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PoliticsWe are Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer to George W. Bush, and Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator and Bernie Sanders surrogate. We’re working to fix America’s rigged political system. Ask us anything!

Jan 5th 2018 by RichardPainter • 24 Questions • 297 Points

I'm a comedian and video maker, of such videos as 'Gigi the Christmas Snake' and the 'GAYLE' series on YouTube, and I recently recorded my standup special "Showpig" and streamed it live from Thalia Hall in Chicago, which you can watch here: https://www.facebook.com/chrisflemingfleming/videos/2056782114337563/

Proof: https://i.redd.it/3sxq97jz1x701.png

Q:

Manafort recently sued Meuller effectively saying he's not a prosecutor. What are your thoughts on that lawsuit? Is it a real legal challenge or an attempt to influence a future impeachment and removal proceeding to shoot for a pardon, or something else?

A:

First of all, thank you so much for doing this very timely AMA. I have a few questions:

*How do you anticipate this will all shake out in the end? It seems like the tide of public opinion has shifted (and is still shifting) in favor of legalized recreational marijuana. However, I've seen various arguments from both sides that make at least some degree of sense. One of the more solid arguments from the "anti-marijuana" camp is that "technically it was always federally illegal" because federal law never changed, just shifted to a more laissez faire policy.

*How will this affect medical marijuana? Moreso than recreational marijuana, MMJ seems to enjoy relatively broad support (even among conservatives). Do you think Sessions & Co. will try to avoid the potential PR nightmare of denying epileptic children, those in palliative care, and cancer patients their medications? Or do they simply not care at this point?

*What would the timeline be for a change like this? How long after the directive is given to crack down on marijuana would it actually take for the justice system to start shutting down dispensaries and making arrests? Is this likely (or even feasible) if the states (and their police forces) refuse to cooperate?

I think that's all for now. Thank you so much! <3


Q:

Your mom was perfect as Bonnie. Did you have to coach her on how to deliver the lines or did she just intuitively understand the character?

A:

The Manafort lawsuit against Mueller is unprecedented and appears to be entirely without merit. Challenges to prosecutorial authority are rarely made by defendants, and when they are, such challenges are almost always made within the criminal proceeding, not in satellite litigation, as was done here.


Q:

1) Our hope and goal is for Congress to take legislative action this year that establishes marijuana as a states' rights issue.

2) As of right now, the Justice Department is still restricted from interfering in medical marijuana laws at the state level. That has not changed as a result of today's announcement. We need Congress to renew that policy, so please call your Congressmen and Senators and urge them to protect state-level medical marijuana laws from federal interference.

3) That remains to be seen. In theory, federal prosecutors and agents could take immediate action against state-legal marijuana businesses.

A:

I don't think we ever gave my mom any direction, my sense of humor comes from her so we had an Elliot/ET thing going on all throughout GAYLE


Q:

What policies to limit political corruption do you think have the most potential?

A:

What effect will this have on the states that are currently considering legalizing in 2018? Will states like Vermont, where the legislature seems poised to act, slow down in response to this news? How will this affect marijuana on the 2018 ballot in Oklahoma, Michigan, and Utah?

Second, given Session's somewhat fraught relationship with the president, do you anticipate Trump will react negatively to his Attorney General's decision to move marijuana policy in the opposite direction of what Trump promised on the campaign trail (leave it up to the states)?


Q:

Hi Chris, in love with your whole Gayle concept. It’s absolutely hilarious. My favorite one is “mall kids.” Will you be doing more Gayle in the future? Also, where did your inspiration for Gayle’s character come from?

A:

The most important issue is reforming our campaign finance system, so money does not buy access to elected officials and does not influence their decisions. We also need to strengthen our rules and enforcement policies with respect to personal financial conflicts of interest of elected officials as well as receipt of profits and benefits from dealings with foreign governments in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution.


Q:

Vermont should move ahead. The law that the VT legislature is poised to approve would legalize limited possession and home cultivation. Even if Sessions launches a damaging crackdown on marijuana businesses, that VT law is still very beneficial because it protects individual rights and stops Vermont law enforcement from enforcing certain prohibition laws.

Michigan should move ahead in anticipation of a change in federal policy. Oklahoma and Utah are medical campaigns and less affected by today's news.

I think it's difficult for anyone to predict our President's behavior on any issue. He clearly stated on the campaign that marijuana should be a states' right issue. You can email the White House using this link to remind him of that: http://action.mpp.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=23874

A:

mall couples is my fav too! thank you I believe we will return! I'm exploring other things right now. I got too consumed by that as did my family and friends. Everyone wanted me to do something else but we're all starting to miss it a little...we'll see


Q:

You were the chief White House ethics lawyer under President Bush. What was the biggest ethical issue that came up during his Presidency?

A:

How can individuals help to stop this from happening?


Q:

How should I punish my family for disrespecting my beach towels?

A:

The most difficult moral or ethical dilemmas in the Bush administration arose before I entered the White House. These included the decision to go to war in Iraq and decisions about interrogation of prisoners in the War on Terror. In the White House, I dealt mostly with financial conflicts of interest for cabinet members and other senior administration officials, and while some of these issues were challenging, the vast majority of them were resolved to my satisfaction.


Q:

1) Call your Congressmen and Senators: tell them that you want Congress to pass legislation that establishes marijuana legalization as a states' rights issue.

2) Please call the White House at 202-456-1414 or reach out to President Trump on Twitter and tell the administration that you oppose any Justice Department crackdown on state-legal marijuana businesses.

3) Donate to MPP so we can increase pressure on Congress to end federal interference in state-level marijuana laws.

A:

Making them drive around with a ham flag on their Kia sends a loud and clear message


Q:

Mr Painter, my wife and I love your comments on the news about this government. Please keep it up. Your clear headed thoughts are refreshing and give us hope. Knowing that you're not a fortune teller, what do you think is the mostly likely outcome for this disaster? Trump's resignation?

A:

How can individuals help to stop this from happening?


Q:

"I'm Afraid to Talk to Men" led to one of the most sincerely revealing chats that I (a cis gal) have ever had with my (cis male & pretty masc) husband, wherein I learned that he is also, similarly, afraid to talk to men. As am I. My question: do you think that, deep down, everybody is afraid to talk to men?

A:

At the rate he is going, President Trump has shown that he is not fit for office. I do not know how it will be resolved.


Q:

That being said, we are excited by the medical research being done by organizations such as MAPS. Thanks for reaching out.

A:

I dunno but I sure am!


Q:

Which journalists do you make it a point to follow and read for your news about the White House?

A:

My question is, What the Fuck? But seriously, from your perspective, what is the government's motivation for this nonsense?


Q:

Your car rants are beyond amazing, but besides your masterful quick edits, do you write everything out beforehand, or is there an element of ad-lib?

Also, do you plan on working with more outside musicians after the success of showpig? (asking for a friend....me)

A:

There are many very good journalists covering the White House. I wouldn't want to pick favorites. Many of the best appear in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.


Q:

It's hard to say, given that a strong majority of Americans support legalization and believe that marijuana should be a states' rights issue. Jeff Sessions has a long-standing tradition of taking deeply misguided positions on marijuana policy. His motivation is guided by obsolete thinking. What matters is how we respond. We need Congress to pass legislation that allows states to decide their own marijuana laws without interference from the federal government. We need to take away Sessions' ability to trample on states' rights.

A:

Thank you! There's a script but I'd spend a long ass time in my car usually parked outside someone's home trying to get the Adventure Dad lines just right and whatnot, lot of making stuff up in a hot car and having people tap on my window asking if 'everything's cool'


Q:

Do you think that Trump's legal defense will ultimately be that he didn't have the mental capacity to conspire with the Russians, and that he was merely used by nefarious actors who infiltrated his campaign?

A:
  1. In a neutral mindset, how likely is it to progress towards your ultimate goal? 2. Does this include V.A. patients? 3. Why do they keep bouncing back and forth on this?

Q:

Is everything cool?

A:

It remains to be seen what Trump's legal defenses are, and I would not want to conjecture on that. There are, however, serious concerns about his mental capacity.


Q:

1) Give the strong public support nationwide for legalization, I think it's a question of when, not if, the federal government acknowledges that marijuana policy should be left to the states.

2) VA patients faced obstacles to accessing medical marijuana before today's decision. MPP has been working to address that issue in Congress and will continue to do so.

3) President Trump said during the campaign that marijuana policy should be left to the states to decide. Email him and remind him to stick to that promise by supporting legislation that protects state marijuana laws from federal interference. http://action.mpp.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=23874

A:

nope!


Q:

When did the left and right polarization get so stark? Rove, Nixon, or even earlier?

A:

My representative appears to be a staunch Trump supporter. What do you recommend is the best way for us to approach our more conservative representatives?


Q:

Since your SAT tutor is in Stranger Things does that make the Gayle series also within the Stranger Things Universe?

A:

There has always been polarization in our political system over a range of different issues, ranging from race relations, to war and peace and economic inequality. This ideological and political polarization has been more sharply defined in the political parties since at least the Nixon administration when President Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” sought to bring conservative Southern democrats into the Republican party. This development encouraged the Democratic party to move to the left and the Republican party to move to the right on a broad range of social issues.


Q:

Focus on states' rights, which most conservatives tend to support in principle.

A:

Gayle would have a HUGE problem with Stranger Things, especially the cop who everyone thinks is hot now


Q:

CREW currently has a lawsuit against President Trump for violating the emoluments clause, but do you think it will actually go anywhere in the courts? What do you think your chances are for success?

A:

How can individuals help to stop this from happening?


Q:

Chris, what's the point of slithering slow so you won't wake if you're just going to shout your sexual orientation later?

A:

There are three separate emoluments clause lawsuits against President Trump brought by three separate groups of plaintiffs. One of these is the CREW lawsuit which was dismissed on procedural standing grounds (not the merits) by the federal district court in New York. CREW is going to appeal this. The other two lawsuits in different courts have not yet been decided.


Q:

1) Email the President and tell him to keep his campaign promise. http://action.mpp.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=23874

2) Contact your members of Congress. Tell them to pass legislation that prevents federal interference in state level marijuana laws.

3) Donate to MPP so we can increase pressure on Congress this year. mpp.org/donate

Thanks!

A:

I think in hindsight it's poor planning by someone who's just barely holding on


Q:

Is Congressional immunity inherently ethical? Further, is it not a conflict of interest that our elected representatives can pass legislation that they, themselves, are not subject to?

A:

Will legalization of marijuana help get more people out of jail?


Q:

Hi Chris! My boyfriend and I saw you in Columbus and he used a picture we got with you after your show (complete with your can of La Croix) as his “most fun memory” when we celebrated our one-year.

Are you still afraid to talk to men? And do you still hold a beer with two hands?

A:

Congressional immunity is appropriate in some circumstances where it is needed to protect the members of Congress in the performance of their constitutional duties, but congressional immunity can create incentives for members of Congress and their staff to engage in unethical conduct. Members of congress pass many ethics and other rules that apply to the executive branch but not to members of Congress and their staff. Sometimes this distinction is appropriate, but many times it is not.


Q:

Legalizing marijuana ends the unjust and wasteful policy of arresting, prosecuting, and even incarcerating American adults who choose to use a substance that is safer than alcohol.

A:

Oh man that night I chugged so many La Croixs I became an influencer, I had to get my stomach pumped. My top button started buttoning itself. And yes, less so, every time I release one of those things I feel slightly better about the problem. Like now I have no qualms about people shrieking Baby Got Back and lighting fires doing so on dance floors


Q:

Can there ever be a middle ground? A way to "tweak" the nature of immunity that still allows the latitude required for elected representatives to perform their duties, yet reduces the incentive for taking advantage of immunity to engage in unethical conduct that isn't in the best interests of the citizens?

Perhaps letting parking in the fire lane slide, but not so much the kind of (for lack of a better term than "rent-a-representative") racketeering that's been going on since Congressional immunity was instituted in the '50s?

A:

So Phillips Morris just said that they want out of the tabacco game. Do you think this is all just a ploy to hand legalization over to them ?


Q:

Hi Chris, I just saw you at Thalia Hall and almost threw up laughing, so thanks. I grew up in Westford MA and I love all your references to Mass. Do you think growing up here influenced your comedy style? Also, how do you do some of Gayle's stunts without seriously injuring yourself?

A:

I still believe that a lot of illegal conduct by members of Congress can be prosecuted despite the congressional immunity doctrine, because at least part of the illegal conduct takes place outside of the performance of their official duties.


Q:

No, I don't. I think this decision is driven by outdated and misguided beliefs on marijuana.

A:

thank you and Yes of course! I broke a rib in the last episode falling on that table in the bathrobe, it's usually the least dangerous looking ones where I'd get most damaged. Kicking the ham around in the backyard I thought I broke my foot but that was just a panic


Q:

What can we do to fight back against the TrumpCo Propaganda Machine?

A:

If this issue goes to the Supereme Court, what makes you think the Court won't use the Commerce Clause like it's done in the past to make Marijuana illegal?


Q:

How do you get over the fear of bombing while doing standup?

A:

It's critically important for voters to get their facts from reputable news sources, not from politically slanted sources on the internet and television. Traditional newspapers and major networks, public radio and television, provide ample sources of accurate news. From there, people can go on to form opinions.


Q:

If Congress takes action to defend states' rights on marijuana, this issue would not involve the Supreme Court.

EDIT: changed to "defend states' rights on marijuana"

A:

By bombing a lot! And I dry heave before every show


Q:

Mr. Painter I love you sir, thank you for your service Its great to see your Interviews, Please tell me, do you feel like there are a lot of conservatives serving in the house or senate that share your views but are to afraid to come out against Trump?

A:

Chris, I’m in the middle of finals and I don’t want to type anything anymore. What do you do when you need a boost?


Q:

Yes, I believe that many Republicans in the House and Senate are very concerned about President Trump but do not want to antagonize him for fear of retaliation.

A:

VEGAN DONUTS 3 pm most days, I suddenly realize if I don't get donuts my whole being will unravel and I will be one of those worm succulents Ursula the Sea Witch keeps in her seaweed soul garden


Q:

Hey guys! Thanks for doing this!

Richard: did you EVER expect that once leaving public service that your experience with government ethics would become so relevant?

A:

But, seriously - how was the Yanni concert? Can you tell us more details about how it went?


Q:

I knew that experience with government ethics would always be relevant in public affairs but I never expected that we would have so many serious problems with government ethics at the highest levels over such a brief period of time (less than a year).

A:

I got kicked out! It was soooo hard to get over the barrier that close to the stage. After I rushed the stage, the security guard said to me "Ok honey, you gotta go."


Q:

Is sending s cease and desist letter to the Fire and Fury publishers a form of censorship?

A:

What's your favorite place to eat in the greater Boston area?


Q:

No, this is a letter sent by private lawyers to the publishers. It had no basis in fact or law and was frivolous, but it is not an act of the government.

It is obviously worrisome that the President of the United States would ask his lawyers to send such a frivolous letter on his behalf, and worrisome that the President could seek to use his government powers to impose censorship, as he has indeed threatened to do with respect to the press.

A:

Veggie Galaxy, where everyone's poly!


Q:

I told my coworker Topher how you were my favorite comedian and explained the Gayle bit and tried to summarize your style. He recommended I check out Jim Gaffigan "if I'm into that sort of thing"

Please advise?

A:

oh dear


Q:

Hi Chris! I love your content! Do you think you'll go on another tour and branch out to new cities?

A:

Yes absolutely! I spin a globe in the beginning of every season and stop it with a vegan crueller, and that's where I go.


Q:

Hi Chris! Saw your outdoor gig in Montreal, offered up a hug post-gig. (I don't care what others thought, you were hilarious!)

  1. What was the genesis of the Polyamorous video? The story from that sounds like it could be something...Also because my non-monogamous friends think it's hilarious.

  2. You regularly refer to a wide variety of gender identities and sexual orientations in your work. (Gigi was not the pansexual character anyone expected.) Is this part of your long-term goal to become a queer icon?

  3. Next time you're in the area, a friendly coffee/beverage of choice or something snacklike? You seem pretty cool.

A:

You were there! I had to take my glasses of during that show because it was so hard hahha but for some reason I felt like Kerri Strug after it was over. 1) Polyamorous video was about a feeling I got once with a certain older person and their partner hahhaha 2) Everything's gonna be alright with Gigi 3)Thank you, I only eat mochi though...


Q:

Hi Chris!

Firstly, thanks so much for posting "Showpig". I loved it.

I have two questions: 1- Of all the different characters and personas you put on, which is your favourite? Obviously I love Gayle, but I think my favourite is Nikolas.

2- Who do I have to lock into my basement to get you to do a Canadian tour?

A:

Thank you for watching Showpig!! Sorry I was sick as a dog while performing it but it's kinda nice to document a cold isn't it? It's like, you ever get a pimple and then MISS that pimple later? 1) Gayle, Bonnie's Husband Reggie, Toby the 27 yr old dog, and I too love Nikolas aka Casib (his study abroad name) 2) What do we covet Clarice? What we see everyday! (that's from Silence of the Lambs) No you dont have to lock anybody in your basement I'll come to Canada on my own I looove Canada


Q:

Hi Chris! Just want to say my entire friend group adore you and your content. We just want to know, what is Bonnie's last name? (Character not actress that is!)

A:

Kin!


Q:

Hi, Chris! I've been a big fan for a few years now and regularly binge your Gayle shows. I was wondering, what was your inspo behind Gigi the Christmas Snake? Also, what's your favorite candle scent and when do you think you'll come to Kansas City next?

A:

Last month Gigi started volunteering at an Enterprise Rent a Car but lost his position for screaming his exe’s name “REBECCA!!!” into all of the Kia’s. Now I heard he’s giving unsolicited, rogue tours of Madame Toussaud’s Orlando, getting kicked out daily because he’s not employed by Madame Toussaud’s.’ All the while he’s been working on a screenplay that bears an almost word for word resemblance to every episode in chronological order of Black Mirror and he claims that the Notorious B.I.G. wants to buy it.


Q:

Hi Chris! Do you have any advice for dealing with hecklers? I’ve thought about doing standup but the idea of hecklers is really intimidating. Thanks! You are one of my favorite comedians and my best friend and I love you!!

A:

The wording of this got me a little tripped up at first, I thought you were calling me your best friend which I liked but now I see what you're saying. And my advice is be in the moment, hecklers are ok folks who just need a kiss on forehead and an evite here and there


Q:

Did you know that Bruce Dern was at the Thalia Hall show? He was sitting across the aisle from me. It was nice, because then I wasn't the oldest person there any more. But he didn't look like he was having fun. Sorry.

A:

Bruce D was probably there for Chris Fleming the Ghost Hunter...but in my defense bruce dern looking like he's having a bad time might be bruce dern having the BEST time


Q:

what do you find to be the most difficult part about starting out/being succesful in comedy?

and bonus question: what do you use to coif your mane?

A:

1)Having access to a good sea salt spray 2) Sea salt spray


Q:

Hi Chris! Who are your biggest influences/inspirations? Who is your favorite comedian?

A:

Noel Fielding/Robin Williams/Maria Bamford I think? JB Smoove makes me laugh the hardest, I also reallly like Jen Kirkman.