Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

We begin with the elections in Germany with the results just coming in and speak with Daniela Schwarzer, Director of the Europe Program at the German Marshal Fund and the co-founder and co-editor of the European Political Economy Review and the eurozonewatch.eu website. She joins us from Berlin to discuss Chancellor Angela Merkel’s victory in winning a fourth term with her Christian Democratic Union winning 32% with the Social Democratic Party at 20% and the far right Alternative for Germany gaining 13.3%. We explore the likelihood of Merkel forming an alliance known as the “Jamaica Coalition” because of the parties’ colors resembling the Jamaica flag, comprising Merkel’s CDU, the pro-business Free Democratic Party and the Greens.

Then we examine further the important political role of Angela Merkel on the world stage where she is increasingly being referred to as the leader of the free world, a title normally assigned to the President of the United States, but because of Trump’s distain for America’s long-standing alliances and his growing unpopularity at home and abroad the role the U.S. has had since the end of World War 11 is being relinquished. Joining us is Charles Kupchan, who up until recently was a Special Assistant to President Obama for National Security and before that was Director of European Affairs on the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration and is now a Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Then finally we speak with veteran sportscaster Robert Lipsyte, a long-time sport and city columnist for The New York Times and the author of a memoir “An Accidental Sportswriter” who was also a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and for NBC Nightly News. He joins us to discuss the fight that Donald Trump has picked with some of the country’s biggest stars in football, basketball and baseball and Trump’s excessively macho contention that NFL football is not rough enough at a time when the debilitating effects of CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy among professional football players is becoming known.

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We begin with the additional sanctions placed on North Korea following Trump’s threat before the UN to “totally destroy” the country. Gilbert Rozman, a Professor of Sociology at Princeton University who specializes in Korea and its neighbors in Northeast Asia, China, Russia and Japan, and is the editor of the Asan Forum, joins us. We  discuss whether Trump’s order to ban ships and planes that have visited North Korea from entering the U.S. for 180 days will have any effect and whether Trump’s praise for President Xi and China’s Central Bank that “Their central bank has told their other banks, that’s a massive banking system, to immediately stop doing business with North Korea” is based on reality or wishful thinking since this is a claim that Chinese authorities have yet to confirm.

Then we assess the likelihood that Puerto Rico will get the aid it urgently needs following the devastation from Hurricane Maria which has left the island without water and electricity with the governor estimating that it will take a month or more to get electricity back for the whole island. Charles Venator Santiago, Professor of Latino Politics and Professor of Political Science at the Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at the University of Connecticut joins us to discuss how Puerto Rico’s fate is in the hands of the Republican Congress following a 2016 Federal Law establishing PROMESA, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act which has imposed austerity to deal with an extended debt and bankruptcy crisis.

Then finally, as the Special Counsel Robert Mueller zeroes in on Paul Manafort, we investigate whether Trump’s former campaign manager was a Kremlin asset and an important part of an overall Russian Intelligence operation to manipulate the American election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. Anders Aslund, a professor at the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University and a former Swedish diplomat in Moscow who was an economic advisor to the governments of Russia and Ukraine, joins us to discuss the ties between Manafort, the deposed pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Yanukovych and Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs close to Putin.

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We begin with the international response to Donald Trump’s crass and contemptible speech before the UN and speak with the former New York Times bureau chief at the UN, Barbara Crossette who is now the UN correspondent for The Nation. She joins us to describe how the representatives of the nations of the world reacted to the leader of the most powerful nation on earth threatening to destroy a country of 25 million people in what was a campaign-style speech meant to rile up Trump’s base of at best 35% of the country, delivered on the world stage in the name of the 65% of Americans who are left to endure this embarrassment and insult to what Thomas Jefferson referred to as “the good opinion of mankind”.

Then we go to Mexico City to get an update on rescue efforts underway following Tuesday’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake 60 miles south of Mexico City that collapsed buildings and schools resulting in a death toll of at least 250 so far with many more trapped under the rubble. Dudley Althaus, a Wall Street Journal correspondent for Mexico and Central America joins us to discuss how the earthquake coincided with earthquake drills on the anniversary of the deadly 1985 quake and the heart-wrenching search underway for school children buried under the rubble.

Then finally we examine the increasing focus on Facebook, the social media platform from which 67% of Americans get their news and information that operates in total opacity as it boasts to advertisers of its powers to reach billions of users, while refusing to be held accountable for its content whether it is from “Jew Haters” or Russian bots and trolls. David Carroll, a professor of media design at the Parson School of Design joins us to discuss his article at Medium “Confronting a Nightmare for Democracy: Personal Data, Personalized Media and Weaponized Propaganda” and the risk of ceding our democracy to the dark databases and vast resources of plutocrats like the Mercers who manipulate the public to increase their power over our political life and economic future.

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We begin with Donald Trump’s “America First” speech before the U.N. today in which he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. Joseph Cirincione, the president of the Ploughshares Fund and author of “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons” joins us to discuss how extraordinarily lucky we have been that no nuclear weapon has been use in anger since Nagazaki in 1945 and the recent passing of “the man who saved the world” a former Soviet military officer Lt. Colonel Stanislav Petrov who is September of 1983 decided that the alarm bells from the early warning system detecting 5 American Minuteman missiles heading for the Soviet Union was a computer error and thus the world was saved from an accidental nuclear war because he defied orders and overrode an automatic massive Soviet retaliation. Now with the growing possibility that the U.S. could stumble into a nuclear war with North Korea, we look into Trump’s belligerent stance on the world stage and discuss the dinner that our guest attended last night with the President of Iran.

Then we assess how much the noose is tightening around top Trump officials including Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort who is under enormous pressure from the Special Counsel investigating Russian meddling in the election since Manafort was told that he will be indicted. Robert Dreyfuss, a contributing editor to The Nation and an independent investigative journalist specializing in politics and national security, joins us to discuss his latest article at Rolling Stone “Russiagate Dominoes Are Starting to Fall” and how Manafort has been under CIA and FBI surveillance since 2014 up until recently, which means that it is likely the government has transcripts of phone calls between Trump and Manafort.

Then finally we  speak with Wendell Potter, a former chief corporate spokesman for CIGNA and head of corporate communication for Humana who is now a senior analyst on health care at the Center for Public Integrity and founder of Tarbell.org. He joins us to discuss his latest article at Truthout “Even Business Leaders Are Realizing Health Insurance Companies Serve No Purpose” and how two Republican senators who voted against the last effort to repeal Obamacare are wavering under pressure to go along with the hideous and cruel Graham-Cassidy bill.

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We begin with the possibility that the 2016 election could be contested following a question by NPR’s Terry Gross who asked Hillary Clinton “would you completely rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election if we learn that the Russian interference in the election was even deeper than we know”. To which Hillary Clinton replied “No, I wouldn’t rule it out.” An expert on the history of presidential elections and election chicanery, the author of “Down for the Count: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America”, investigative journalist Andrew Gumbel joins us. We will discuss how at least two presidents Samuel Tilden in 1876 and Al Gore in 2000 won the popular vote and the Electoral College but lost their elections, and look into the possibility of a do-over if the Special Counsel Robert Mueller were to find compelling evidence that the combination of Russian active measures, voter roll hacking and campaign collusion was sufficient to swing the election, given the narrow 77 thousand vote margin Trump won the Electoral College by.

Then we will assess the chances of the effort underway to repeal Obamacare with the Graham/Cassidy bill that is being pushed through the Senate ahead of a September 30 deadline. Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with The Los Angeles Times, joins us to discuss this wolf in sheep’s clothing that is being cast as a moderate common-sense alternative to the Draconian repeal bills that have floundered so far, and his latest article at The Los Angeles Times “The GOP’s last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill may be the worst one yet”.

Then finally we will speak with Aziz Huq, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and is the author of “Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror”. He joins us to discuss his article at The Guardian “How would Trump handle a terror attack” and express his concern that like Syria and North Korea, Trump with seize on fiery bluster and dramatic threats and treat a terrorist tragedy as a campaign event as he has done with the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

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We begin with an assessment of where the Russia inquiry into possible Russian collusion in Trump’s election is heading and when there will be definitive proof as the various strands of the broad array of continuing revelations are tied together. Jack Blum, a veteran Washington investigator who spent 14 years as a staff attorney with the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served as the chair of the expert group on international asset recovery who is currently the Chair of the Tax Justice Network, joins us. We will discuss the status of the various inquiries, in particular the Special Counsel’s investigation, and the denial on the political Left as well as the lack of outrage on the Right about the significance of a foreign power manipulating our election, possibly to the point that voters will be demanding a do-over.

Then we will examine Trump’s recent about face in the Oval Office and the Chuck and Nancy romance that might save the DACA program although there have been howls of betrayal from Trump’s base and mixed signals in his tweets and statements about whether or not his wall will be built or be part of a deal to save the “dreamers”. Sarah Binder, a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a professor of political science at George Washington University joins us to discuss whether Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were secretly relieved that they did not have to face a showdown with their rebellious Tea Party caucuses threatening to shut down the government over the debt ceiling.

Then finally we will look into another outbreak of unrest in St. Louis following the acquittal of a white police officer who was charged with first-degree murder for shooting a black man following a high-speed chase. Garret Duncan, a Professor of African American Studies at the University of Washington in St. Louis joins us to discuss his article “How to Make Black Lives Matter” and how the shooting, that took place not far from Ferguson where Michael Brown was shot by police in 2014, was captured on dashcam video with the officer who was just acquitted saying “I’m going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it”.

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We begin with revelations that the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates made a secret trip to the U.S. for meetings in Trump tower with General Michael Flynn and later in the Seychelles met with the founder of Blackwater Erik Prince, who has a mercenary military force operating out of the UAE. Joining us to look into the role of the UAE in the 9/11 attacks is Kristen Breitweiser, 9/11 widow and activist and author of “Wake Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow”. We discuss her article at The Huffington Post “UAE: Financial and Transit Hub of 9/11 Terror” and the extent to which the Trump Administration has made secret deals with the UAE and Saudi Arabia who are behind the blockade of Qatar and are actively encouraging the U.S. to intervene in Iran.

Then we will look further into the growing evidence that the Trump Administration is frantically trying to fabricate any excuse to demonstrate Iran’s non-compliance with the terms of the P5+1 nuclear deal signed by Obama which Trump has decried on the campaign trail and later as president as “the worst deal in history”. The author of “The Great Satan versus the Mad Mullahs: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other”, William Beeman, a Middle East Specialist for more than 30 years who has served as a consultant to the U.S. State Department, the Department of Defense, the U.N. and the U.S. Congress, joins us to discuss his article at NewAmericaMedia.org “Trump Administration Signals Plans to Abandon Iran Deal”.

Then finally with more demonstrations expected tonight on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, we speak with the Dean of the Berkeley Law School Erwin Chemerinsky, the co-author of a new book “Free Speech on Campus”. He joins us to discuss the potential of clashes between outside groups on the right like the Proud Boys and the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights and the RefuseFascism.org group on the left promoting demonstrations against a conservative speaker Ben Shapiro. Later this month Stephen Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos will cause more disruption and expense for the university in the hope they will be banned and thus become martyrs for free speech.

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We begin with today’s unveiling of the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” by Senator Bernie Sanders which has the support of 15 Democratic Senators but has not been embraced by the Democratic leadership in the Senate or House. The author of “The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office”, James Morone, a Professor of Political Science at Brown University noted for his work on health policies, joins us to discuss concerns expressed by Nancy Pelosi that Sanders’ single-payer plan shifts focus away from fighting to save the Affordable Care Act which the Republicans could still try to repeal. We also assess the uphill battle to get politically powerful insurance companies out of the healthcare business even though they contribute nothing but expensive overhead and spiraling costs under our current sickness/profit system called healthcare.

Then we hear from an advocate of “Medicare for All”  Dr. Adam Gaffney, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Secretary of the advocacy organization, Physicians for a National Health Program. He joins us to discuss why the advanced democracies who spend less than half of what we do on healthcare with better results, have adopted a single-payer system and how the overhead for Medicare is just 2% while the cost of overhead at health insurance companies is 14%.

Then finally we will examine the concerns expressed by the Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which is shared among leaders of America’s closest allies, that Donald Trump may not have the “stability” to be trusted with the nuclear codes given that there is no impediment between the President and his authority to launch nuclear weapons. Jeffrey Bader, who was a special assistant for national security affairs on the National Security Council where he was the principal advisor to President Obama on Asia, joins us to discuss his article at The New York Times “Time to Restrict the President’s Power to Wage Nuclear War” and concerns about the exchange of bellicose threats between Trump and Kim Jong-un.

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