The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jun 14, 2019

The Fix's Aaron Blake discusses the latest in politics and campaigns live with readers.

And a happy beautiful Friday afternoon to everyone.

What's on your mind?

Kellyanne Conway?

Sarah Sanders?

Foreign dirt?

House investigations?


Mexico tariff deal?

Let's do it.

So Trump "thinks he would" take incriminating information about opponents from foreign governments if offered to him, without necessarily reporting it to the FBI. I'd like to ask Trump if he thinks turnabout's fair play -- i.e., would he be equally amenable to an election opponent taking incriminating information about HIM from a foreign government? I suspect not.

He does seem to think it was okay for him to lead "lock her up" chants and put Clinton in jail, but says it's wrong for Pelosi to say she wants to see him in prison.

I've seen this narrative that Democrats haven't attacked anybody. Just a bit of pushback. David Sirota wrote an op-ed for The Guardian attacking Beto O'Rourke and the whole time he was working with the Sanders campaign and lying about it and only "officially" joined when he got caught. Plus candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar totally embraced, "I wasn't born to this" as if they don't know it's an idiom instead of literal (i.e. "comparing apple to orange isn't about comparing an actual Granny Smith to an actual Clementine).

It's starting to happen. Look, when there are 20 people running, it's difficult to get attention. One of the most foolproof ways is to attack a frontrunner. So Hickenlooper is attacking Sanders on democratic socialism. We're also seeing some subtle digs at Biden, including from O'Rourke.

It's going to happen. It's a matter of when and how much.

Will the daily press briefings resume with the departure of Sarah Sanders?

I would imagine not. This wasn't just a White House thing. The Pentagon hasn't done a regular briefing in more than a year.

What do you predict is on the political horizon for Sarah Sanders in the next year?

Consulting, TV appearances, and maybe a run for Arkansas governor in 2022. It sounds like she's interested. They're going to have to sort things out, though, because LG Tim Griffin was expected to be the heir apparent. Maybe she'll try to start as LG like her dad did?

Whether there at 5% or 15% in a national poll, who cares since it's as of right now Joe Biden's to lose. Isn't the big question for Democrats is who takes up Joe Biden's space?

I would take issue with this. I think a lot of his lead right now is name ID. I also think there's no way his image stays as good as it does now through a whole campaign.

I've said I don't even think the word "frontrunner" applies to him.

Do you care if the President is a Crook? If "no", you will lose your Representation, Alabama.

This seems unconstitutional, tbqh.

Who would even accept this job given that it seems to be vestigial position which has been made obsolete by Trump's tweeting and Fox News call-ins? Arguably we went 95 days already without one.

This is part of the reason I think they won't resurrect the briefing. It's part of the reason she lasted as long as she did. She effectively stopped doing what is usually the major part of a press secretary's job. And whatever you think of how Spicer and Sanders handled it -- and I've been quite clear in my criticism of both -- there's really no way you can do it without damaging your credibility.

Trump could improve his environmental cred by rehiring one of his former press secretaries. Some of them could use the work.

Something tells me Spicer would prefer to keep doing segments for EXTRA.

I was surprised that the WP article about Trump refusing to fully endorse Pence didn't mention the most likely reason: he favors one of his offspring.

Or it's just too soon. Look, you want your endorsement to land with force. Even if Obama favors Biden, I'd wager he'd withhold the endorsement for maximum effect. Why not drop it right before Iowa?

Has any other president answered as many questions from the press as regularly as Trump?

Our Fact Checker has looked at this, and the answer is yes -- at least as of mid-2018.

Clinton and H.W. Bush did more short Q&As.

Obama did many more interviews.

And Clinton did more joint news conferences.

Trump has done fewer solo press conferences than every president going back to H.W. Bush.

He takes questions often -- probably more than average -- but the lack of solo press conferences, briefings and non-Fox TV interviews are really notable.

I wish the congresspeople advocating impeachment would stop saying this. REMOVAL is the remedy. Impeachment without removal will simply be a sentence in a history of the period. .

I'd say the concern is that they would look like they were prejudging the process. There would be an impeachment trial, after all.

Also, it would set an unreasonable expectation.

Given his track record of lying and his misuse of government info and agencies, why should anyone believe he's telling the truth about Iran and the attack on oil tankers?

This is coming not just from Trump, but from other parts of the government. The Defense Department and State Department generally have more concern for their own credibility and constitency.

She does realise she'd have to actually answer questions with proper answers not a whole load of lies and not just say 'I'll get back to you' or leave when she's had enough.

I think it's telling that Spicer hasn't landed a TV contract. 

Are we anonymous when we write a question? Can you tell even if one person writes more than 1 question per chat? You said something in chat a week or so ago that intrigued me.

I know everything about all of you.

In all seriousness, I can tell when someone is spamming. That's all I can say!

Everyone kept assuming that the next gaffe would certainly do him in but that never happened with Trump, why do we expect it to happen with Biden?

Trump overcame that with red-meat rhetoric, extreme policies, and a kind of force-of-nature style of campaigning. I'm not sure many pols could replicate it, even in the GOP.

I know Biden is getting attacked for this but after listening to Congressman James Clyburn, who voted for it, on NPR this morning I'm wondering how many African American members of Congress voted for it.

Many black leaders, including mayors, supported it. Just 11 members of the CBC voted against it, and in fact some CBC members provided crucial votes late on.

But they also fought over certain aspects of it, and it's suspected that some of them voted for it because they were worried (as everyone was) about looking "soft on crime."

What is she up to? Is press secretary in the cards for her? She did share a pizza with Trump once when she was considering a presidential run.

Nothing really shocks me about this presidency anymore, but this would.

So while Trump was President a non-American team won for the first time. Coincidence?

Pay the man, Shirley.

Are leading chant at rallies of "Lock her up" quite the same as anonymous source saying Speaker Pelosi said something to that affect in a close-door meeting in response to impeachment push.

No, because Trump was running to be in a position where he actually had control over the Justice Department, making his threat quite real.

Pelosi has no such power.

do you think if he had stayed in Cleveland the Cavs would have won the nba championship this year?

I didn't watch one minute of NBA basketball this year, and I don't feel like I missed out on much. I know people keeps saying how compelling it is. I just can't get excited.

So to answer your questions: No.

Trump all but admitted to getting intel from foreign sources. Shouldn't somebody be investigating this? Just because he colludes in the clear, it is still a crime.

Whatever you want to say about Trump's comments, he was talking about a hypothetical -- not what happened in 2016?

What will you be looking for? Breakout moment? Interactions between frontrunners and non-frontrunners? Gaffes? All of the above? Something else?

Actually policy differences and how Biden handles himself with the heat finally on -- in a way he's never really experienced, except for the VP debates. (But that is one on one; this might be 9-on-1.)

Aaron, will Christopher Wray have to either resign or speak out against Trump's comments about accepting foreign assistance? It seems like if he does neither then he's endorsing Trump's view.

He has already said people in that position should go to the FBI. I suspect he's glad he said that before, so that comment can stand and he doesn't have to look like he's directly disputing the boss (again).

Do you think she is likely to be a Rep. nominee for Gov? And when -- isn't Hutchinson there until 2024? Or would they try to get him to take an administrative job so that she gets the 'temporary' one first?

Hutchinson is done in 2022, when they have the next race. I still think she'd have a tough time beating Griffin. She's also still pretty young -- she'd be in her late 30s at that point. If she runs, I think LG makes more sense. You still need to win that race in your own right in Arkansas, by the way. Remember her dad was LG to a Democrat, Jim Guy Tucker, who was forced to resign. That's how he first became governor.

Trump seemed to sort of walk back the "of course I wouldn't call FBI" (now "it's I'd read it first and decide if I needed to call") - do you think that will be enough to keep most Republicans quiet, no matter what they truly feel?

Even on Wednesday, he said there was a chance he'd call the FBI if there were something "wrong." So I'm not sure this is appreciably different.

Actually, there is Aaron. The new WH Press Secretary should just tell the truth until he/she is fired. It's just not that difficult.

That is hypothetically true. But also, there seem to be many things about which they simply have no idea what the truth is because Trump won't tell them. If they just say they don't know because they can't get a straight answers from Trump, that doesn't speak well of their credibility either.

Is this another thing, like Congressional subpoenas, that we’re finding out has absolutely no teeth at all?

When it comes to White House staff, it doesn't. Other federal employees, it does. They can be removed.

Who're your top three picks to get voted off the island first?

Hoo boy. Gillibrand, de Blasio, and ... Bullock? 

I tend to go with people who actually have some expectations (and campaign staffs to pay) that might not be met quickly.

How often do you replenish Shirley's bank account?

Shirley's slush fund is well-stocked.

What is their phone number, by the way?

(202) 324-3000.

Do you think he really believes getting rid of Trump will bring harmony to Washington again or is he just saying that because the line polls really well?

I wrote a piece on this, actually. I tend to think it's the latter, because he's been in politics long enough that he should know better. But some humans are quite good at deluding themselves. 

Did you know that Julian Castro violated the Hatch Act when he was part of the Obama administration?

Lots of people violate it. Generally, when they are found to have done so, they change their ways. That's why Conway's situation is different. She was found to have multiple violations in March 2018, she didn't change, and now she has more violations.

She looked a lot more formidable a year or so ago. Why's she struggling for a toehold? Not unique enough with so many other women in the mix? Squishy positions?

Yeah, I'm not sure what you get with her that you can't with other candidates. Plus the squishiness over time and the Al Franken thing, which I don't think we should discount.

Is today the day we learn which 10 are on which night? Or when would that be?

Ask and ye shall receive. Just out:

Night 1: Wednesday, June 26


1. Sen. Cory Booker

2. Sen. Elizabeth Warren

3. Rep. Beto O’Rourke

4. Sen. Amy Klobuchar

5. Rep. John Delaney

6. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

7. Sec. Julian Castro

8. Rep. Tim Ryan

9. Mayor Bill de Blasio

10. Gov. Jay Inslee


Night 2: Thursday, June 27


1. Sen. Bernie Sanders

2. Sen. Kamala Harris

3. Vice President Joe Biden

4. Mayor Pete Buttigieg

5. Sen. Michael Bennet

6. Ms. Marianne Williamson

7. Rep. Eric Swalwell

8. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

9. Mr. Andrew Yang

10. Gov. John Hickenlooper

While all the Dems in the race so far are reasonable candidates, I can't help but think the cult of personality in the party for Clinton stifled development for extraordinary clients. I get the push for Biden, but I don't think he can win.

I'm waiting to see just how strong this field is. I think Biden is a weak early leader, but what I really want to see is how formidable the second tier is -- Harris, Booker, Klobuchar, etc. -- and the third tier -- Inslee, Bennet Hickenlooper, etc., are. Many of them hold or have held high offices, but are untested on the national stage.

It appears that when the press is asking Trump questions they (and Trump) seem to be enjoying themselves...laughing about the banter. Do you think they have a better relationship than it sometimes seems?

I tend to think Trump believes he's winning even when stuff like the "foreign dirt" controversy happens. I also think he actually respects people who might disagree with him or are tough on him but are formidable. Plus, he's a businessman. And businessmen are taught to be congenial in personal settings.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


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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