Q&A: Ask Amber from The Fix

Sep 19, 2017

If it's lunchtime Tuesday, it's Fix politics time. What do you want to know?

And we learned Bob Mueller's special counsel's investigation into Russia meddling is on fire. And Obamacare repeal lives again -- kind of. Oh and a new study asks whether James Comey cost Hillary Clinton the election.  Oh, and what the what is UP with Trump's lawyers? What do you want to know?

...should be the sound track for today's chat.

Adding it to my Spotify playlist now! https://open.spotify.com/user/121660806/playlist/4Zh2wRomMhqreCsD5M8kXJ

So was Trump right?

He was not right. CNN and NBC reported Trump's campaign chairman was bugged, not the president himself (as Trump claimed). Also, Trump claimed Obama specifically did it. There's no evidence of that. The Fix's Aaron Blake goes into more detail here.

Lawyer Michael Cohen took off only after a half-hour. What do you think happened?

Yeah, the former lawyer for Trump Organization lawyer had planned to interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee today to about his involvement in trying to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow during the campaign. He left after about an hour and seemed to put the onus on the committee for not wanting to talk to him. He told reporters waiting outside that "committee staff had suddenly informed him they did not wish the interview to go forward."

But the committee blamed HIM, by saying he had released his explanation to the press (or, the press obtained it) before giving it to the Senate. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the committee issued this: "We were disappointed that Mr. Cohen decided to pre-empt today’s interview by releasing a public statement prior to his engagement with Committee staff, in spite of the Committee’s requests that he refrain from public comment."

Any rumor why, significance, or if it will be rescheduled?

See above. 

Recently, you published a list of all the must-pass items Congress had to get done in the next couple of weeks. Is Graham-Cassidy upending it all and what is its current status?

Well Congress kicked the budget and debt ceiling off until December, so their to-do list got a little lighter. But, yeah, a lot of policy experts I spoke to think Republicans are dreaming if they think they can repeal Obamacare in two weeks after they failed to do it in six months. They also have to reauthorize a bunch of popular federal programs, like children's health insurance and flood insurance, and get the ball rolling on tax reform. 

If leaders have to choose, I think they'll choose to get the items on their must-do list done first before they repeal Obamacare. But right now they are trying to do both; a hearing for the Graham-Cassidy bill will be scheduled for Monday the 25th, which gives them five days to vote on it. 

Do you think he'd turn on Trump?

I have no idea, but it's very likely Mueller is trying to get Manafort to do exactly that. 

Can it get passed before 8/30/17 or will it turn into a pumpkin?

You mean 9/30/17? I think pumpkin. The bill is facing hurdles from Senate Republicans (can they get 50 out of 52 to support it? unclear), time is running out, and this version could leave tens of millions of people uninsured as well as slash Medicaid to the point where it's hard to see how moderate GOP senators support it if they couldn't vote for a bill in July that was much more friendly to Medicaid.  I wrote about this in more detail Monday. 

Did he stick to it this morning?

It certainly seemed like it -- you can tell when he goes off script because the tone of his voice changes from monotone to lively. 

The speech was so bellicose that it would remind people of Khrushchev's banging a shoe at a session of the UN.

He threatened to wipe a country of 25 million people off the map, points out The Fix's Aaron Blake. That's eyebrow-raising, even for him 

Top ranking officials are now using words like "time is running out for diplomacy" and even the president is threatening to "totally destroy" North Korea. I mean...is this the prelude to war?

You make a good point. Trump's not the only one in his administration talking bellicose. In August, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned North Korea to “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” Now that sounds serious.

Since the proposed "Border" Wall cannot be built in the middle of the Rio Grande River (the true border with Mexico in Texas), why has no one in DC (decision maker or reporter) discussed that thousands of acres of U.S. sovereign territory will be, in reality, ceded to Mexico by the proposed location "Border" Wall? Americans will be walled off from America. The public thinks that because it's called a Border Wall, it will be built on the border. �� Please check The Atlantic's documentary. https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/490241/in-texas-stuck-on-mexican-side-of-the-border-wall/ Thank you. Keep up the good work!

Hi! Maybe Trump should call it a river wall? And, thanks! (More on the border wall and how it's wreaked havoc in Washington here.)

Hi Amber, I have a very cynical statement here, but I'm curious what you think about it. I believe that Democrats will largely embrace a single-payer healthcare platform starting with the 2018 elections, even if the plan is not financially feasible or realistic. The 2016 election showed that American voters are not concerned with realistic policy, such as having Mexico pay for a border wall which the majority of analysts thought was ridiculous. The key is finding a slogan or cause that people can easily understand and rally to, which is how elections are going to be won moving forward.

I dont think the premise of your statement -- that Dems will flock to single payer to get reelected in the Trump era -- is cynical. It's actually happening. Especially with potential 2020 contenders. 

It could indeed be that it's simple and clear (unlike Dems Papa Johns message). They could also be trying to recreate Bernie Sanders' popularity in 2016. And polls show single payer has gotten more popular, ironically, as Republicans try to repeal Obamacare.

So, lotsa reasons for them to hug the left on health care.

Hypothetically (As a Democrat I don't think it's going to happen) if the Dems take the house in 2018, does Paul Ryan stick around as minority leader or retire? I see no incentive for him to stick around as minority leader and still have to deal with Trump.

Hmm. I could see it, but I have zero evidence for it. He has been in Congress for a long time (since 1999). He talks about how much he wants to spend more time with his family. Being speaker is a really freaking hard job that drove his predecessor to throw up his hands and walk away. And boy oh boy is he frustrated with Trump, as much as he tries not to show it. But he's also relatively young for a member of Congress and appears to love his job (most days anyway).

Is that where the GOP is going?

Political operatives and analysts tell me all the time that there are 3 parties in Washington right now: Republicans, Dems and Trumps. And the "Trumps" certainly share the economic protectionism that drove the Whigs

Do you speak Mandarin? Did you learn it before going to Taiwan?

I can order a cab, ask where the bathroom is and say I'm from America. Wait... actually I'm not 100% sure I know how to say that last one. I do know the name for America is "Mei guo," which translates to "big country." 

Obama addressed the dreamer situation by executive order. So is Trump. I don't understand the validity of the law suits. Whats up with that? And what if it goes to the Supreme Court and backfires? They could say Obama overreached.

I understand one side's argument -- that Obama overreached by going around Congress.

I'm honestly trying to understand the other side, which is suing Trump for stopping the program.  I *believe* that Democratic AGs are arguing that deporting these young adults would hurt their economy. I don't know if the courts will agree these states have standing to sue that.  It's an executive order, so Trump technically had the authority to stop it. 

In the court of public opinion, who was more "out of line": Trump/Sanders commenting on 'fireable offenses' at a private company or Hill making those Tweets/statements about Trump? Also, is there an example of other administrations doing something similar in regards of speaking from the podium?

Has there been polling on that? I think this has become a political litmus test (like everything in 2017, sigh.) Think the White House overstepped its bounds? Then you're more likely than not a Trump critic. 

They ripped Trump apart and he has yet to tweet about it!! What are we paying him for?

Maybe Meryl Streep's an easier target than Steve Colbert 

It seems like Robert Mueller and his team never talk to the press. Is it an unwritten rule that the press leave him alone? Why? Does the press try to get him to talk and he refuses?

This is a good question. The press reaches out to him every time they write a story about a development in his investigation, and almost always, Mueller's team declines to comment. Mueller is a former FBI director, and it may have something to do with what James Comey once said: If you confirm or deny every report out there, you can't keep your enemies guessing. 

What's your best guess for where McCain will come down on Graham-Cassidy-et al?

I think he'll support it as long as leadership goes through the motions of having hearings (which they seem to be doing), even if the whole process is still rushed. He wants Obamacare repealed as much as the next Republican. 

translates literally to 'beautiful' country.

You're right! Man my Chinese is rusty.  It's my home state of Texas that translates to "big state' (Da guo or whatever the word for "state" is.) And doesn't the name for China translate to "middle country"?

The discuss Legal Strategy at a restaurant two doors down from the NY Times and at a table on the sidewalk. Could they really be that dumb, or were they giving Trump an excuse to say "You're Fired!" ?

I'm not passing judgment on their overall intelligence, but that was a straight-up dumb move. Trump's lawyers have had a few of those moments.

Mei guo is Mandarin for "beautiful country" (not "big" country).

Someone just corrected me on that. I got confused with the Chinese name for "Texas," which translates to "big state." Thank you!

Does it seem like he's taken full control now? He got Trump to stay on (angry) script at the UN today.

I think he's taken as much control as one can of Trump. But it's important to remember that staying on script is something Trump did every once in awhile during the campaign. The real test of Kelly's influence is: Is Trump tweeting politically and legally illadvisable stuff? The answer to that is still, yes. Like, WHY oh WHY did he need to RT that golf shot directed at HRC?

Now that he had that great moment at the Emmys, acknowledging that he did lie about Inauguration Crowd Sizes, what can he do now? Write a Book? Become Communications Director for some Company? Become a PR Guy for the NFL?

Probably all of those things. Though some -- us at The Fix included -- would disagree with your characterization of his appearance as "great." He made fun of misleading the American people

A two part question: First, I saw one item on Twitter (not exactly the WP or the NYT) that indicated that Kellyanne Conway was dropping her secret service protection. And doing so at about the same time that Don Jr. was dropping his. Is this true? And if true, this is quite remarkable. Do the two need the "privacy" to attempt to cover their tracks ahead of Mueller? The SS are pros and I can't believe that they are that invasive. What is the driver here? And if it's just Don, doesn't he know that Mueller will just put a tail on him? And perhaps tap his phone? Maybe not as effective has having an SS agent in the room, but it will still prevent secret meetings. What's going on?

So, here's what we know: As of this writing The Post has reported that just DJTJ wants to drop his Secret Service. He's cited privacy concerns, and, The Post's Carol Leonnig  reports, he was really mad when his son "was being chauffeured by agents in an SUV. He awoke to find two agents had been taking pictures of themselves with him while he had been sleeping."

The reality is that it's also become damn expensive for agents to guard Trump's grown children all the time, though former Secret Service agents strongly urged Trump Jr. to reconsider eschewing protection. At this point, I don't think we can chalk up this news to anything more than that. 

If Trump is impeached/25th'd/resigned, what are the chances for Pence to run for re-election in 2020? Would his fate be too tied to a failed Trump presidency, or would he be able to right the ship in the next 3 1/2 years?

Put me on the record as Pence going down with the Trump ship IF that ever happened. Pence has defended the president relentlessly, to the point where it's almost overboard. 

Just the best. See y'all next time! (Which I *think* will be next Tuesday, but I'm also supposed to be off that day, so we'll see if I feel like it :) ) 

In This Chat
Amber Phillips
Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.
Recent Chats
  • Next: