Q&A: Ask Amber from The Fix

Dec 12, 2017

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

I can't imagine what you're curious about today. Let's chat!

Did you do like Old Fix and forget to press the "Chat Now" button?

No, I just got started late. My apologies. 

Anything going on today? Yaaaawwwwwn.

I heard The Rock and his girlfriend are expecting. There's some news for today

Gun to your head, what's your AL senate prediction?

Roy Moore wins. This is a state that is one of the most pro-Republican in the union. You have to really, really, really mess up to lose a statewide seat to a Democrat. Moore may come close to losing the seat, but in the end, I think partisanship will win.

Bannon railed last night at the Roy Moore campaign rally about outsiders who come down to tell Alabamians how to vote. *snort*

Yeah, I question whether Steve Bannon -- a Harvard trained Goldman Sachs banker -- is the best messenger for Roy Moore's "drain the swamp" message. But, hey, it worked for President Trump.

Which is ultimately better for the Democrats in 2018: For Doug Jones to be one of Alabama's two Senators, or for Moore to be elected and thereafter be a monumental albatross around Republicans' necks during the 2018 election cycle?

This is a good question. Democrats want Doug Jones to win, no question. If they can take a seat away from Republicans in ALAFREAKINGBAMA in the Trump era, then they almost certainly have a chance at retaking the Senate next November, where they have to hold onto most their 10 competitive seats and pick up at least one seat in states like Nevada and Arizona and Tennessee. 

I understand that a male reporter from CNN asked Sarah Sanders at Monday's press briefing whether she had ever been sexually harassed. Is this a fair question to ask a woman press secretary or just another example of the ongoing hostilities between the White House and the press corps? (Personally, I think that Sanders has been take a lot of unfair fire, including focusing on her personal appearance, that male press secretaries never have to deal with.)

I agree with you here. I see what the reporter was trying to get at -- asking Sanders to weigh her personal experiences and opinions against her defense of the president. But I think the reporter went about it in an overly-gendered way. 

Amber, couldn't you allow Franken the moment? He was doing the right thing. Did his every sentence really have to be made the occasion for eye-rolling ridicule and arch dismissal? I mean, for just this moment, think of his family. Think of his wife. Is that too much to ask?

I think you're referring to my annotation of his resignation speech. I pointed out -- rightly, I believe -- that he refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing even as he willingly resigned his job over groping allegations. 

Could you please post a link to Eli Rosenberg's Story?

Hi Amber Last month I wrote that I thought Northam would win by 8 points and Moore, by 2 points. I got the Northam race right, but now I'm changing my Moore prediction. I believe he will win by 6 points or greater. I think his support has increased since the sexual misconduct allegations. I also believe that Moore might have even lost had the allegations never happened. I have been to Alabama many times for work related travel. The people down there can't seem to understand that the laws of our country are based on the constitution and not the bible. To them abortion is way worse that an accused child molester who is pro-life. Sad, but true.

Sure, I'll take you up on your bet. I say Moore, winning by under 6 points. 

Am I wrong in thinking that President Trump's behaviour is becoming more erratic? lately I feel that we're in a race between the Mueller chickens coming home to roost and a major conflagration.

I'd agree with you that Trump seems ... turned up. He definitely seems more open over the past few weeks to saying and tweeting things that are not politically advisable and jumping into fights and defending himself. I have no idea what's coming in the Mueller investigation, and I'm not sure he does, either. But he could be on the defensive from what we already know happened in the Mueller investigation: It has ensnared two of his closest advisers during the campaign.

Any word from the South on voter Turnout so far? Is there any word on voter suppression and closed DMV Offices in majority Black counties?

No, but bookmark this for live results. Polls close at 8 pm ET. 

What's in it for Trump? Seems like another losing cause

Like a lot of controversies Trump stirs up, the mere fact a controversy exists is probably the most beneficial to him. He thrives on battles.

But I don't see how he gets much more out of it than that. Sexual harassment claims are being leveled against him, new and old ones. Some Senate Democrats are calling on him to resign over it. And the nation is celebrating women who speak up about sexual harassment by putting them on the covers of magazines. Why, in the middle of all this, would he attack a female senator, in such sexist terms?

Given that virtually every single "honest mistake" made recently by the media has been anti-Trump, isn't that SOME evidence that reporters are letting their animosity toward Trump affect their work? You'd like that the law of averages would have led to at least one error in reporting favoring the administration. But that's not the case. And frankly, for the media to keep on claiming that it's fair, objective, and just has made some honest, unintentional mistake that it promptly (or really, not so promptly) corrected, is making it lose credibility with the public. Your thoughts as a political reporter on this?

I think Trump is the president of the United States, and thus the most-covered politician in the country. So it's not a fair comparison to say "oh the media has gotten x corrections about Trump, but x about this Democratic senator" and claim bias. 

I also don't know where you're getting that every single mistake has been anti-Trump. That's a hard, if not impossible, thing to quantify. 


Trump is one of the most controversial and unpopular presidents in modern history, so it makes sense the coverage will be more critical. And some of those mistakes will have been in the process of critical coverage. 

Trump ‘infuriated’ at Nikki Haley for supporting his accusers’ right to speak on sexual misconduct: report

It was a pretty bold move on her part. I don't know what he'll do

No one thinks that revelations of sexual misconduct have ended in Washington. Could these allegations lead to a change in the balance of power? If the GOP majority in the Senate is in peril, would the party invoke the Roy Moore defence? What about the House?

I answered this a few questions above. But, short answer: Yes, this could affect the balance of power. If Roy Moore loses, suddenly the Senate is in play for Democrats. (The House isn't quite at that tipping point, but a political wave against Republicans could help them take back control of the House for the first time in almost a decade.) 

Even though Unemployment has been going down, Trump's Tweets are causing his Favorability Ratings to fall to 32%. Does he not realize this?

I was wondering about this Trump undoing of Obama's accomplishments. For instance, the national park in Utah. Can all these destructions of treasured land be reversed again back to where it stands now if and when we get a Democratic House or Senate? This also includes the tax bill. When a tax cut for the wealthy is considered as permanent in the wording, can that be reverted back with another administration?

I think you'd have to take each on a case-by-case basis. The deregulations are the easiest to put back together, though I believe national monuments are bit more complicated.

I think you'd need a new tax bill to rewrite the tax code. See: Republicans' inability to undo Obamacare without passing a law through Congress repealing it.

Hi Amber -- thanks for taking questions today. Here in MN, former governor and moderate Republican Arne Carlson says that Franken shouldn't resign, which has led to some speculate (okay, me) that perhaps, at the last minute, he'll change his mind (not so much based on Carlson, but more so because, he'll argue, there's been a rush to judgment and the Senate Ethics process should play out). I'm skeptical of that, as I'm guessing you are...but still, in this topsy turvy political environment, I suppose anything is possible? And in a strange way, if Moore were to win, would that give him any sort of "cover" -- as in, if they're willing to seat Moore given the allegations against him, then why should Franken have to go? Never mind that it blows up the Dems zero tolerance/high road strategy...

Anything's possible, sure. But on his way out the door, Franken bashed the fact that Roy Moore and Donald Trump could/are be in office while he has to go. That leads me to believe Franken has made peace with that fact and won't change his mind if Moore wins. 

Amber— Do you think that subject has ulterior motives for this new request? Is this part of some plan to impact Mueller’s investigation?

First let me caveat that I'm not inside Trump's lawyer's head. But, yes, this sounds like they are positioning themselves to claim that whatever Mueller finds is unfair or tainted

test

Test passed!

...when does he have to defend his seat next? And can Condi Rice run against him?

2020. And, sure?

Greetings from New Mexico! I've been reaching out to our Republican leaders for the past few weeks, Gov. Susana Martinez, Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for Governor, and Ryan Cangilosi who is Chairman of the NMGOP, and not one of them is willing to condemn neither the POTUS or Moore. How long can this last? #2020

Send me hatch chiles next time they're in season!

I think it'll last as long as Republicans have decided their base is with Trump. Their job, after all, is to represent the majority of their constituents. 

This won't happen soon if ever... what's the Democrats long game? Just putting it on the record? Seems feeble.

Yeah, I think this is purely born out of political posturing. It's not a coincidence they are asking Trump to resign over sexual harassment allegations a few days after they cleaned their own house with Al Franken, and a few days before Republicans could elect a man accused of inappropriately touching teenagers. Democrats are trying to seize the moral high ground ahead of 2018 and 2020.

She only missing out Some of my best friends are gay / black etc How tone deaf are these people?

I'll quote one Republican strategist in Washington I was talking to today: Roy Moore & team is a "absolutely terrible candidate running an absolutely terrible campaign."

I remember in his address from Gettysburg, that the first thing on DAY ONE, Trump promised to put forth a Constitutional Amendment that would impose Term Limits in Congress to "Drain the Swamp". Has he even mentioned this once by Day 326?

Not that I have seen. I have thoughts about term limits, too. Mainly that they are probably never ever going to happen.

may I suggest the rest of the nation take it out by the worst way possible: Removing Alabama from the National Championship Semi-Final and giving it to Ohio State?

Woah woah woah. Let's not be too harsh here. I mean, expelling Roy Moore from the Senate, the first time since the civil war that's happened, is one thing. But 'bama football...untouchable in that state

If Moore wins today, isn't what was said on SNL true? If you admit and apologize you lose your job, if you deny and attack, you keep it. What incentive does anyone have to apologize?

To be on the right side of morality and history.

What's the over/under on when the race will be called? 9:30? 10:15? (Put another way: how late are we gonna have to stay up?)

Somewhere in the time range you suggested is the best info I have. I'm planning for a late night, and hoping for the best. According to the Virginia Center for Politics, in the primaries and runoff, the pro-Moore rural counties came in first, and the belt of urban cities and counties next.

You talk to Republicans. How can they keep supporting tax plans where EVERY effort to "score" them and all historical precedents show the plans won't work? Do they really believe that this plan will produce huge growth that will finally turn small trickles into a stream of income for the bottom 50% When their own evaluations show otherwise? What are they saying to themselves?

They're saying they have no choice but to pass this tax bill and hope it spurs growth beyond the models. Republicans are 11 months into control of Washington without a major legislative victory, so they need this.

Isn't Franken engaging in "whataboutism" when he says "What about Trump"?

To a degree. But Franken resigned rather than say "I'll resign when Trump resigns."

I'm curious as to why the Democrats (Schumer and Pelosi) haven't been more aggressive with respect to a government shutdown. They seem to be treating it as an entirely separate entity. Couldn't they use their power in this one area to, say, force changes in the tax bill, help the Dreamers, maybe even get a few moderate/liberal judges through?

They refused to meet with Trump and congressional Republican leaders a couple weeks ago to talk about a spending bill. I'd say that's pretty aggressive!
They're hoping to use most of their leverage to get some kinda of agreement on protecting dreamers. More here.

Amber, I have a hatch chiles party at my house every September. Care to join us? I personally hate all chiles, but it's a great party!

I"m in! 

You can find them at Fresh Market. I've been told Wegman's too. I could never be a locovore.

Yeah, when I lived in Texas, they used to roast them fresh from across the border at every local supermarket. Thanks for the tips!

Now I need the best place to get Topo Chico

This is from a couple of chats ago but I wanted to let you know that you are not the only Jim Carrey Grinch fan. I love the Grinch in all it's iterations and the animated and Jim Carrey Grinch movies are some of my favorites. It also gave us one of my favorite Christmas songs. Just know that you are not alone.

MERRY FREAKING CHRISTMAS you just made my day! I'm not the only one!

NBC's Hallie Jackson said that the difference between Franken and Moore is that voters will have the info re Moore before the election, which Franken voters did not have. (Trump voters also had the info pre election.)

Yup, that's spot on. Which is why some Republican senators who want nothing to do with Moore are hesitant to kick him out of the Senate if he wins. Voters elected him when the allegations were public. 

As I understand it, there’s no limit to the scope of Mueller’s investigation, is that correct? So then is it possible that despite the Russia connection and shady finances, Trump could be brought down by charges of sexual assault?

Hmm an interesting thought. I suppose it's possible, but it would depend on the laws in each state where he was accused of doing it. And sexual assault is a VERY hard thing to prove. Part of the reason it's so controversial is because it's a he-said, she-said ordeal.

Part of Trump's appeal, and what ultimately put him over the top, IMO, is that Hillary had a near-insurmountable level of antipathy towards her (not saying it was justified). For Trump to continue to appeal to and motivate his base, he has to hold her out there as, somehow, an ever-present alternative/danger to his presidency. How do you think this will work as the 2016 election fades deeper into recent history (it will happen eventually), when he's looking at the very real prospect of facing someone else, someone not as strongly disliked as her?

All we can do is theorize why Trump keeps talking about the election, but as far as theories go, this is a very plausible one.

Hi Amber- where do you think the sexual harassment/abuse by the POTUS goes from here? What's the next shoe to drop?

Hi! Well Trump has turned this into a debate about how he blasts his female opponents in sexist terms (See Kirsten Gillibrand)

But I don't know where this can go from here. Congress doesn't have a mechanism to investigate the president other than impeach him. 

I read some speculation that with sexual allegations returning to Trump & Mueller's progress in the Russia investigation, that if they get their tax bill passed, Republicans might just turn on Trump an impeach him. Any chance that happens? Doesn't that risk turning his base into a pitchfork-waving mob storming the castle?

I think that's pure speculation right now. Impeaching a president would take enormous amount of effort and time and political capital, so Republicans would basically be giving up their entire rest of their 2018 agenda. I just don't see it happening unless:
1) Trump's approval rating among his base drop precipitously 
2) Mueller finds some extraordinarily and inarguable wrongdoing
3) Democrats take back control of Congress 

This is the second time they've shown Jones way ahead. What's up with that? Also, when does tonight's winner actually get sworn in?

So while their morning and evening coverage and online presence is often skewed right, their polls are generally straightforward. I think polls are just all over the place right now, in part because people may not want to tell pollsters who they're voting for. 

Does either side have any dealbreakers other than the $1.5 trillion cost over ten years?

It's more likely the tax bill fails after it comes out of conference and has to get voted on by the House and Senate again. Susan Collins wants no changes to the Senate bill as it stands, but the Senate bill may indeed have to change. Same with a lot of skeptical House Republicans who voted for their different version of the bill. 

Thanks for spending your lunch hour with me. Great questions, as always. Stay with The Fix tonight for Alabama coverage!

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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.
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