Ask Amber from The Fix

Jun 18, 2019

Happy Tuesday. I write about politics for The Fix blog, and I'm chatting live here every Tuesday at noon Eastern about the day's biggest political news. What are you curious about?

Happy Tuesday! 

We are in the middle of a Supreme Court decision blitz (2020 Census anyone?)

Trump wants to start mass deportations despite serious political and logistical challenges.

And he's launching his campaign tonight in Orlando.

What are you curious about?

Has there been any polling to indicate that the recent anti-abortion laws around the country have made pro-choice voters care more about the judiciary? It seems like pro-life voters are always motivated by it but pro-choice voters just don't get as excited about it.

Good question. The laws in Alabama and Georgia and other states essentially banning abortion have moved public opinion slightly in favor of legalized abortion. But I haven't seen any surveys measuring enthusiasm on either side. 

It feels like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren want the brand name of "Medicare of All" without the actual content of the specific bill. They keep trying to square the idea that private medical insurance won't be affected by this bill, but anybody can see the "Medicare for All" does just that. Yes, there is still private health insurance in places with socialize medicine, but it's for stuff like traveler's insurance. I'm wondering if that position is tenable for the whole primary?

I agree that it feels like everyone but Bernie Sanders wants to have it both ways on Medicare-for-all. Sanders's bill -- of which Harris, Warren, Booker and Gilibrand have co-sponsored -- would get rid of private insurance. It could still exist, but it's not the main avenue for insurance in the country. 

As to whether that's tenable -- we'll see how they react to questions about this in next week's (!) debates. This is a defining issue of the 2020 primary, and I am sure it's going to come up again and again.

I read in the Post about GOP disarray in the lead-up to another budget crisis. Could that disarray lead to a change in leadership at the top, say the Senate leader, for instance?

Yeah, could we have another shutdown (or problems with the debt ceiling?) this fall? 

But I don't think this puts Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's leadership in jeopardy. I get no sense within the Senate Republican ranks that they are unhappy with him, not the way House Republicans grumble about their leaders.

In 2016, Trump thread the needle in 3 states to win the election. With none of those state a guarantee, what do you think the Trump campaign's plan is to expand the states he can win? Outside of possibly NH, I am not seeing any states that Trump lost in 2016, that he can win in 2020; but I can see a number WI, MI, PA, NC, FL, AZ that he won that could easily flip the other way.

I agree with your assessment. His own internal polling -- obtained by ABC -- showed him trailing Joe Biden by double digits in states like Pennsylvania (Biden 55-Trump 39), Wisconsin (51-41) and Biden ahead by 7 points in Florida. Trump leads in Texas by two points, according to ABC.

I will say he seems focused -- no surprise -- on Florida. He's launching his campaign there tonight.

Hi Amber -- is it dead? Or on life support? Speaker Pelosi seems to be holding firm, but for how long? And have the Dems given up on bringing Mueller to the hill? Thanks for taking questions today.


Impeachment! It's not dead, nor is it on life support, but it's not --- what's another medical metaphor I can use here -- it's not thriving. We count 67 House Democrats who support impeachment, but they're almost all from super liberal districts. (Think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York or Maxine Waters in California.) Places where they'd probably be in trouble if they didn't call for impeachment of Trump! 

I think two things need to happen to change Pelosi's mind and allow impeachment: 
1) More vulnerable Democrats need to start supporting it. (Right now only two do.)
2) Public opinion needs to swing clearly in favor of impeachment. (Right now slightly more than half the country doesn't support it, according to polls.)

Is the NY law in effect yet? Has anyone from Congress requested copies of Trump's NY state tax docs yet? Would they be able request the docs secretly or would that kind of request be public? Thanks as always for chatting with us and taking questions.

Thanks for asking questions!

I don't see any news that the governor has signed it yet (not that I expect any drama there), nor when it would go into effect.

I'm not sure how the request process would work, but it's a safe bet that even if it were secret, we'd get wind of it. The chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, Richard Neal, likes to do things by the book, and/but he's also not shy about letting us know what he's doing with regard to Trump's taxes.

Amber, if trump loses reelection and it looks like he might be prosecuted, will many voices on the right say "*Now* is the time to return to American norms and not prosecute political opponents"?

I think this was less of a question and more of a point you're making.

But, to shake up your original premise that he'll face prosecution if he loses an election, The Fix's Aaron Blake recently threw cold water on that. It would be a huge lift, politically and legally, to do it -- and for what? He'd already be out of office. Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to impeach him while he's IN office.

Are there any third-party presidential candidates for 2020 yet? Have any Jill Stein/Ralph Nader types thrown their hats in the ring yet? Or any 3rd party candidates on the right?

None yet. But keep an eye on Justin Amash. He's the libertarian-leaning congressman who is the only Republican open to impeachment

I don't see why a Democrat cannot simply step up and differentiate himself/herself by restating it as "Healthcare for All." And then explaining that there is a spectrum of models ranging from all-government to various flavors of public-private partnerships. I think this would draw support from both ends of the spectrum.

Well wouldn't that Democrat have to support a particular position, instead of just say: Hey, elect me and I might do government-run health care, or I might do something in the middle? 

I think the problem facing Democrats is that if they support any expansion of government health care, Trump is going to label them as socialists. And polls show that more Americans would rather vote for a Muslim or atheist than a socialist. 

over 20 years ago. Long since naturalized and a US citizen, but she still has family there. She was basically begging me to tell her that there wouldn't be a US war against Iran soon. I told her that interference with shipping with no other escalation could go on for a long time and that Trump seems reluctant to have his own long term war in the Middle East and that surely people have told him that Iran would be infinitely harder to deal with than Iraq. But I couldn't tell her it wouldn't happen. Was that about right?

People smarter than me aren't predicting whether we're going to war, so I'm certainly not going to. But, it does seem like an escalation for the US to send 1,000 troops nearby.

especially because, for all the chants of "lock her up" the Justice department isn't prosecuting Hillary that we know of. Why is it a hard lift legally? If the statutes of limitations haven't run, it just enforcing the law. Prosecutors regularly go after people who are going to attract attention to up the deterrence level of the time they spend. And some rules only apply to high level officials, so unless you prosecute the highest official there is who violates things like the emoluments clause, what is the point?

Because they have better stuff to do. As Blake put it: "If you’re Pelosi in 2021 and you have a new Democratic president, almost definitely a Democratic House and potentially a better situation in the Senate, are you really going to want to bother with holding a former president accountable? It’s not really up to her, but it’s not difficult to see the likes or her and other top Democrats urging that we all turn the page"

any chance he puts Kellyanne at the podium for Sarah? no hatch act there.

I'd never rule out Kellyanne Conway sticking around in any position. I think Trump considers her his spokeswoman on cable news.

But my understanding of the Hatch Act is it does apply to the White House press secretary. She's getting paid by public dollars, too! 

It's won't happen but I wish the NC voters would get bent out of shape enough to vote the fraud McConnell out of office.


But your point is an interesting one. Could Mitch McConnell lose reelection? I am certainly not saying he will, but it's at least worth a question being asked. 

I read that they were waiting for a SCOTUS ruling on the separate sovereigns doctrine and if the feds and state prosecutors can prosecute someone for the same crime. SCOTUS ruled yesterday that they can. So I would assume the Governor will sign the NYS bill pretty soon.

I think that Supreme Court ruling had more to do with a New York bill about presidential pardons -- making sure state charges can still happen if someone gets a presidential pardon. Which is still interesting! Especially given Paul Manafort could be tried in New York for similar federal crimes he's going to jail now for. 

That is the purview of the Justice Department and that State Attorneys General. You can do some investigating and publicizing of what the former president did as background information in the hearings you have as you pass legislation to formally make illegal some of the stuff he did that wasn't quite illegal. But Congress isn't the point. The point is whether the new President hires an AG who goes there or not. Or, assuming there is a pardon (self probably), just turning over all sorts of records to NY/NJ/whatever for their use in prosecuting state laws.

Totally agree she doesn't have say over whether the Justice Department prosecutes a former president -- as Blake pointed out in his piece. But she can marshal up significant political capital to sway the Justice Department one way or another. We've already seen how the Justice Department can be affected by politicians. 

Is McConnell like Harry Reid....unlikable but electable?

I think there are certainly similarities there. Powerful, longterm senators with sky-high name recognition in their states. And with that recognition and seasoned service comes plenty of reasons for people to gripe about them. But in the end, as I saw covering Harry Reid's last reelection, voters stayed with the lawmaker they knew. Plus, being that powerful has its perks in terms of fundraising and hiring the best campaign staff money can buy. 

Poster said: Outside of possibly NH, I am not seeing any states that Trump lost in 2016, that he can win in 2020. From NH here, this will not happen. He will not win NH. We are fed up with this lying conman. Yes, there are many Trump nuts here, but us other nuts overwhelm them.

New Hampshire voters did recently kick out a sitting Republican US senator (Kelly Ayotte). But you also elected a Republican for governor. of the best programs to decrease immigration was when Obama started sending funds to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to assist their internal security against the drug gangs. Trump cut that off and the number of migrants coming north exploded. Do you think Steve Miller and Trump are not restoring those funds on purpose? Do they want the flow of refugees to keep coming so they can scare the voters in the Midwest?

I think that's a bit too Machiavellian for Trump. I think he and his hardline immigration advisers genuinely think migrants coming from Central American countries are Latin America's problems, not the United States.

I also get the sense that Trump is upset about the high number of migrants at the border -- breaking decade-old records. It seems to me he'd prefer if no one was coming in illegally, or asking for asylum, so he could campaign on having stopped illegal immigration. 

Amber, One of trump's instincts is to shy away from foreign military conflict, but that might get overridden by his survival instinct, if he believes that going to war would help his 2020 chances.

He's been so unpredictable on foreign policy (threatening to basically blow up North Korea, then meeting with the North Korean leader.....threatening Mexicna tariffs then pulling back at the last minute...) I have no idea what to make of any political motivations behind this escalation with Iran, if there are any.

He could threaten to run again in 2024, keeping the GOP on his leash.

Not a bad idea, if you're Trump ...

Would he take voters from Trump or the Dem? Or both?

Probably Trump. Amash is one of the most conservative members of Congress. He co-founded the House Freedom Caucus! 

Unless our political parties are realigning to be less "liberal/conservative" and more "pro-Trump/anti-Trump." Which I'm not ruling out!

The polls from Trump's Base doesn't change, but it seems that more and more of the 0ther 57% in this nation want at least investigations on impeachment. Can Nancy Pelosi hold back the tide?

I haven't seen that 57% number for impeachment. 

I think Pelosi can hold back the tide just fine. As I mentioned earlier, most of the pro-impeachment supporters in Congress come from super liberal districts where it'd probably be political malfeasance NOT to call for him to go after the Mueller report.

It feels like there's a case for any of the candidates to breakout? Just read on making the case for Booker and another one for O'Rourke.

I've heard multiple theories on this. That even though Biden leads the field by double digits in many polls, it's early and he hasn't had a chance to gaffe yet and that the field is wide open.

Another theory is that the polls, state and national, have all been remarkably consistent: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg...this the top tier and it would take a BIG shake up (or breakout) to change it.

I'm not sure which one I ascribe to yet. 

Thanks for a great chat, as always!

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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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