad polling number which is shocking to most people how poorly he's doing not a bit worrying to Maj. Leader McConnell?

It would sure be something if Bevin lost and dragged McConnell down, given McConnell's team HATED Bevin for his primary challenge last time around.

He could just tweet the salient points from his WH quarters.

A tweeted State of the Union is definitely something that cannot be ruled out.

Pay the man, Shirley!

Wow I get my own "Pay the man, Shirley." I'll keep an eye on my paystub to see if it works.

could be better, could be worse -what can you do?

Sounds about right.

Who died and made her an expert?

Is she talking about taxes again?

Since he's considered a gubernatorial version of Trump, does his poor polling in a Trump state bode pooring for Trump's re-election?

Yeah, I'd be wary of looking for Trump proxies just because their styles might be similar. Every state is unique. I'd guess Trump is polling better than Bevin in Kentucky right now.

Thank you everyone for coming out and (as always) for asking such great questions. These chats always inform me, and I'm thankful.

Let's do it again next Friday at noon!

-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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