Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

August 14, 2018

Russian Media Suggests Trump Needs Putin’s Help to Rig the Midterm Elections
To Impeach or Not to Impeach
Another Child Sex Abuse Scandal Shakes the Catholic Church
Program Notes

We begin with an examination of the Russian media’s coverage of Donald Trump who is routinely referred to on State TV as “our president” with a political joke doing the rounds on Kremlin-controlled State TV that Republican Congressmen are visiting Russia “to make deals with our hackers, so they can rig the midterms in favor of Trump’s team”. Julia Davis, the founder and editor of Russian Media Monitor which analyzes Russian media and the relationship between news and propaganda, joins us to discuss a recent broadcast of Russia’s “60 Minutes” news program in which a pundit implied Putin has leverage over Trump and that America’s president should stop the U.S. sanctions, which incidentally Trump is delaying and undermining, otherwise “If you want us to support you in the election, do what we say”. We will also examine the irony that while Trump uses Stalin’s term “enemy of the people” to describe the press that is not Fox News, Russian media has the same list of enemies as Trump does – Democrats, the “deep state” and the U.S. media.

Then we speak with John Bonifaz, the co-Founder and President of Free Speech For People who previously served as the Executive Director and General Counsel of the National Voting Rights Institute and as Legal Director of Voter action. He joins us to discuss his new book “The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump” and we assess whether Trump has been violating the Constitution from the moment he took the oath of office and examine the eight categories in which Trump has already crossed the line into impeachable territory.

Then finally, we look into a shocking report just issued from a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania revealing that the Catholic Church in the state covered up child abuse by 301 priests over a 70 year period, with the report indentifying over 1,000 victims.Kenneth Briggs, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter and was a religion editor for The New York Times, joins us to discuss the continuing scandal that dogs the church and mires the pope in periodic purges of church leaders around the world in Chile, Australia and now in Pennsylvania.

Julia Davis | John Bonifaz | Kenneth Briggs

August 13, 2018

The Embarrassing Amateurism of the Trump White House
Firing Strzok Unlikely to Placate Freedom Caucus
Our Election Systems Remain an Invitation for Russia to Attack
Program Notes

We begin with the unprecedented amateurism at the Trump White House which allowed the reality TV star Omorosa, the executive branch’s most highly paid staffer, to record her firing by Chief of Staff Kelly inside the most top secret and secure room in the country, the White House situation room. In what a former National Security Council spokesman calls the most serious breach of protocol he’d ever heard of, not only did Omorosa’s recording of Kelly end up airing on Meet the Press, her subsequent recording of her phone conversation with the president in which Trump pretends to be surprised by her firing, has also been aired widely on the media. Chris Whipple, the author of “The Gatekeepers: How the White House chiefs of staff define every presidency”, joins us to offer the historical perspective of the 18 former chiefs of staff he has interviewed.  Their experience and professionalism makes it clear that the current White House is more than an anomaly, but rather it is a  ship of fools without a rudder and a qualified captain at the helm, not the mention an experienced chief mate, in this case General Kelly, who like his sidekick Stephen Miller is an ideologue dealing with real-world problems that do not lend themselves to rigid right-wing dogma.

Then we look into the firing of Peter Strzok, the latest senior FBI official after Comey and Andrew McCabe who Trump has campaigned against with Twitter abuse and wild charges. A former special agent with the FBI, Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, joins us to discuss whether making a sacrificial lamb out of Strzok will placate the Tea Partiers in Congress who appear to be determined to find a way to impeach Rod Rosenstein to try and shut down the Mueller investigation.

Then finally Andrew Gumbel, the author of “Down for the Count: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America”, joins us to discuss his article at The Guardian “Why U.S. elections remain ‘dangerously vulnerable’ to cyber-attacks”. With Attorney General Sessions shifting the DOJ’s focus from making it easier to vote to using the bogus excuse of “voter fraud” to make it harder for Democrats to vote, we will examine why Trump and the Republicans are not doing anything meaningful to protect the nation’s electoral system the Russians attacked in 2018 and are poised to do so again in November.

Chris Whipple | Michael German | Andrew Gumbel

August 12, 2018

A Former White Supremacist on the “Unite the Right” Rally
Using the US Treasury as a Weapon Will Eventually Backfire
Canada Stands Up for Human Rights While Trump Remains Silent
Program Notes

We begin with the “Unite the Right” rally of Neo-Nazis about to take place in Washington D.C. opposite the White House in Lafayette Park on the one year anniversary of the violent confrontation between white supremacists and counter-protesters in which a Neo-Nazi used his car as a weapon to run down and kill Heather Heyer and injure others on the streets of Charlottesville.  We will speak with a former organizer for the White Aryan Resistance,Antony McAleer, chair and co-founder of Life After Hate, who works with Neo-Nazis who wish to leave a life of hate and violence, and discuss President Trump’s belated condemnation of “all types of racism”, whatever that means, after he took to Twitter to attack black NFL athletes with the racist insult that they weren’t smart enough to know what they were protesting about.  We get a report on the gathering of white supremacists across from the White House and a number of other counter-protests the police are keeping separate, emphasizing that this is a First Amendment event in the nation’s capitol.  While in Charlottesville, the overwhelming police presence has resulted in no significant protests as police confiscate brass knuckles and skateboards at security checkpoints, but since Virginia is an open-carry state, brandishing an assault rifle is OK.

Then with Trump sanctioning Russia, Iran and Turkey while escalating a trade war with China, we examine the extent to which the president is over-using the power of the U.S. Treasury Department as a weapon, which in many ways is a more powerful tool than the Pentagon. And sometimes he does this for personal reasons as is the case with Turkey where Trump boasts the Turkish lira is tanking while the dollar is stronger than ever, as he puts the screws to Erdogan who apparently reneged on a promise he made in person to Trump. Robert Hocketta Professor of Law at Cornell Law School whose research focuses on the national and transnational dimensions of monetary law and economics, joins us to discuss whether the capricious and injudicious use of U.S. financial power will lead to other nations finding an alternative to the dollar as the global reserve currency.

Then finally as the spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada escalates, we speak with Thomas Juneau, a professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottowa, Canada. He joins us to discuss how the Trump Administration is making it clear which side the U.S. is on as Canada takes a moral stand against human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia’s pugnacious boy king, with whom Trump and his son in law Jared Kushner have both political and financial ties.

Anthony McAleer | Robert Hockett | Thomas Juneau

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August 9, 2018

Puerto Rican Government Admits 1427 Died From Hurricane Maria Not the 16 Trump Claimed
Nunes Protects Trump Over Defending the Constitution
How the Birthplace of Progressive Politics Became a Laboratory for Billionaire and Corporate Interests
Program Notes

We begin with the government of Puerto Rico quietly admitting that the death toll from Hurricane Maria was 1,427 not the 64 they originally announced or Donald Trump’s number of just 16 people which he declared in praising his own administration’s response, boasting that everyone “can be really proud of what’s taken place in Puerto Rico”.  Charles Venator Santiago, Professor of Latino Politics in the Department of Political Science and the Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at the University of Connecticut, joins us to discuss the belated release of the real death toll in a draft report requesting $139 billion in recovery funds from the congress.  With infrastructure on the island still in tatters and power still not restored, we assess the political impact of the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican refugees who settled in Florida, where unlike on the island itself, they are able to vote. We look into whether their votes will be influenced by the photo op of Trump tossing paper towels to needy islanders with patronizing insensitivity, clearly showing that he did not care about the destruction and the lives lost as he touted a fictional version of how great his response was, awarding his administration 10 out of 10 for its response to the devastation from Hurricane Maria.

Then we speak with Rory Appleton, the politics reporter at the Fresno Bee who covers the local congressman Devon Nunes, about the secret tape recording revealing Nunes’s strategy of tabling efforts to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein until after the confirmation of Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and his admission that the GOP must hold onto the House to protect Trump from Mueller. We assess the local reaction and the impact this might have on Nunes’s reelection since it is clear he is protecting Trump over doing the job of congress and defending the constitution.

Then finally we examine the test case of how the Republicans took over a progressive state which was crucial to the election of Donald Trump and how it can be taken back in November. Dan Kaufman, the author of “The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics”, joins us to discuss how the birthplace of progressive politics became a laboratory for billionaire and corporate interests and how what happened in Wisconsin is happening to America and must be reversed.

Charles Venator Santiago | Rory Appleton | Dan Kaufman

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