Eugene Robinson Live (May 22)

Eugene Robinson
May 22, 2018

Read Eugene's latest: The constitutional crisis is here.

Hello, everybody, and welcome. As usual, there's lots to chew over. I'm still worked up over President Trump's abuse of power in ordering the Justice Department to conduct an investigation to further the president's political aim -- to tarnish an ongoing special counsel investigation of the president himself. This is what we expect from the Putins, Erdogans and Dutertes of the world, not from the president of the United States. Yet Congress says not a word. This is how uncrossable lines are crossed. In other news, South Korean President Moon is in town to rescue Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but it may be a bit late. Trump may be realizing the extent to which he has already been played by Kim. Imagine them in a room together...  Let's get started.

Am I right to be very very concerned that Republicans are going along with trump? I hope people are paying attention - it is frightening.

To me, this is a major outrage -- a violation of important norms that prevent presidents from abusing police power. If Justice and the FBI have to take this kind of direction from the White House and Capitol Hill, then yes, we've become a banana republic. My fear is that people will see this as just another incremental step on the road to ruin. I see it as a giant leap.

How long before the "highly classified" information is leaked either via Twitter or by Nunes & Co.

Seconds after Nunes and Co. get it. Minutes at best.

Well said - and damn scary. I fear for our country. Sometimes it's hard to predict, but this will get worse. Where do you think it all will go next? I'm not talking about Mueller's investigation, but matters with the D o J...

I think I understand Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein's thinking. He found a way to mollify Trump by shunting the ridiculous "spy" matter off to the inspector general. Presumably he will be able to impose some limit on the secret information given to Nunes, which is the same as giving it to Trump, who is the subject of the investigation in which the information surfaced... But I think Rosenstein is already near the bottom of the slippery slope. The president has basically demanded to see some of what Mueller has got on him. There's no way to defend the independence of the Justice Department and the rule of law other than to say no -- and, if necessary, get fired.

I know you don't like being asked to make predictions, but I'm wondering about Trump's latest assault on the rule of law. His weekend tantrum in which he used grown-up language ("I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow...") really troubled me. This is precisely the kind of thing dictators do: politicize the legal process and its institutions. Do you see Justice's limited response -- expanding the current mandate of the IG's ongoing investigation -- quieting Trump down, or is he likely to try to push things further until a real crisis does erupt? And in your heart or hearts, do you think members of the GOP will finally speak up in defense of the country? I'm not optimistic on either front. I remind myself that we lived through Nixon doing things like this (I was a voter back then too); we'll live through Trump too. But I'm not convincing myself. This GOP ain't like that one at all.

As I wrote in my column today, I believe the crisis is here. Now. And the GOP leadership in Congress is saying nothing, doing nothing. Trump will see what he can get away with, and then push for more. The founders saw this coming and gave Congress the power to constrain an out-of-control president. Please vote in November, everybody.

Good day Mr. Robinson, As usual, your latest column is a bulls-eye as it pertains to the current President, the rape of the Constitution regarding separation of powers, and Trump's personal lapdogs (Republicans in Congress). I feel certain that no one on the Republican side of the House and Senate will fill the leadership void to contest or check this abomination of a Presidency. Ryan is an utter embarrassment and is McConnell still serving because he's been invisible. I'm not sure that mid-term elections can come soon enough and even then it's not certain the elections will favor the Democrats. I recently read Madam Secretary Albright's book on fascism and it is a frightening read. The book portends that our country is sliding into a possible reign of fascism with Trump and his followers (including the Republican Congress) possessing all the attributes that former and current autocrats/dictators have employed to take over countries and eliminating liberties and institutions that we take for granted in the U.S. Finally, to my question. If you've read the Secretary's book I'm interested in whether you share her fears. Secretary Albright certainly has the experience of knowing and negotiating with some of the vilest autocrats of the world.

Our democracy is resilient but not unbreakable. Trump is doing serious damage. It will have to be rebuilt.

A candidate for the highest political office in the country has a long history of criminal behavior, including money laundering, bank fraud, tax fraud, influence peddling, payoffs and ties to mafia figures, holds property in a number of foreign countries, several of whom are hostile to the US, is indebted to foreign banks, some of which have ties to hostile governments, is well know to issue false statements and lies on official documents, surrounds himself with shady characters, many of which have ties and are on/have been on the payroll of foreign governments and have themselves lied and issued false and misleading statements to our government, refuses to release information on his financial ties to foreign governments, is in close contact through his family and associates with foreign and hostile governments, has direct knowledge of a foreign government's interference in our election process and encourages more of the same, has a whole network of connections with foreign criminal figures and is a major landlord to foreign companies in this country, is taking large payments from foreign figures to purchase property in this country, sometimes at many times their market value, encourages racial hatred among his followers and urges them to violence, ridicules elected officials and publicly challenges their honesty and authority and credentials, tries to establish back door channels to foreign and hostile governments, actively undermines the authority of a sitting President and sends others to cut backroom deals, has others soliciting payoffs in his name, challenges the truthfulness of this country's judicial system, free press and intelligence agencies and he wonders WHY they are investigating his campaign? I would have been SHOCKED if they had NOT. #ReleaseTheTaxReturns

Me too.

I have found your refusal to give up on America a source of solace in these troubled times. I admire your admonition to people to registert and vote. At the same time, I would argue that registering and voting is the least that we can do. Democracy does not happen only on voting day. If politicians received hundreds of letters (not emails, letters) every day calling for common-sense firearm controls, wouldn't that begin to cancel out he money they get from the NRA and similar groups? Or am I taking this optimism thing too far?

Definitely keep calling your elected representatives, and keep writing, and show up at their town halls (if they are brave enough to hold them), because all of that does make a difference. But not enough of a difference to convince most Republicans do vote for something opposed by the NRA. I won't give up on America but I've given up on this Congress.

Isn't Trump's request for an investigation itself a "obstruction of justice"? If not what does the President need to do to be seen as obstructing justice?

Fire the FBI director? Oh wait...

Why is it that you and your cohorts at the Post consistently lie and bend the truth? Your rag is only hurting the USA; at one time a great country with really good media. Not now! There is absolutely NO constitutional crisis except the one you want to try and create with your miserable journalistic dribble. Shame on you and the entire lame Post.

Sorry you didn't like the column, Mr. President.

In the Steele Dossier when Carter Page in July 2016 met with internal affairs chief Divyekin, Page was told that the Russians had a Kompromat file on Hillary Clinton. The Russians told Page that they also had such a file on Trump, but they were "foresworn" not to use it because of Trump & Associates eight plus years of cooperation with Russian Intelligence. Trump supplied personal and financial information about Russian oligarchs in the US. Recent reporting shows that Trump started buying up golf courses with cash in 2008. The dates line up. Do you think there's a connection?

I have no idea whether there is a connection. But I'll bet the Mueller team has tried to find out, and probably knows the answer.+

The Senate Intelligence Committee findings took a pretty opposing stance to their House brethren's kangaroo court. Is this just a blip or is there any chance that at least some of the GOP Senators remember their oaths of office?

It was obvious from the beginning that Senate Intel was actually trying to conduct an investigation and House Intel was not. I hope I'm not speaking too soon.

Gene, this morning I caught a video interview of Rudy Giuliani having a meltdown because his own words were used to point out his flip-flopping on whether a sitting president could be indicted. (To wit, when it was Bill Clinton, he could. But when it’s Donald Trump, he cannot.) I believe Giuliani’s exact words when shown the 1998 Charlie Rose interview was, “That was extremely unfair!” And it struck me, right then and there, just how much our political discourse has become infantilized, even to the point where Trump’s political supporters are crying, “NO FAIR!!!” when held accountable. Seriously, we’re all adults here. We’re better than this. I’d expect that kind of response from Trump, but not from seasoned politicians like Rudy Giuliani. We need to start acting like adults, because responses like Giuliani’s only makes us all look worse.

It is really an odd legal strategy to have Rudy out there talking nonstop, contradicting himself from hour to hour, let alone from year to year, and apparently making up "alternative facts" as he goes along. Maybe it's all fodder for the base. I doubt it's having much impact on Mueller.

Can the DOJ or the FBI at this juncture be trusted to investigate themselves? Isn't Rosenstein really doing the correct thing in calling for the Inspector General to look into this matter? Regardless of where the political lines are, if the FBI or CIA or DOJ WAS involved in spying on either campaign, don't the people of USA have a right to know who ordered it, when it began, and why?

I hope we all agree that if the FBI gets evidence of a hostile foreign power trying to illegally influence a U.S. election, the FBI should investigate. If in the course of that investigation it learns that Russian operatives are making contact with advisers or aides involved in one of the major-party campaigns, what should the FBI do? Shrug and walk away? Or try to find out who these people are and what they're up to? I believe that's what the inspector general will find.

Let me say that I didn't vote for Trump and never would have. BUT, I find it piquant that people are all the sudden surprised that politicians are corrupt? You're delusional if you think that Trump is the only one with anything to hide and that the DOJ or FBI are angels. I for one welcome these investigations by Trump and I can't fathom why anyone would oppose any kind of oversight for these other branches. Why this way and not that way? How do you defend this increasing trend of unilateral journalism and why are you so opposed to making sure anyone other Trump is on the straight and narrow?

I want everybody to be on the straight and narrow. What I don't want is for presidents to order up investigations for purely political reasons. This narrative that Justice or the FBI "spied" on the Trump campaign is totally ridiculous. Why? To hurt his chances of winning somehow? Then why wouldn't they leak potentially damaging information about Russian contacts BEFORE the election, when it could actually have impact? This is all a fantasy being spun by President Trump to discredit the special counsel investigation that appears to be closing in on him.

You claim that the President is out of control because in the past year plus, the Mueller investigation has been completely unable to find any Russian collusion yet you do not seem to have any opinion on the legalities of a sitting administration spying on a presidential candidate. Do you honestly believe that they should all get a free pass?

A sitting administration did not spy on a presidential candidate. A sitting administration spied on Russian operatives, who led the FBI to figures involved in a presidential campaign. That same sitting administration, respecting the independence of Justice and the FBI, allowed a very public and damaging investigation of Hillary Clinton to proceed without interference.

Today the EPA banned CNN and the AP from covering a PUBLIC national summit on harmful water contaminants, even going so far as to shove a (female) reporter out the building. Trump must be so proud...

Incredible. Outrageous and unacceptable. Pruitt is acting like a real thug. 

Hi Gene, What are your thoughts on the steady stream of reporting - diner visits, etc., - into Trump's core voting regions? I'd add Salena Zito's writing to this as well. On the one hand, it is absolutely important to hear views of voters from all walks of life. On the other hand, the people she/they profile are often so woefully uninformed and/or hypocritical (i.e. the "keep your gov't hands off my Medicare" crowd). Nearly a year and a half into Trump's presidency, how much empathy - if any - should we attribute to the victims of alleged "economic anxiety"?

I think a lot of this reporting reads more like anthropology than journalism to me. And worthwhile anthropology takes more than a week of eating in diners and sleeping in motels.

All I see on here are accepted submissions that mirror this guys perspective or get puns about them potentially being Trump? Sounds exactly like something trump would do, doesn't it? I see comments about not believing in republicans to vote against NRA, etc. but both parties are the same, birth certificate this, tax returns that, all the same schemes and corruption and the same biased journalism from this side and that side. We'll see where this thing with trump goes (didn't vote for him), but you're fooling yourself if you don't think you're part of the problem. Do some real journalism with facts and information instead of unilateral opinion pieces that my dog could write and perhaps the American public wouldn't be so susceptible to foreign misinformation campaigns? Just a thought.

I think maybe you should stop reading that party of the website labeled "Opinion." Because that's what we do there.

Do you think there's a chance Trump could actually completely undermine and shutdown not just Mueller, but all Justice Dept. investigations into his shenanigans? I'm in panic mode here...

He could try. One thing he can't do is shut down Congress, which can investigate and if necessary impeach. Bur first we need a Congress willing to do its job.


My job here is done for the day, folks. Thanks for a lively hour, and I'll see you again 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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