Reporter's Notebook

Question of the Week
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The best reader responses to the latest question we asked in our Politics & Policy Daily newsletter (sign up here).

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Q of the Week: What Would You Ask James Comey?

Andrew Harnik / AP

Former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, as part of the panel’s probe into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials. It was the first time the public heard from Comey since Trump abruptly fired him on May 9.

Ahead of the hearing, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers what they would ask Comey if they were on the Senate committee. We’ve rounded up some of the most pressing questions, and included Comey’s answers where we can.

Several of you were concerned about why former Director Comey didn’t say something about his conversations with President Trump if he was concerned about their appropriateness. Here’s Jane Rupert:

How much, if any, of your concern regarding Donald Trump's contacts with you about your investigation did you share with Attorney General Sessions (before his recusal) and with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein before you were fired? And what were their reactions?

In his opening statement, Comey wrote that he did ask Attorney General Sessions “to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me.” He added that “what had just happened—[Sessions] being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind—was inappropriate and should never happen.”

John Consentino wondered why he didn’t go further:

Mr. Comey, if it’s true, as has been reported, that the president asked you to discontinue the investigation of Michael Flynn, why didn’t you report this to the appropriate congressional committees and the Justice Department immediately?

President Ronald Reagan and stock-car driver Richard Petty enjoy some fried chicken at a Fourth of July picnic at the Daytona International Speedway in July 1984. Ira Schwarz / AP

June is “National Soul Food Month.” The cuisine, writes soul-food historian Adrian Miller, “has long been the foundation for home cooking in the White House.” President Ronald Reagan was a big fan of fried chicken, President John Tyler apparently used to serve hog jowl and turnip greens to his friends, and former First Lady Michelle Obama planted soul-food greens in the White House garden to eat for most of the year. We asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers what dish—soul food or otherwise—they would request from the White House chef.

Donna Brazile, a political analyst and former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, has a tasty menu already planned out for her hypothetical stint in the West Wing. She’d request “neck bones and gravy with green peas and a side salad. Fried catfish with potato salad. Smothered pork chops with collard greens and corn bread.”

As president, David Deufel would take a somewhat spicier route, with a meal he calls “healthy, exotic, and digestible”:

Basil-pesto stir-fried chicken with cabbage, carrots and Korean broccoli preceded by a spicy red pepper hummus covered by an Indian curry sauce. Sautéed brussels sprouts and cabbage on the side … Add a tomato bisque soup if necessary. Take the plunge!

Howard Cohen says he’d hope to have two “staples of ‘Jew Food’” while in office: matzo ball soup and corned beef sandwiches. He could make his own soup, but he’d have the chef whip up the sandwich:

Corned beef on rye: top quality brisket, sliced thin, juicy and mouth-watering; mustard (yellow not brown); kosher dill pickle; side of fruit; fries.

And if the quality is not good, I’d have Art’s Deli Fed-Exed to the White House.

Katharine Moore is daydreaming about dinner and a show:

Sweet tea, pecan pie, and homemade wine … so I could have the Zac Brown Band serenade my guests in the State Dining Room. Pablo Casals was just the right man for the Kennedy administration, but crazy times call for a fiddle, not a cello.

Susan Walsh / AP

Since early June, Representative Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, has been calling for Congress to cancel its summer recess in order to pass a few key items on the GOP agenda, like health care and tax reform. But lawmakers are reluctant to give up their summer breaks, partly because the recess gives them time to meet with their constituents back in their home states.

This week we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers whether they think lawmakers should go on recess or stick around to focus on work. The responses were mixed. Stan Hastey breaks it down like this:

This is a hard one; I'm truly ambivalent, as was my fellow Oklahoman, [actor and newspaper columnist] Will Rogers. Once he said: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” So as to keep on humoring us, then, maybe Congress should stick around for the summer.

On another occasion, though, Rogers said: “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.” Perhaps they should go home, the sooner the better.

And as Jenette Settle writes:

If there were ever a time when Congress needed a recess to return home, it’s now. The country and party is so divided over healthcare, tax cuts, congressional salaries, immigration … Now more than ever our elected officials need to hear from their constituents.

In particular, Ginger Jefferson is worried about getting a chance to speak her mind about the health-care proposal Senate Republicans revealed on Thursday:

If they were wise, thoughtful, patriotic representatives of all the people of this country they would go on recess and allow the public to weigh in on their “Repugnant Care” bill. Give the public the opportunity to actually read it, ask questions, and assess how it will affect millions of Americans.

Joe Bookman thinks maybe lawmakers would learn something new at their town-hall meetings. When they get back, “each one can present the one issue or thought that they disagreed with but heard many times.”

But many other readers think lawmakers have had ample time to meet with constituents—and can do so whether they’re home on recess or not.

Michelle and Barack Obama at a July 4, 2015 celebration on the South Lawn of the White House Andrew Harnik / AP

On July 4, 2008, former President George W. Bush presided over a naturalization ceremony at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation in Virginia. Eight years later, former President Barack Obama gave a speech honoring military families after a performance by artists Kendrick Lamar and Janelle Monáe. Independence Day 2017 is coming up on Tuesday—so this week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers how they would celebrate the holiday if they were president. Here’s what they said.

Alex Taylor would take a page out of Bush’s book with a “naturalization ceremony for citizens with an emphasis on military members and their families at an appropriate national park.” For Alex, that would be somewhere like Liberty Island or the Grand Canyon—and everyone would be welcome to attend, with cake and ice cream to follow.

Mary Lung would take the holiday overseas, to U.S. troops serving abroad:

I would spend the entire weekend visiting the forgotten military serving in dangerous areas and treat them to grilled favorites and delicious pies and desserts and sit down and eat with them.  If possible, I’d bring some entertainers with me to let them know they are not forgotten.  

Joe Bookman would throw a history party of sorts, and ask a group of historians like David McCullough and Doris Kearns-Goodwin to speak about what—and who—has made American great.

In that vein, Maria Ayala would hold a ceremony celebrating “American Indians, Mexican Americans (the original owners of the Southwest), and African Americans for contributing lives, sweat, and tears that sent this country forward”—taking a solemn moment to recognize that slavery helped to build the U.S.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

On Monday, Democrats unveiled a new agenda, “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future,” that they hope will help them reclaim a majority in Congress. The plan includes emphasizing better-paying jobs, lowering health-care costs, and cracking down on big business. So this week, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers what their slogan would be if they were drafting a new plan to appeal to Americans. Here’s what they said.

Americans on both sides of the aisle are “tired of politicians helping their millionaire and billionaire buddies get richer,” writes Adam H. from California, so perhaps the best slogan would be “Working for the Working Class”—something Adam says reflects what all Americans want: “someone who is on their side fighting for them.”

In crafting her slogan, Ita Sanders said she’d focus on something containing an “action phrase”:

The “Better Deal” slogan does not inspire positive movement. Look at what came before: Obama: “Yes we can.”  Trump: “Make America Great Again.” The Democrats’ new slogan needs to be an actual call to positive action. Hillary's “Stronger Together” was descriptive—not actually pro-active.

Maggie Mahar from New York would offer “A Better Future for All Americans: Looking Forward, Not Back.” When President Trump promises to make America great again, she writes, “he seems to be looking back to the ’50s. But for more than half of all Americans (women, minorities, seniors) the ’50s was not a  ‘great’ decade.”