The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Mar 15, 2019

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

It's a little difficult to talk about politics today, but we're got lots of stuff going on. Beto's in, both chambers voted against the national emergency declaration, the House voted 420-0 to release the Mueller report, Trump said there should be no Mueller report, we still don't have a Mueller report, etc.

What's on your mind?

So Congress says to Trump, nope, can't declare an emergency and raid other department funds for the wall. He vetoes it. Then what?

Then the real battle commences -- in the courts.

I don't want to downplay what just happened. Congress just rebuked Trump in numbers we've rarely seen, and they've forced an actual veto (rather than a merely symbolic rebuke).

But the real, practical question is whether the fact that Congress rejected this matters in the court battle over whether Trump can declare this national emergency and use it to fund the wall.

More on that here.

Does he write these himself? How hard would it be to get someone to write a few sentences appropriately expressing sympathy for victims of a tragedy?

There's a little part of me that thinks he knows this stuff provokes, but I also really hope he's not thinking about provoking at a time like this.

If that's not it, then he's not getting (or taking) good advice. It's awkward, at best.

Is it alright to still like Beto O'Rourke because D.C. consensus is telling me not to?

You do you. 

Hey Aaron, I don't get why Trump says there should be no Mueller report. He must know that regardless of what comes out of it, there won't be 20 GOP senators to vote to remove him from office. Especially in light of this week's Senate vote on the Emergency declaration.

Yeah, but why even put up with the headache? Even if none of it is impeachment-level stuff, it's unlikely to be all the friendly to him or those around him.

Pardon if this is a stupid question, but are you referring to the tragedy in NZ?


Can you speak about what may have motivated the Speaker to say "Trump's not worth impeaching?"

She has rather clearly felt this was for a while. She worried it will backfire -- that it will be an unnecessary variable in what could otherwise be a good election year.

I also think she might legitimately believe it would further divide us as a country. Politicians like to divide in order to win, but sowing division for no other purpose...?

...people who don't like him will always say it's not good enough, awkward, inappropriate, etc.

I disagree. I think he would be given credit if his first response was to decry the hatred of white supremacism. 

Reporters who cover O'Rourke say he is short on specifics and speaks in platitudes. They also say that now that he has declared he's going to get a lot more scrutiny. Do you think he'll hold up under it?

I've said for a while that he's the biggest boom-or-bust candidate in the field. I think he either flames out rather quickly or is a contender to the end. He seems comfortable on his feed, but running for president is different than running even in a big state like Texas.

Help Warren’s claim Fb et al need to be broken up? It was horrific to watch. I clicked what looked like Twitter news feed from there but it was that. Horrific

It feels like shutting down stuff like 4chan and 8chan is something we at least need to have a debate about. Even if it's not the government doing it, public pressure can be brought to bear. And I think this created a whole new dimension to Facebook's problems.

I don't see how dems... or even the far left... can be for this. If it goes all the way and Trump gets thrown out, then Pence becomes President. The White House would then become a well-oiled machine, that could accomplish far more than what Trump's incompetence would.

This is the either side of it. Is it really preferable to face Pence?

One the other hand, if you really think Trump is dangerous and that he's done things that warrant it, there's the moral case for it.

If he had won the Senate race in TX, he would not be running for President, right? So this is an example of failing upward?

I'm not so sure I'd assume that. Maybe it would be less likely.

Any chance that Iowa goes blue in 2020? The number of bankruptcies in farm states are now at a decade old high because of plummeting soy prices. Or will the Iowa GOP just be able to blame the effects of the Trump trade war on Obamacare, or Muslims, or immigrants, or global cooling, and no collusion.

Iowa has been in-play before. But I tend to think that if it goes blue, it would be part of a landslide for the Dems. It and Ohio have crept closer to being red states for years.

The North Korean Vice Foreign Minister said Trump and Kim have a "mysteriously wonderful" relationship, and blamed the breakdown in talks on Pompeo and Bolton. Does this mean Pompeo and Bolton will soon be gone, since they are blamed for hindering Trumps wonderful relationship with Kim?

I don't doubt that Pompeo and Bolton are much more skeptical of the North Koreans' intentions. But this seems clearly intended to drive a wedge.

I'm thinking particularly of this ridiculous [I blame the media for this] "Are you a proud capitalist" question, but there are many other examples. It's SO easy to answer: "There are NO pure capitalist or socialist economies in the world. Every economy exists on a spectrum where both blend, including ours. Do you want examples?" Why do they sound so awkward?

I don't think it's ridiculous? If the Democratic Party is not wanting to define itself as "capitalist," then that really says something about its direction.

But I also agree that this should be a MUCH easier answer. "I am a capitalist but I also support regulation and social programs, etc." This is basically what Elizabeth Warren said.

Did the vote really matter since there likely aren't sufficient votes to override a veto?

There is an argument to be made that it could come up in the court case. But a veto would not be overridden. 


No matter how bad I believe Pence would be as President, at least I don't believe he would start a nuclear war because a country's leader said something mean to him.

So here's a question: If you could impeach and remove Trump by year's end, but it would increase the chances that the GOP would hold the presidency in 2020 by 25%, would you do it?

Do you think Democrats are actively working to get Howard Schultz out of the race?

There isn't even the slightest question in my mind.

The Senate was just 8 votes short.

Often overriding a veto is a higher bar for members. I'd imagine even some Republicans who voted to disapprove wouldn't vote to sustain the veto.

I went to a Beto rally and I was really impressed how much detail he knew. I get that he doesn't necessarily have plans on how to fix things but there were many educators when I saw him and he mentioned trying to repeal the windfall tax provision act (which really is something that only Texas educators care about.) His whole speech wasn't just a bunch of rah rah stuff; there was substance. I don't know if he could pull that off on a national basis--one of his other attributes was going to every county in Texas.

He seemed to know plenty about broadband access when he was talking in Iowa yesterday. That's very anecdotal, but sometimes you can't totally fake your way through even stuff that you've studied.

Is it possible between now and another vote after a veto that more Republican's may have a change of heart?

Again, even if a couple did, I can't imagine it would pick off another 8 GOP senators who were already incredibly wary of alienating Trump.

Over the next 20 months, the Post and the rest of the media will have countess articles of how Democrats are worried about the 2020 elections, just as there were countless articles prior to the 2017 Virginia election and the 2018 midterms of how Democrats were worried (google it). Why do Democrats worry so much about elections for which they end up doing well? I don't recall many articles about Republicans worrying so much. Do Republicans worry about elections, or is it just a Democratic thing?

Because they have lots 2 of the last 5 elections despite winning the popular vote. Because they really thought they were going to win in 2016. And yes, because there is something about the Democratic Party, uniquely, that worries the other side is just better at politics.

Do you know anything of Charles Black, who Stone and Manafort went into business with years ago? From what I can find on the web, he seems to be a straight shooter. If that is the case, I don't know why Mr. Black would decide to start a lobbying firm with 2 blowhards, unless I'm naive. Leopards don't change their spots. Thanks.

There is some thought that Manafort wasn't crooked back then, but that he just got money-hungry as time went on. As for Stone, he's always been iconoclastic, but he was kind of a Lee Atwater figure back then. It might have been dirty, but it was effective.

I am usually pro press. But I guess having "Beto" run is good copy. However "Beto" is the only candidate the press calls by the first name as though he is a friend. Even Joe Biden who is folksy is not called Joe. And when I see ex Congressmen interviewed on TV they are usually addressed as "Congressman". Howard Schultz is not called Howard.

It's a fair point. I do think, fwiw, that the press called Clinton "Hillary" quite a bit -- if for no other reason than because saying "Clinton" wouldn't be clear. There are just some politicians whose first names are more unique. Kamala Harris gets some of that treatment. But we should probably have a standard.

Hi Aaron -- thanks for taking questions today. Sen. Graham says the Mueller report shouldn't be released until Hillary's emails are investigated (again). Unless I missed it I don't think I heard many other Republicans clamoring to sign on to his proposal. Any ideas what's going on there (other than the usual -- trying to stay on Trump's good side no matter what? Or have I just answered my own question?)

That's not exactly what he wanted. He said he wanted a special counsel to look into the DOJ's conduct in the Trump and Clinton probes. 

He basically wanted an excuse not to bring this to a vote. And now he can say, "Democrats want to force the DOJ to release something it's not supposed to, but they won't vote to put a spotlight on the DOJ."

Bernie? Plenty say just Bernie, right? And for the "Robert Francis O'Rourke because that's his name" crowd, I'd note nobody ever calls him Bernard.

Another good point. I don't think it's a uniquely pro-Beto thing, but rather "here's a word that helps you know instantly who we're talking about."

Bernie certainly gets his share too.

Can't believe I didn't think of that!

Tom Bevan from Real Clear Politics says that there are 50 - 100 Manaforts in Washington right now doing what Manafort did and that if one is to be charged they all should be. Doesn't this look like a case of 2 systems of justice?

That may be true. Law enforcement also has limited resources and getting to a point where you have real evidence of wrongoing is the hurdle. In this case, they had a mandate to look into Manafort because of his role on the Trump campaign. If some other figures faced that kind of scrutiny, they might be able to turn up stuff on them too. But looking into thousands of lobbyists to find that 100 Manaforts? That's a huge amount of manpower.

"I don't think it's ridiculous? If the Democratic Party is not wanting to define itself as "capitalist," then that really says something about its direction." Says what? Capitalism is an economic, not a political, category. Elizabeth Warren says she is a capitalist - yet she is probably the one in favor of the most heavily regulated economy. It's a mostly meaningless label in the 21st century.

It may be subjective, but we use lots of subjective labels. They're short-hand for voters, allowing candidates to tell you how they think the country should be run. If a label that has been a consensus label in this country for decades suddenly is something one side wants to avoid, doesn't that tell us something?

I think it's hugely interesting.

Duh. They are. Republicans have no qualms about playing dirty while the Dems are stuck in perpetual Kumbaya mode.

Many people feel this way. And I think we're seeing some on the blue team decide they're tired of being timid. Question is if and when that bleeds into overreach.

So what - we let 'em all skate? Nailing one guy making his living off dictators and despots seems like a good start to me.

Yep. The argument that "there are lots of criminals so why are we focusing on this one guy" has always struck me as weird. He put himself in a position where he could face scrutiny, even though he was breaking the law, and he paid for it.

Others who might break the law in similar ways may also see this and think real hard about their actions.

Isn't Tony Podesta one of those lobbyists that needs more scrutiny? He was connected to Manafort at one time.

He's apparently been getting it. Mueller referred his case to SDNY.

The 2016 quest for the presidential race had at least 17 GOPs vying for the top spot. So why is everyone mocking the crowd of Dems jostling for the nomination?

Are they mocking, or just noting?

I would also argue that it might be well more than 17.

Reminds me of rock concerts in the 70s. If EVERYONE is smoking pot in the parking lot, whom do you arrest?

All of them. All of those dirty hippies.

The Clintons didn't play dirty?

I'd argue they did -- and they account for 2 of the 4 successful Democratic presidential campaigns since 1976.

Keep chatting forever!

Unfortunately they also want me to write pieces!!

Aaron, there seems to be little outrage about Trump's suggestion that if things get too bad, he's got the Bikers and the military on his side. I think Mattis would have considered this as grounds for resignation, if he hadn't already resigned. Are there any others in the admin who will say Trump crossed a line and resign?

I mean, he said much the same thing back in September, and nobody really reacted then either.

I think he has just said stuff like this so many times, that we've become desensitized. But he's talking about the military, police and bikers getting violent on his behalf. Feels like we should at least have the discussion.

The Hispanic vote is supposed to be the sleeping giant that, once awakened, will give Democrats a permanent electoral majority -- so why has Julian Castro's presidential campaign gotten so little buzz -- even less than Hickenlooper and Buttigieg or Schultz?

I'm not sure I've seen much from Castro to back up the hype yet. I mean, we'll see. But it's almost like Beto's rise made him more expendable in Texas.

Also, beware of that "permanent electoral majority" stuff. Such predictions have a way of looking foolish in retrospect. Our system has been pretty good at remaining split about 50-50.

Thanks to everyone who asked questions today -- and even those that don't. As usually, this is my favorite part of the week.

Let's do it against next Friday at noon.

Be well,


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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