PG148: Mueller’s Questions for Trump, Pornstar Payoffs, Trump’s Trade Wars, Sprint T-Mobile Merger, States Sue EPA

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The show starts off with Mike and Jay discussing the list of questions Special Counsel Robert Mueller has for President Trump, and whether or not the president will end up answering them. They both agree that it would be extremely unwise for Trump to sit down for an extended interview, even if that means ‘taking the 5th’, which President Trump has previously (and erroneously) suggested only guilty people need to do. As a legal matter, even if Mueller concludes that President Trump obstructed justice, the only remedy is impeachment and removal by Congress, something that would require extremely compelling evidence.

Then it’s a look at the latest in the Stormy Daniels payoff, in light of new Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s statement that the president reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen for Cohen’s hush money payment to Daniels. Mike thinks that Trump may have known about the payment, but proving it will be extremely difficult. Jay wonders if the media referring to Daniels as a ‘former porn star’ is a way of making her seem more legitimate, though Mike questions whether ‘former porn star’ is really that much better sounding than ‘porn star’.

After that, the Guys talk about trade – specifically the tariff extensions President Trump recently extended to Canada, Mexico, and the EU, as well as a high-level U.S. trade delegation that was in China this week. Jay argues that this is of a piece with Trump’s typical business strategy of staking out a bold position, never letting go of leverage, and walking away from deals if they aren’t favorably enough. Mike points out that this may work in the private sector, but doesn’t always transfer over to global politics all that well.

Then it’s a look at the proposed T-Mobile / Sprint merger. Mike and Jay are in agreement that it’s likely to enhance competition and be a better deal for consumers. Jay thinks that the Trump administration will ultimately not try to block the merger and while Mike hope’s that’s the case, he’s not as optimistic as Jay is about that outcome.

Finally, the Guys discuss the lawsuit filed by 18 states against the EPA’s move to lower fuel economy standards as well as revoke a longstanding waiver that allows California to set more stringent standards. Mike supports the higher standards and the continuation of the waiver, while Jay feels the standards are worth reevaluating and that California shouldn’t be allowed to set its own, tougher standards.

What Jay’s Reading
Why the Justice Department is Defiant. Kimberly Strassel (WSJ – paywall)

What Mike’s Reading
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. James Martin, S.J.

Pope Francis Isn’t Catholicism’s Trump. Andrew Sullivan.

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7 thoughts on “PG148: Mueller’s Questions for Trump, Pornstar Payoffs, Trump’s Trade Wars, Sprint T-Mobile Merger, States Sue EPA”

  1. I suppose for any of these types of posts, it’s best to put a disclaimer on the front end for full transparency. I’m a regular, middle class, tax paying, no benefit receiving rapidly approaching middle aged white man who is solidly left center in terms of their politics. While I’ve always held strong opinions, I recognize that I’m not the only person living in this country, and that in order for our system to work, it requires compromise and decency towards each other.

    Since June of 2017 I’ve been a subscriber and a listener to The Politics Guys, and I have to confess that I feel like I’ve been sold a bill of goods on the premise and promise of the show. In today’s era of hyper partisanship I was hoping to find a podcast that had holders of opposite opinions listening to each other and understanding the nuance and complexity of political discourse today as well as the diversity in the body politic. If I wanted to hear re-washed Fox News commentary, I could just watch more of Fox News. Time and time again, Jay has completely turned me off to the show, and I am now unsubscribing. For 6 months, I’ve felt the Politics Guys was a podcast version of Hannity and Colmes and quite frankly it adds zero additional insight to the pablum we’re digesting from every other source. When I listened to the most recent podcast, I tried to recall one instance of Jay reconsidering an opinion or taking into account the other point of view, and I couldn’t. Someone that intractable doesn’t have a meaningful message I can listen to, and I want to find that voice on both sides. Wish you guys well. It appears those in my camp are not your audience.

    1. Do you feel that’s true of Trey and Will as well (assuming you caught my show with Will)?

      Also, while I tend to agree with you that Jay seems frustratingly unwilling to deviate from the GOP line on the Trump / Russia investigation, it seems to me that in terms of policy – which is the bulk of what we discuss on most shows – he regularly considers my points and often expresses views that don’t toe the Trumpian line. I’m wondering to what extent you agree with this?

  2. I love how Jay, for the past year, has treated any suggestion of Russian collusion with the Trump team as a preposterous idea. He makes sure to insist that there is, as yet, no definitive evidence of any such arrangement (despite the clown car of advisors and campaign workers and employees in the Trump team revealed to have actively sought out or already had close ties to some sketchy Russian operatives), and he has always made sure to warn listeners that making presumptions like that are a foolish overreach.

    And yet, touch upon the subject of the Mueller investigation (a man that Jay once praised as fair and unbiased when he was given this job) and suddenly he’s all in on every Sean-Hannity-tin-foil-hat conspiracy about the justice department falling prey to a grand dark counter-government cabal out to destroy freedom and democracy for unclear, but undoubtedly malicious reasons.

    Aside from being farcically hypocritical, it is exhaustingly redundant. There are innumerable maniacs on YouTube and Fox News spouting off their unfounded paranoia about such evil, conveniently distracting plots. Giving them air on this show, just because Jay feels a compulsion to repeat the days Republican talking points, no matter how inane, just seems like a waste of your and the listeners’ time.

    Also, it was comical to hear Jay getting indignant about the semantics of the media using the term ‘former’ when discussing Stormy Daniels – because apparently it sends a coded message about her legitimacy – when he has delighted in using distastefully loaded rhetoric like ‘chain migration’ and ‘anchor babies’ to put his own disingenuous semantic spin on people’s intentions and legitimacy.

    1. Agree with the poster above. When I started listening I thought Jay was a measured conservative voice and enjoyed hearing his arguments out each episode, but lately I can’t take him seriously. Thank you for calling out his “summary of the republican talking points” on the show, but frankly I’m not interested in listening to episodes with him anymore. It’s not because I disagree with his points, it’s because he’s proven quite hypocritical and unbalanced in his treatment along partisan lines. I can’t hear him as anything but motivated reasoning after the last few months. Too much koolaid and selective skepticism. That’s what I came here to get away from! A disappointment on a great show.

      1. Is it just Trump / Russia or do you feel that Jay simply mouths Trump-approved talking points across the board? It seems to me that on many policy issues he says things that would meet with a certain amount of disfavor on Fox & Friends, but I’d be interested in your view. – Mike

    2. I agree that Jay seems weirdly unwilling to consider what I see as a ton of circumstantial evidence when it comes to the Trump / Russia story. But when we aren’t talking about that, my sense is that he’s not at all a Fox News clone person. Would you agree with me? -Mike

      1. Hi Mike. Thanks for the reply. As you asked, I shall try to explain what I mean, but apologies if I fail to make my meaning clear.

        My issue is not so much with the opinions that Jay holds, or that I can usually predict 95 percent of what he is going to argue just by the episode description details.

        Indeed, even if what he forwarded was actually in complete alignment with the consensus of the Fox News brand I would still want to hear what he had to say because what I am looking for – and what originally drew me to your show – was the promise of understanding the positions of opposing sides of political debate. Even if Jay fell down on Trump’s impossibly contradictory side of every issue, I would still want to tune in to understand how someone could reasonably hold to such an opinion, to better comprehend how policy positions are reached.

        (It feels as though this is a misconception that is often leveled at people who are not fans of Trump: ‘Oh, you just don’t want to hear the opinions of people who might agree with Trump, because you hate him.’ But in actuality, I would love to hear the reasoning of a Trump voter, to try to parse out, without the hyperbolic grievance politicking and media bashing that usually poisons such discussion, why such ideas appeal to some people.)

        My issue with Jay recently is that I no longer feel that he is interested in discussing policy issues in good faith at all anymore. Too often he seems to rely upon deflection and hypocrisy instead of reason, which undermines whatever position he might hold in service of rhetorical expediency.

        Between ad hominem attacks about the ‘biased’ media; using knowingly inflammatory language (‘chain migration’, etc); acting aggrieved about the outrageous behavior of liberals (Look at all the evil stuff Hillary has done…) while comically underplaying the torrent of suspicious activity seemingly unearthed daily from the White House; ignoring scientific evidence and data as suspect (dismissing issues like global warming by relying upon the opinions of fringe outliers in the scientific community); taking offense at a female academic for apparently not showing proper deference to the religious beliefs of conservatives while a week later himself sneering at students as being lazy disorganized rabble more interested in hooking up than exercising their first amendment rights, it frequently feels like Jay begins with his final position (‘There is no collusion…’ / ‘The tax bill is great…’) and then builds backward from there, spackling over whatever logical leaps need to be made to reach his endpoint with ‘Whataboutisms’ and obfuscation.

        As I’ve tried to indicate, my frustration comes not from where he falls ideologically, but that lately his argument is frequently seeped in a pervading hypocrisy that seems to undermine his every position. I literally don’t know from week to week whether what he says is something he actually believes, or if it is just a tactic he is willing to employ in the moment because it so successfully muddies the water.

        And it is not – as I have heard him argue in the past – simply a result of his attempting to articulate his party’s position as opposed to his own, because I do not feel that he is doing that either. If the idea is just to give a microphone to another mouthpiece for the party line, devoid of analysis, then there are already more than enough figures like Sean Hannity and Kelly Anne Conway on television who can shift their opinions and outrage dependent upon whatever the day’s spin requires it to be.

        This was actually why I so enjoyed the recent episode with Will Miller. I largely disagreed with his positions, but I was fascinated by the reasoning through which his argument moved to reach each opinion that he held. It fulfilled the original remit of this show in that it allowed opposing sides of a discussion to be heard, and through respectful argument, permitted each side to be understood. It meant that although I did not agree with many of Will’s conclusions, I absolutely saw the way in which his thought process had reasonably reached that endpoint. It also felt (and I admit this may just be a projection on my part) as though he was willing to re-examine such a belief if you made a good point, or if, in future, some new information might come to light – something that Jay no longer seems willing or capable of doing (at best a topic may end with a sarcastic chuckle and a ‘We’ll see what happens…’ but I literally do not recall a moment in which he has re-examined a position with a new perspective).

        My apologies again for the rant – I hope that at least some of what I am trying to convey came through. I have greatly enjoyed your program, and am thrilled by its capacity for tackling complex issues with respect and intelligence, so to see it marred by what I feel is disingenuous rhetoric frustrates me more than perhaps it should.

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