Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

September 18, 2018

Russia is Giving Israel a Free Hand in Syria to Go After Iranian Targets
Trump and His Fellow Authoritarian, Poland’s President Duda, Field Softball Questions From Regime-Friendly Reporters
Trump’s Escalating Trade War With China
Program Notes

We begin with the diplomatic tensions erupting from the shoot-down of a Russian military aircraft in Syria which was blamed on the Israelis although it was the Assad regime’s barrage of anti-aircraft fire which downed the aircraft killing all 15 aboard. Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma who writes “Syria Comment” a daily newsletter and blog on Syrian politics, joins us to discuss efforts by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russia’s President Putin to calm the tense situation in a crowded airspace in a volatile area of combat with multiple local and international forces butting up against each other. Since Israeli warplanes were attacking Iranian targets in Syria at the time the Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft was shot down by the Syrians, we analyze the apparent agreement between Russia and Israel to allow the Israelis a free hand to go after Iranian and Hizbollah targets in Syria. And we will assess the deal between Russia and Turkey to create a buffer zone on Turkey’s border with Idlib to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe confronting three million civilians trapped with the last jihadists fighting the Syrian regime. With Russia winning in Syria and bolstering ties with Iraq and Iran, the bitter irony arises that after the U.S. spent over $5 trillion dollars and lost thousands of American lives, it looks like the Russians have ended up with the spoils from our pointless and endless wars.

Then we assess today’s White House visit by Poland’s President Duda followed by a press conference at which both authoritarian leaders Trump and Duda were able to choose softball questions from regime-friendly reporters. Charles Kupchan, a former special assistant to President Obama for National Security who was Director for European Affairs on the National Security Council under President Clinton, joins us to discuss the key issue Trump and Duda did not mention and that is the growing authoritarian nature of the ruling party in Poland and their takeover of the country’s media and courts.

Then finally we speak with Scott Kennedy, the Director of the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of “Beyond the Middle Kingdom”. He joins us to discuss China’s tit-for-tat response to Trump’s escalating trade war after $200 billion in tariffs were slapped on them on Monday and the likelihood that before long there will be tariffs on all Chinese imports with the exception of rare earth minerals. We also discuss the mysterious disappearance of China’s biggest movie star.

Joshua Landis | Charles Kupchan | Scott Kennedy


September 17, 2018

Kavanaugh’s Accuser Ready to Testify and Take a Lie-Detector Test
Inside the Court Filings in the Manafort Plea
Will FARA be Strengthened Because of Its Abuse By Manafort?
Program Notes

We begin with the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford going public and offering to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and take a lie detector test to support her charge that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge held her down as Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her in the upstairs bedroom of a home where Kavanaugh and his classmates at Georgetown Prep were having an alcohol-fueled partyDeborah Tuerkheimer, a Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law and a former Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan who is the author of numerous articles on rape and domestic violence, joins us to assess whether Kavanaugh will take a lie detector test since the issue before the Senate is likely to no longer be about sexual assault or attempted rape but lying about whether the incident happened or not. We also examine the credibility of denials by Mark Judge who has written two books about his teenage years at Georgetown Prep “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk” and “God and Man at Georgetown Prep”, which chronicle being “completely annihilated” while trying to “hook up”. The only likely reference to Kavanaugh in Judge’s writing comes in a passage where a girl at a party asked Judge “Do you know Bart O’Kavanaugh? I heard he puked in someone’s car the other night”. To which Judge replies “Yeah he passed out on his way back from a party”.

Then we look into the court filings in the Manafort plea deal with Robert Mueller to assess the extent to which Manafort was working for Russia against American interests and speak with Craig Unger, the author of the new book just out “House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia”. He joins us to discuss how Manafort was not on the Ukrainian payroll but on Putin’s payroll all along with the only other person having stronger ties to Russia and the Russian mob being Manafort’s boss, Donald Trump.

Then finally we speak with James Thurber,the University Distinguished Professor of Government at American University whose latest book is “Congress and Diaspora Politics: The Influence of Ethnic and Foreign Lobbying”. He joins us to discuss how much Robert Mueller is bringing attention to FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act which Congress passed in 1938 to go after pro-Nazi propagandists. Since then it has been allowed to languish as K-Street super-lobbyists like Manafort brazenly ignored it, until Trump’s former campaign manager was just about to be tried under it and made his recent plea deal with Mueller.

Deborah Tuerkheimer | Craig Unger | James Thurber


September 16, 2018

A Compilation of Recent Interviews

Patriotism as the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel in the Oval Office
The Former Cyber Czar on Russian Meddling in the Upcoming Election
Evangelical Pastors Campaigning Against Republicans
Program Notes

Today we compile recent interviews we felt worthy of revisiting. We begin with an interview on the 17th anniversary of 9/11 with Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson the former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and discuss how Mohammed Bin Salman the de-facto leader of the country most responsible for 9/11 and for propagating global terrorism, Saudi Arabia, along with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, are goading President Trump into a war with Iran and possibly Syria too. With National Security advisor John Bolton, a protégé of Trump and Netanyahu’s biggest backer Sheldon Adelson itching for a war and a desperate and paranoid Trump liable to initiate a “wag the dog” war to rescue the Republicans from defeat in November and stave off the possibility of impeachment if the Democrats take the House, conditions could not be more ripe for another catastrophic intervention in the Middle East. If Trump fires Secretary of Defense Mattis as expected and decides he needs the mother of all distractions, the question arises will the war-weary American public rise up in protest? And since Trump has proclaimed today’s anniversary of 9/11 “Patriot Day”, will Trump’s base, urged on by hyper-jingoism from Fox News, create a sufficient war party to con us into another war using patriotism as the last refuge of the scoundrel in the Oval Office.

Then we revisit our interview with Richard Clarke who served three consecutive presidents as Special Assistant to the President for Global Affairs, National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism and Special Advisor to the President for Cyberspace whose latest book is “WARNINGS: Finding Cassandras to Prevent Catastrophes”. He joins us to discuss the probability of Russian cyber-meddling in the November election and the unprecedented dangers in having such a reckless and compromised president who is acting more like a tool of a foreign power than a defender of democracy.

Then finally we go to an interview with two evangelical pastors who have broken with Christian fundamentalism and are now campaigning against the elite evangelicalswho are the enablers of President Trump and the Republicans, under the banner of a new organization Vote Common Good. Robb Ryerse, the founding pastor of Vintage Fellowship in Fayetteville, Arkansas and political director of Vote Common Good joinsDoug Pagitt, the co-founder of Vote Common Good who founded Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, join us to discuss their political journey and the destination they want for this country.

Lawrence Wilkerson | Richard Clarke | Robb Ryerse | Doug Pagitt


September 13, 2018

The 10th Anniversary of the Wall Street Crash and Paths Not Taken
Flooding From Florence Will Spread Pig Feces Across North Carolina
Pompeo Certifies Saudi War Crimes
Program Notes

We begin with the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008 which triggered the Wall Street crash and speak with Jesse Eisinger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning senior reporter at ProPublica who covers Wall Street and finance. The author of “The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives”, he joins us to explore the paths not taken by President Obama who bailed out Wall Street in the greatest transfer of private debt into public debt in the history of the world in which Wall Street was rewarded for its reckless and criminal behavior and Main Street got stuck with the bill. We discuss the extent to which the economic crisis of 2007 to 2012 morphed into the political and geopolitical crisis of today as the unfairness of the 1% stiffing the 99% aroused right-wing nationalism both in the United States and Europe and helped install Donald Trump in the White House. Unfortunately instead of a backlash of social justice, populist anger was cynically captured by a con man who used the rage and alienation to gain power then screw his voters to reward the super-rich in the upper echelons of the Forbes list of billionaires, an exclusive club which Trump has always so desperately aspired to join.

Then with Hurricane Florence striking North Carolina, we  examine an aspect of the damage from flooding which does not get the attention it deserves in spite of the devastating experiences from prior hurricanes. Matthew Starr, who works with the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation in North Carolina on their Muddy Water Watch program, joins us to discuss how there are 62 industrial swine operations within the 100-year floodplain with 366 within 100 feet of the floodplain. This means these vast so-called lagoons filled with pig feces and urine will be flooded and the contamination will spread into the rivers and streams polluting vast swathes of the state.

Then finally, with Wednesday’s certification to Congress by Secretary of State Pompeo that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have shown “demonstrable actions” to limit civilian casualties in their war on Yemen, we speak with Kate Gould, the Legislative Director for Middle East Policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Quaker lobby in the public interest fielding the largest team of registered peace lobbyists in Washington D.C. She joins us to discuss how much the U.S. has blood on its hands from providing the Saudis with refueling, intelligence and targeting in a war the U.N. describes as causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Jesse Eisinger | Matthew Starr | Kate Gould


September 12, 2018

Extreme Weather Now the New Normal
The EU Censures Hungary’s Victor Orban
Are China and Russia Becoming Allies?
Program Notes

We begin with the huge hurricane bearing down on the Carolinas and analyze why increasingly destructive and costly floods, fires, droughts and hurricanes are happening with more frequency and intensity as extreme weather becomes the new normal. Michael Mann, the Director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn State University who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with others on the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change and author of “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy”, joins us. We will discuss the disconnect between the reality facing us and the planet and the policies of the Trump Administration which go beyond denial to outright hostility to the modest efforts so far to deal with the worsening climate crisis. As global warming makes the Atlantic Ocean warmer, hurricanes are moving north from their usual trajectory of hitting the Caribbean to striking population centers on America’s East coast, meaning it will be only a matter of time before New York City is directly impacted by a super-storm. Meanwhile Trump and his cabinet in the pocket of the oil and gas lobby, are making it easier for oil and gas companies to pollute with impunity by releasing methane, a virulent global warming gas 100 times worse than CO2.

Then we get an update on the censure vote today in the European Parliament to punish Hungary’s leader Victor Orban for breaches of the core values of the European Union and speak with R. Daniel Keleman, the Jean Monnet Chair and Director of the Center for European Studies at Rutgers University. He joins us to discuss whether the EU rule Article 7 could be triggered to suspend Hungary from the 28 member EU which is unlikely because Poland is likely to veto such a move.

Then finally, we examine what might be going on in terms of some kind of budding relationship between Russia and China as the countries two leaders met today in Vladivostok and made pancakes together on the waterfront at Russia’s Pacific port as a major military exercise involving 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks and 1,000 aircraft got underway with Chinese troops drilling with Russian service members in the “Vostok 2018” war games.Gilbert Rozman, a Professor of Sociology at Princeton University who specializes in Russian and Chinese relations, joins us to assess whether these historical rivals are becoming allies.

Michael Mann | R. Daniel Keleman | Gilbert Rozman



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