Eugene Robinson Live (May 21)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our chat. Far too much going on today -- fighting on multiple fronts in the Trump administration's outrageous attempt to stonewall Congress; a Hill briefing, finally, on Iran; the president clearly freaked out at the prospect of running against Joe Biden; storms and flooding in Oklahoma; peace at last in Westeros. My column today was about Rep. Justin Amash, the first Republican in Congress to read the Mueller report cover-to-cover and acknowledge that President Trump committed impeachable offenses. I understand the political reasons why Speaker Pelosi and many other Democrats don't want to start an impeachment process, but ultimately they may have no choice. Let's get started.

Why aren't more republicans standing up to Trump and calling him out on his constant lying? When did the party become more important than the country?

When President Trump captured the Republican base and members of Congress realized that crossing him meant losing their jobs. It's his party now, not theirs.

Hi Gene -- thanks for taking questions today and for your incisive column on Amash. While my guess is that there may be many other Republicans who privately feel the same way, so far there's been no stampede to join him in his call for impeachment for reasons that we all know well (fear of Trump and bigger fear of primary challenges). Here's my question -- what is it going to take to get the Democrats to quit dithering and get on with it? If they are waiting for more members from the other side of the aisle to join them, they are going to be waiting a long time...this may be as good as it's going to get.

Speaker Pelosi obviously does not want to start an impeachment process, and she's in charge. But if the courts don't put a quick end to the Trump administration's stonewalling, she may ultimately have no choice but to move forward.

Usually there's a dozen Democrats who stand against anything "popular" with most of the Democratic Party. Only mention it to not lose our collective minds over one, JUST ONE, tweeting something without any follow-up. Also what follow-up is Rep. Amash doing?

That's why what Rep. Amash said was news -- and why his fellow Republicans are so freaked out by it. If there are cracks in the wall of total GOP solidarity, a little truth might squeeze through. Amash doesn't really have the power to do anything except continue to speak his mind -- and vote for impeachment if given the chance.

I don't understand William Barr. What does he think he is getting out of this? Why did he come out of retirement to enable this dotard, and isn't he concerned about the precedent this could set for Democratic presidents? What is in it for him? Is it really just the "principle" that Republican presidents can do no wrong? If so, he has a really twisted mind. But what is it?

Beats me. I have no idea why he decided to ruin his reputation in this manner. No clue.

I still believe Beto is my preferred candidate, but Is that alright since goes against all (well not all) I'm see and hearing from your professional colleagues?

There's no reason not to stick with Beto at this point, if he's your guy. They haven't even had the first debate yet. But he does need to start getting some traction if he's going to be a real contender.

I see absolutely no downside for Democrats to be on Fox News, none. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Deciding to not be on FN seems petty and more of a stunt to their base and that accomplishes nothing. So big deal, your base loves it. But that doesn't sway one conservative voter who might have heard what you had to say. I really hope the DNC (and candidates) changes its position.

Maybe it depends on your theory of the election. If you look at President Trump's low approval ratings and think the way he will be beaten is by turning out the Democratic base, you might say no to Fox, as Elizabeth Warren did. If you think the way for a Democrat to win is to attract right-leaning independents and disaffected Republicans, then you might say yes. Warren made a splash by turning Fox down. Buttigieg made a bigger splash by doing the town hall and getting a standing ovation.

Thank you for taking our questions, Gene. Each time I tune in for these Tuesday chats, I think it can't get any worse. Alas, it does. Every day seems to bring upon us a new low. I would like your opinion on whether impeachment proceedings should start now. I understand Nancy Pelosi's fear that it will boost support of Trump by his base, but at what point do we say enough is enough? Wouldn't starting impeachment now bring the Democrats (and the only sane Republican who agrees) more information and prove the point that our elected leaders can't stomp on our checks and balances when it suits them?

I'm wrestling with this question, as you can probably tell. I do think that for lots of reasons, procedural as well as political, Democrats should gather as much information as possible before launching an impeachment process. That said, if the administration makes it impossible to get that information, I think the Democrats will ultimately have no choice. There's a real split in the caucus and not enough consensus yet to move forward.

Should Democratic candidates be doing Fox News town halls when they seem to be followed up with attacks/rebuttals/snide comments about the candidates? Do they really think the hard core Fox viewer is going to be moved by a short Q&A session when the rest of the programming is so slanted?

Those would be arguments against going on Fox. But it's hard to ignore how rattled Trump seems to be by the reception given Buttigieg by Fox anchors and the enthusiastic audience.

I get why he would pardon guys who did shady business deals or committed fraud. These guys are his tribe. But soldiers who committed atrocities against civilians and prisoners? For someone who never served in the armed forces it seems odd that he would bother with these people who aren't even being defended by their fellow servicemen?

The idea of pardoning convicted war criminals is a slap in the face to the millions of Americans who have served honorably in the military. It also endangers the lives and well-being of our troops. It's morally appalling on every level.

I clearly recall Rep. Larry Hogan Sr. (R-Md.) taking a courageous and principled lonely stance as the first Republican on the Nixon impeachment panel to favor impeachment. Eventually enough of his fellow party members came to agree with him that Nixon could see the handwriting on the wall, and resign. (Sadly, for his troubles, Hogan didn't win reelection in 1974).

Obviously there's no parade of Republicans following Amash to the right side of history. But somebody has to go first, and I applaud him for doing so.

"When President Trump captured the Republican base and members of Congress realized that crossing him meant losing their jobs. "

Amash has an announced primary challenger. And if Trump decides to target him, he might well lose his job. Or his constituents may like his well-established tendency to vote according to his principles, not his political standing.

What's the deal with... How can Trump... Why... Ugh. Where to even start. Nothing makes sense any more. Mnuchin blows off requests for taxes and...nothing. People refuse to testify and...nothing. Trump laughs at subpoenas and...nothing. Are we living under a monarchy? When the WH ignores the law and the DOJ backs them up, what recourse do we have?

We have federal courts -- and yesterday one practically laughed at the idea that Trump's accountants can ignore a subpoena from Congress. People who do so can be held in contempt and thrown in jail.

I've noticed a number of questions / "concern" about Mayor Petes popularity with black voters. Is this actually a thing or just a line of attack on him since he otherwise seems clean enough?

That's jsut something Buttigieg needs to work on. He's new. Most people outside of South Bend, Indiana, are just meeting him. Let's see how he does with this vital constituency.

I think it's going to be difficult for anyone to get too much traction until the debates perhaps start the inevitable winnowing. Most people haven't even heard from (or of) half of the candidates - or more. I personally think Biden might be at his high water mark at this point and once more people start seeing his campaign events and how his age appears to be catching up to him his numbers could start dropping away. I'd happily vote for any of the dem candidates, frankly. But I do wonder a bit how the math works for some of these folks and can't quite figure out why they are running.

I've heard the theory that Biden has nowhere to go but down. However, he keeps going up. He could make a gaffe, or somebody could break out of the lower tier to challenge Biden and Bernie. Maybe the first debate will clarify things. I, too, wonder what some of those candidates are thinking.

Were you surprised by the generally warm reception (from the audience, at least) that Sanders and Mayor Pete got during their Fox appearances. I was and it appeared the hosts were, too.

Fox viewers have been conditioned to think of all Democrats as the spawn of Satan. When one shows up, doesn't have horns and makes sense on the issues, I guess the audience is pleasantly surprised. Maybe they were just being polite. But it sure seems to have annoyed and upset President Trump.

I can understand the first wave of rats who jumped on the rust bucket USS Trump. Who doesn't want a Cabinet position, even if it's for a maniac President? But 3 years of Trump's political actions and a lifetime of his overall actions has shown us, over and over and over, that he only cares about people named Trump. EVERYBODY ELSE is disposable. You are guaranteed to have your professional reputation ruined, and at some point the orange clown will drop you, humiliate you, call you stupid, and so on. Whyyyyyyyyyy on Earth would anyone (like Barr) join this circus at this point?? I guess everyone thinks they're special coupled with "Oh don't worry I talked to Donald, he promised that the thing he's done to EVERYBODY, EVER, won't happen to me." It's bizarro world.

There has always been an epidemic of self-delusion in Washington. Maybe it's getting worse.

Wouldn’t Trumps order that McGahn not testify be at the least conspiracy if not obstruction?

Probably not. There is a legitimate question whether a White House counsel should be covered by executive privilege I think McGahn should have to testify, but I also think this is one act of stonewalling that would be hard to label as obstruction.

How much chance is there that at least some of the people who are being called before Congress will actually show up? We've two no-shows. Robert Mueller hasn't been heard from (at least publicly). And how much chance is there of getting a reasonably rapid result from the courts? Is there any other option that might actually work?

The Post is reporting that negotiations for Mueller's testimony are hung up over how much of it will be public. I assume that will get worked out. And I am somewhat hopeful that the courts will move with dispatch, since the administration's arguments in most of these cases are so specious.

I wish Trump were literate enough to understand how insulting being compared to James Buchanan actually was.

Me too. No chance he gets it, though.

If Amash is a repeat of Mark Sanford, the Republican incumbent loses the primary and then Democrats pick up the seat.

If a Democrat wins Amash's district, the GOP will essentially have been wiped off the map. Nothing's impossible -- Sanford's district is a Republican stronghold -- but not likely.

Regarding the federal courts, can't Trump just keep appealing, eventually landing each of these atrocities to the Supreme Court? Is that what happens next? And of course we have a conservative majority in the Supreme Court and I fear they have lost their morals as well.

Courts can move quickly if they want to. The judge who ruled yesterday wanted to. Let's see about others.

I think the reason Barr, Graham, et al, aren't concerned about being on the "wrong side of history" is they plan on writing the history. They don't expect to ever be out of power.

Oh, we'll see about that.


And that's all for today, folks, Our time is up. Thanks for participating, 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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