Eugene Robinson Live (April 17)

Eugene Robinson
Apr 17, 2018

Read Eugene's latest: There’s only one way to restrain this aberrant administration

Hi, everybody, and welcome. Where on earth to begin? It's hard to resist Sean Hannity's status as Client Number 3. But then there's also Comey's world tour, Trump's tweets, the Pulitzers for the Post and the Times and Kendrick Lamar... And whatever else you want to talk about. Let's get started.

What is difference between conservatives and reactionaries?

Conservatives do believe in orderly progress. Reactionaries want to go back to the past.

Sean Hannity wouldn't have fought so hard to hide his relationship with Cohen if he were really not a client, and had only asked him some casual questions about real estate law. So what is it? Everyone already knows that he coordinates his shilling with Trump, so that can't be it. He wouldn't care if it made liberals upset with him; they already are. So it must be something that would either get him fired, or lose him a lot of sponsors and/or viewers. Seems to me the most likely are that there is evidence of collusion with the Russians, or he paid for an abortion. What are your thoughts, and do you think we will ever find out?

I don't know of any evidence to support your speculation. That said, it's clear that somebody is lying. Either he's not really a client and just hung out with Cohen to smoke cigars and talk real estate -- in which case Cohen seriously lied to a judge who doesn't take kindly to mendacity. Or Hannity is lying and he really is a client. It will be interesting to find out which is true.

It has occurred to me that the list of places the Feds raided (office, home, hotel, lock box) last week did not include Cohen's storage unit in Jersey. 'Course I don't know if he has a storage unit in Jersey, but might that be the place where the most incriminating docs are kept -- as well as old files that Cohen got from Trump's lawyer before Cohen took over in 2006/2007? This conspiracy theorist in Raleigh would love to hear (read) your thoughts, Gene!

My uninformed guess is that since this is the Information Age, most of Cohen's documents are electronic. Storage units in Jersey probably don't have the business they once had.

We are informed. We march with everyone. We work the phone banks. We vote. What more can we do? How does one fight against the endless lying?

Keep doing what you're doing. Nobody can stop Trump from lying, but a responsible Congress can hold him accountable. It's all about November.

If Trump is indicted before he is impeached will that make his pardoning powers null and void

Assuming a sitting president can be indicted -- most legal scholars seem to say yes, but not all -- I don't see how it would affect his pardoning power. I've heard people say he probably can't pardon himself, but obviously that's a question the Supreme Court has never had to answer.

Are Roy Cohn and Michael Cohn related?

It's Michael COHEN, of course, but maybe Trump just likes the sound of the similar name.

If Congress refuses to act with integrity (when it comes to dealing with Trump), doesn't that reveal a fundamental weakness in this government (which is what Putin is likely attempting to exploit)?

Yes, but it's a weakness we can rectify. In November.

I notice that Trump often wears khaki pants and a white polo shirt while golfing. All I can think of is the Alt-right "uniform" (e.g., at Charlottesville). Do you think Trump's sending a sartorial dog-whistle?

Nope. I play golf (occasionally and badly) and see a lot of golfers in that uniform.

Hi Gene -- thanks for your recent column and for taking questions today. I agree with you -- as increasingly bizarre as the latest Trump shenanigans get, it's not going to make any difference if things don't change in November. I get worried when I see that the Dem advantage is narrowing and once again another mid-term will come and go and the day after we'll have much rending of garments when simply showing up could have changed everything. Not sure how to get that message across, though...Dems never seem to learn that lesson.

They had better learn the lesson this time. All you can do is keep driving it home. And work to get voters registered and out to the polls. This is serious.

How does Nicki Haley not resign after being so publicly embarassed by Trump?

Visibility. It's making her a national figure. I believe she has higher ambitions.

Clearly, Stormy Daniels can't afford his fee, and I don't expect he's ultimately doing it for free. The publicity is potentially worth millions in future fees from someone else, I guess, but he's got to eat in the mean time. I know nothing about him, is he already ridiculously rich?

I don't know that much about him either, but I think he can afford to do this as an investment for the future.

Is there any way for the Republican extremism to get brakes put on other than electoral defeat? Even then, the base may not allow it.

I really don't see any other way. But a wave election does have a way of concentrating the mind. Question, other than the Golden Showers stuff, hasn't most of the Dossier been confirmed, from Russian Meddling, to Trump being prone to blackmail to Cohen? The dossier says that after Paul Manafort was fired, Cohen traveled to a European Union country (later reports claim it was the Czech Republic) in late August or early September to meet with Russian officials, and that the meeting took place under the cover of a Russian NGO, Rossotrudnichestvo.

I think it's more accurate to say that very little of the dossier has been disproved, and that there is evidence to support much of it. Personally, I have questions about the Cohen trip to Prague. McClatchy is a first-rate news organization, and I have no reason  to believe its report that Mueller "has evidence" that Cohen indeed made the trip. But Cohen has flatly denied ever being there in his life, and it's hard for me to believe he thinks he could get away with that kind of bald-faced lie about something that surely can be ascertained. 

In your opinion, why did this pardon happen?

It looks to me like a demonstration of the president's pardon power. With a targeted audience.

McClatchy ran a story that claims Robert Mueller has evidence that puts Michael Cohen in Prague in the summer of 2016, despite Cohen's initial denial. Have you heard any further developments or corroboration of this story, and do you think it would have anything to do with Mueller's signing off on this raid?

Again, I just find it hard to believe Cohen would be stupid enough to lie about that. The truth will be established one way or the other.

If the brackets had Mueller and Russian meddling vs. Stormy/Cohen and the NY “raid” opposite each other, Which would “win” as the most problematic for Trump’s political and legal survival?

That's a very good question. If Mueller turns over enough rocks in the Trump-Cohen business history, he's bound to find something. Probably a lot. But I don't know whether it will be just embarrassing or flat-out impeachable.

Most of my friends and family on the far right, are so poorly informed about current events and recent history, its hard to actually have a human conversation! It seems like they rationalize their support for Trump because Obama was such a reactionary! I also see this with my friends and family on the far left, who were feeling the bern. Here in reality Obama was a pragmatic moderate American with impeccable family values. Can you imagine if he had five kids by three wives, or cheated on a porn star, or called for Trump to be locked up, or if his lawer was under federal criminal investigation, or if he was afraid to hold a press conference?

The right very effective demonized Obama and turned a pragmatic moderate into Lenin. Remember how he modeled Obamacare on Romneycare? Remember how he wouldn't even allow a public option? The GOP demonization campaign was disgraceful -- and for the Republican base, it worked.

Hi Gene, Re: your column this morning, I'd add one add'l form of activism. While each of us can vote in only one congressional district and one state (unless you're a DC resident, unfortunately), small-dollar donations are accepted by anti-Trump candidates from coast to coast. Some of the most notable Dem victories since 2016 (Lamb, Jones, et al) are due in no small part to outside donations. For anyone who has the means, "adopt" a candidate(s) of your choice, and vote with your dollars. The Kochs & the Mercers have invested untold millions already. I encourage everyone on the *right* side of history, and who is financially able, to get involved this way too.

Thank you for pointing this out. Everyone can play a part.

I just read a story that cited a book called Expecting Armageddon, which chronicles religious groups following unfulfilled prophecies. Essentially, these groups rationalized the contradictions (like the failure of an apocalypse to materialize) and after a time, made minor adjustments to their beliefs and remained steadfast in their devotion to the cause. I've come to the conclusion, that no matter what is uncovered by Mueller or any other investigation of Trump, even it found incontrovertible evidence that he is felon (say money laundering though his business for Russian Oligarchs) and actively colluded with the Russians during the election, that his supporters would find a way to rationalize it and probably dig in even more zealously to defend and support him. At this point in time, shouldn't we be calling Trump supporters a cult?

Not all Trump supporters are the same. Some will be angry to learn that he's not really on their side. He's for Trump, period.

For a non-Trump question: Why were the people arrested at Starbucks held for over eight hours?

That was such a PR disaster for Starbucks! A company that spent so much time and money positioning its outlets as places to hang out -- and then, when two black men do hang out, the Starbucks manager has them arrested for trespassing. I hear they are going to get face-to-face apologies from the CEO.

Who can Dems run for 2020?

I'm not worried about that right now. I'm worried about 2018. If November goes well, figuring out 2020 will be much easier.

any ideas on why Hannity was so set on no one knowing he was the 3rd client? And even though he had to know it might come out, he seemed utterly unprepared for it yesterday. He's acting awfully guilty for a guy looking for a little advice on real estate.

I really don't have a clue, but you're right. One reason might be that he realizes how wildly inappropriate it is for a host on an alleged "news" channel to harangue viewers about how unfair the raid on Michael Cohen was WHILE AT THE SAME TIME EMPLOYING COHEN AS HIS ATTORNEY. Then again, maybe such ethical concerns never occur to him. 

I tend to vacillate with Mr. Comey. I found him to be a credible FBI Director and he appeared to be a patriot and most likely he still is and yet I wasn't happy with the Hillary thing. I have not read his book, but I am wondering why a man in his upstanding position would discuss Trump's hands, hair etc. Not that I care what he says about him. Do you have any thoughts on why he would bother to write such trivia? While I've never questioned Hillary's ability to perform the duties of the Presidency, I am convinced that any other Dem would have beaten Trump. Do you agree?

I think Comey is coming off as more of a tool than he really is. I absolutely believe he is a patriot and his disgust and alarm at the Trump administration are genuine. That said, there's obviously some degree of self-absorption in his makeup, along with great concern about how history sees him. And a good editor would have cut the hands-and-hair stuff out of the manuscript.

I’m just an average working guy. After reading and watching the news most mornings I feel as though I’ve experienced every human emotion possible. I’m wondering though, as a journalist, do you awake each day totally motivated and excited about getting to work? Or, do you have days where you think “oh lord, give me strength - I just don’t know where to start”?

I have both kinds of days. For most journalists -- certainly for me -- no matter what you feel like at a given moment, when a big story comes along there's an adrenaline rush. A little vacation would be nice, though.

I'm not sure I'd put too much stock in the polls showing the Dem advantage slipping. I expect that Dem enthusiasm to get out and vote isn't likely to wane significantly and they've still got the numerical advantages in plenty of places. Do these polls factor that in? I don't believe this electorate will look like the 2014 electorate.

You make a good point in that it's always advisable to find out what assumptions the pollsters are making in terms of turnout. I agree that Dem enthusiasm is very high and should stay that way. But nobody should take anything for granted.


On that note, our time is up for today, folks. Thanks for participating, and I'll see you next week!

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Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
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