Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

April 23, 2018

Was the Latest Mass Shooting Ideologically Motivated or a Result of Mental Illness?
The Peculiar Concessions Rand Paul Got For Voting to Confirm Pompeo
Ceremony Likely to Trump Substance at Trump’s First White House State Visit
Program Notes

We begin with the capture of the fugitive who on Sunday morning shot four people dead at a Waffle House in Tennessee and but for the heroic intervention of a customer James Shaw Jr. many more lives would have been lost. We assess whether this latest mass shooting is ideologically motivated in as much as the 29 year-old suspect Travis Reinking claims to be a “sovereign citizen”, or whether since he carried out his shooting rampage naked and claimed that Taylor Swift was stalking him, we once again have the results of the tragic intersection of mentally unstable Americans having access to military-style assault rifles. Brian Levin, a criminologist, civil rights attorney and director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino, joins us to discuss the suspect’s prior arrest at the White House where he claimed to be a “sovereign citizen” who had the right to inspect the White House grounds, and the referral by the FBI and Secret Service to the local police in Illinois who seized Reinking’s arsenal of weapons but, because of lax laws thanks to the NRA, the Tazewell County Sherriff’s did not have the right to confiscate them so handed the weapons over to Reinking’s father who later gave them back to his troubled son.

Then we speak with John Feffer, the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies who has been an international affairs representative in Eastern Europe and East Asia for the American Friends Service Committee and is the author of “Aftershock: A Journey Through Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams”. He joins us to discuss the narrow vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to approve Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be the next Secretary of State and the peculiar reason that Senator Rand Paul gave for switching his vote based on Pompeo’s assurances that he admits the Iraq war was a mistake and that we should get out of Afghanistan, which in the light of history, are hardly controversial concessions.

Then finally we get an analysis of what might emerge from the pomp and pageantry associated with the Trump White House’s first state visit hosting France’s President Macron and speak with Irene Finel-Honigman, a Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who served on the board of the French American Chamber of Commerce, the French American Foundation, and Maison Francaise. Since Macron is trying to convince Trump to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and not pull out of the Iran agreement, expectations for this summit are low, with ceremony likely to trump substance.

Brian Levin | John Feffer | Irene Finel-Honigman

April 22, 2018

The DNC Sues Russia, The Trump Campaign and Wikileaks
With the Imperial Presidency in Trump’s Hands, Could American Democracy Die?
A Lawyer for the Sandy Hook Families on Suing Remington and Alex Jones
Program Notes

We begin with the Democratic National Committee suing Russia, the Trump campaign and Wikileaks and discuss how this might impact the Mueller investigation and bring the issue of impeachment to the forefront in this year’s mid-term election campaign as the central plank of the Democrat’s platform. Matt Angle who directs the Texas Democratic Trust and the Lone Star Project and served as the Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, joins us to assess whether the fundraising benefits of the DNC’s lawsuit will be outweighed by the negative messaging Democratic candidates in swing districts will be stuck with as large numbers of hopefuls join in the primary races. We explore the depth of the anticipated “Blue Wave”, particularly in Texas where Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke is challenging Ted Cruz in a U.S. Senate race which could prove a tectonic upset for the Trump-dominated GOP, particularly since Cruz has written in Time magazine such fawning praise of his previously bitter rival Trump which has been mocked widely for its unctuous sycophancy.

Then we speak with Lawrence Jacobs, the Chair of Political Studies at the University of Minnesota where he directs the Center of the Study of Politics and Governance at the Hubert Humphrey School of Political Affairs. He joins us to discuss how Donald Trump is capitalizing on the imperial presidency erected by presidents since World War 11, provoking dire fears that American democracy will die since our national security and foreign policy is in the hands of a unilateralist with an aberrant personality and a reckless governing style. We assess whether a deal coming out of the Trump-Kim Jong-un summit, no matter how cosmetic, could revive Trump’s presidency, or a war with Iran could give him a short-term boost before things turns sour as they did with the Iraq war.

Then finally, with students across the country demonstrating on Friday on the anniversary of the Columbine school massacre, we will speakJosh Koskoff, a Connecticut-based trial attorney who represents 10 Sandy Hook families in a groundbreaking case against the Remington Arms Company for marketing the Bushmaster AR-15 used in shooting 20 six and seven-year-old schoolchildren and 6 educators in just under 5 minutes. We also discuss the lawsuit by a number of Sandy Hook families against Alex Jones of Infowars for promoting his despicable conspiracy theories that has led to the further victimization of these families who already suffered such unspeakable losses.

Matt Angle | Lawrence Jacobs | Josh Koskoff

April 19, 2018

Congress Wimps Out With the New AUMF
The Confirmation of a Global Warming Denier as Trump’s Pick to Head NASA
How Right Wing Media Props Up Trump With a Bodyguard of Lies
Program Notes

We begin with the bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday by Senators Corker and Kaine to replace the AUMF, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center who was previously counsel to the Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Feingold, joins us. We will discuss her article at Defense One “The Corker-Kaine Bill Would Codify, not End, the Forever War” and how the Congress which under the constitution has the sole authority to declare war, would flip this constitutional power on its head allowing the president to declare war against any enemy anywhere while leaving Congress only with the power to un-declare that war. With a president under siege from mounting domestic scandals who might strike out and start a war as a distraction, whose closest advisor is an eager war hawk, a conflict could easily erupt with Iran and be justified under the Corker-Kaine AUMF. Since Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps are already designated a terrorist organization and they are also sheltering Al Qaeda leadership including Bin Laden’s son, under the Corker-Kaine Bill that would be twice the threshold needed to start the next war.

Then we speak with Lawrence Krauss, Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University who is on the board of the American Federation of Scientists. He joins us to discuss the close vote of 50 to 49 in the Senate today to confirm Trump’s pick to head up NASA, a Republican Congressman from Oklahoma Jim Bridenstine. A global warming denier whose previous experience was running the Tulsa Air and Space Museum into the ground, he will take over a $20 billion enterprise with 17,000 employees many of whom work on earth sciences projects that measure the effects of global warming.

Then finally we examine the role of Trump’s “shadow chief of staff” the Fox News propagandist Sean Hannity who according to a presidential advisor, “basically has a desk” in the White House.  Hannity was recently outed as the third and only client of Trump’s embattled lawyer Michael Cohen and Adele Stan, a weekly columnist for The American Prospect joins us to assess the distortion of the media landscape by the big right wing outlets like Fox and Sinclair. We discuss the extent to which they are propping up the Trump presidency with a bodyguard of lies, and her latest article at The American Prospect “Our Media Problem is Bigger Than Sean Hannity”.

Elizabeth Goitein | Lawrence Krauss | Adele Stan

April 18, 2018

George HW Bush’s Former National Security Advisor on the Trump-Kim Summit and Barbara Bush’s Passing
Cuba’s New Leader and the Prospects for Economics Reform
Navigating Between Cuba’s Old Guard and the Expectations of the Young
Program Notes

We begin with President Trump tweeting out: “Denuclearization will be a great thing for the World, but also for North Korea!” after announcing that his head of the CIA Mike Pompeo, who is awaiting senate confirmation as the next Secretary of State, secretly visited North Korea and met with Kim Jong-un to lay the groundwork for a summit meeting between Trump and Kim.  A former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Donald Gregg, who served as Vice President George H.W. Bush’s national security advisor, joins us to discuss how it is likely the summit will take place but exactly what denuclearization of the Korean peninsula means remains as unclear as it will be difficult to achieve. We look into whether a peace treaty to end the Korean War will be on the table and since Donald Gregg is close to former President George H.W. Bush and knew Barbara Bush well, we get his impressions and memories of the former First Lady who passed away yesterday and today is being remembered as tributes pour in.

Then, with Cuba’s Communist Party poised to announce a successor to Raul Castro tomorrow, we assess the new leader 57 year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez who is the first outside of the Castro dynasty which has ruled the country since the revolution over 50 years ago. Marc Frank, a freelance journalist based in Cuba who writes for Reuters and the Financial Times and is the author of “Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana”, joins us to discuss how the Internet-savvy Diaz-Canel can go about modernizing Cuba’s moribund economy and getting the country more connected to the world as the U.S. under Trump turns back the clock to impose more isolation on the island nation.

Then finally we speak with Ann Louise Bardach, the author of “Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana” and “Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington”. She joins us to discuss how the expectations of young Cubans can be met in terms of both wanting the social services the government provides but also wanting to be free of a government that won’t give them access to the outside world or let them travel and has them under constant surveillance.

Donald Gregg | Marc Frank | Ann Louise Bardach

April 17, 2018

How the Internet is Killing Democracy and How We Save It
The Blindness of India’s Prime Minister to the Rape of Young Women and Girls
Chaos in the White House and No Strategy on Syria
Program Notes

We begin with the suspended head of Cambridge Analytica refusing to appear at a U.K. parliamentary inquiry into the misuse of data on 87 million Facebook users in the 2016 election which helped elect Donald Trump and speak with Jamie Bartlett, director of the Center for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos who presented the two-part BBC documentary series “The Secrets of Silicon Valley” and is the author of the new book “The People Versus Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and how we save it)”. He joins us to discuss the struggle between dataism and humanism and the fight against algorithmic authoritarianism as the titans of Silicon Valley see their future markets in authoritarian states like China and are willing to export their business model of surveillance capitalism to work alongside police-state censorship and surveillance of Chinese citizens who use their platforms. We explore what can be done to save democracy from big data and revive humanism to wean users from their zombie-like addiction to their devices.

Then we examine the explosion of outrage in India over the latest rapes and murders of an eight-year-old girl and of a teenage girl raped over several days by a legislator and his brother who belong to Prime Minister Modi’s ruling BJP party. Dr. Sumit Ganguly, who holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at Indiana University and is the author of “Ascending India and its State Capacity” joins us to discuss how Modi’s Hindu fundamentalism and patriarchal outlook appears to render him tone-deaf to the plight of poor young women and girls from minority communities who are frequent targets of BJP nationalists.

Then finally we get an update on the fallout following the recent American, French and British bombing of Syria which is widely seen as a futile and militarily insignificant gesture which will not impede the Assad regime from committing its daily acts of brutal depravity against the Syrian people. Henri Barkey, professor of international relations at Lehigh University who served on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, joins us to discuss his article at The National “Limited strikes, limited goals and no strategy on Syria” and the state of chaos in Washington where one day the U.S. Representative to the U.N. announces sanctions against Russia then the next day Trump reverses her and gives Putin a free pass yet again.

Jamie Bartlett | Dr. Sumit Ganguly | Henri Barkey

April 16, 2018

Can Comey Fight Trump Without Being Contaminated By Him?
Michael Cohen Forced to Reveal Who His Third Client Is
“Can Democracy Survive Capitalism?”
Program Notes

We begin with the former FBI Director James Comey’s book launch and television interview on ABC with George Stephanopoulos and speak with a former Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who specialized in counterintelligence investigations in New York City. Asha Rangappa, Associate Dean at Yale Law School who teaches national security law and is a political analyst at CNN, joins us to assess whether Comey can thread the needle between not wanting to appear he is paying Trump back for firing him, at the same time wanting to inform the American public about what kind of man sits in the Oval Office, a person who Comey describes as being “morally unfit to be president”. We also look into how the FBI can fight back against the war Trump is waging on the FBI and DOJ with the help of Fox News who are pushing the narrative that there is a conspiracy by the so-called “Deep State” underway to undermine Trump’s presidency.  And although the FBI is a non-partisan law enforcement agency with a majority of its agents registered Republicans, Trump and Fox are portraying the Bureau and its leadership as Democratic shills for Hillary Clinton, who apparently viewers of Fox News are unaware lost the election and is not in power and running the United States.

Then we speak with Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist who writes about national security and civil liberties at emptywheel.net and is a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. She joins us to discuss her article at The New York Times “Trump Pardoned Libby to Protect Himself From Mueller” and today’s hearing before a Federal judge in which Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen was forced to reveal that his third and only client after Trump and Elliot Broidy is Fox’s Sean Hannity the propagandist who is leading the charge in ginning up the phony “Deep State” conspiracy while covering up mounting evidence of Trump’s criminality.

Then finally we examine the new book just out, “Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?” by Robert Kuttner who joins us to discuss how democracies govern nations while global capitalism runs the world. The co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect and former chief investigator for the Senate Banking Committee, he illuminates the urgent need to defend our democracy which is in retreat as plutocracy takes over America and Americans more and more become passive consumers instead of active citizens.

Asha Rangappa | Marcy Wheeler | Robert Kuttner

April 15, 2018

The Cosmetic and Theatrical Attack on Syria
Trump’s Lawyer Cohen Did Visit Prague
We Are The Least Taxed But Feel The Most Burdened By Taxes
Program Notes

We begin with Friday night’s strikes on Assad’s alleged chemical weapons sites in Syria by the U.S., France and the U.K. and get an assessment of what was achieved in terms of “mission accomplished” which Trump triumphantly tweeted out on Saturday. An expert on Syria James Gelvin, a professor of History at UCLA and author of “The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know”, joins us along with a Syrian opposition spokeswoman Rafif Jouejati, the founder and director of FREE-Syria Foundation. We discuss the extent to which the military action was largely cosmetic and theatrical in nature given that empty buildings and bunkers were destroyed, but on the other hand it does appear that General Mattis won out over the hawks Trump and Bolton in limiting the strikes so that no Russians were killed, which if there had been Russian casualties, a wider war with catastrophic consequences might have ensued. We will also examine the moral blindness of Nikki Haley’s threat that the U.S. is “locked and loaded” if Assad uses chemical weapons again, since Assad is free to bomb hospitals and use barrel bombs and starvation on his people because the U.S. has no policy when it comes to the all other aspects of the Syrian war.

Then we speak with veteran investigative journalist Peter Stone about the bombshell story he broke at McClatchy “Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier”.  He joins us to discuss the significance of the trip by Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen to Prague in the fall of 2016 during the presidential campaign just after Manafort was fired to meet with a top Russian official close to Putin and a group of hackers who were reported to have been paid for hacking the DNC and the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.

Then finally as Americans file their taxes due on Tuesday, we will examine how we are the least taxed among the advanced nations yet feel the most burdened by taxes.  The former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, Edward Kleinbard, a Professor of Law at USC and author of “We are Better than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money”, joins us to discuss his article at The Los Angeles Times “Tax Policy is a bore, until they take your Social Security and Medicare away” and the profligate spending of taxpayer money by Trump and his cabinet, in particular by Scott Pruitt.

James Gelvin | Rafif Jouejati | Peter Stone | Edward Kleinbard

April 12, 2018

Russia and Iran Frustrated With Assad as Trump Prepares to Bomb Him
Republican Lawmakers are Quitting in Droves
An Update on the Mueller Investigation
Program Notes

We begin with the looming probability that bombs and missiles will soon rain down on the House of Assad in Syria and speak with Dr. David Lesch, a professor of Middle East History at Trinity University and author of “Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad?” Since David knows Bashar al-Assad, he joins us to discuss what is likely going on inside the Assad family and how much the Russians are frustrated with the Syrian dictator’s uncompromising ruthlessness and refusal to make any kind of diplomatic settlement which would enable the Russians to withdraw their forces. We also look into the extent that the Iranians too are frustrated with their client Assad and how much Iran and Israel are on a collision course which could spark a wider war involving Syrian and Lebanon, a war that would dwarf whatever punitive display of military power Trump and the coalition he is forming are about to unleash on Assad.

Then with the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walking away from the third most powerful office in the land, we will assess why it is that so many of Ryan’s predecessors have either been driven out, quit or been forced to resign as did John Boehner before him and before Boehner gave up, Dennis Hastert, Newt Gingrich, Tom Foley and Jim Wright left in ignominy or scandal. Gregory Wawro, Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and author of “Legislative Entrepreneurship in the U.S. House of Representatives” joins us to discuss how Republican lawmakers are quitting in droves as Republican leaders jockey to succeed Ryan, and the deep and possibly irreparable divide within the GOP that will last as long as the Koch Brothers-backed Freedom Caucus holds sway.

Then finally we get an update on the status of the Mueller investigation just as concerted efforts are underway at the White House to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, discredit James Comey and possibly fire Robert Mueller. A former Federal Prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department Harry Litman, joins us to assess whether a bill by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers to protect Mueller could allow Mueller’s findings to emerge before Trump shuts down the inquiry and buries the report.

Dr. David Lesch | Gregory Wawro | Harry Litman

April 11, 2018

Paul Ryan’s Personal Versus His Public Morality
Trump Threatens Russia With Schoolboy Taunts
Zuckerberg Faces Tougher Questions Before the House Today
Program Notes

We begin with the announcement today by the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan that he will leave the congress when his term ends in January and speak with a long-time analyst of politics in Wisconsin Matthew Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign who was previously the editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine in Madison, Wisconsin.  He joins us to discuss how Ryan makes much of his personal morality which does not translate into public morality since Ryan has never made a stand in the face of Trump’s manifest moral turpitude, racism, misogyny and flagrant dishonesty, and how the deficit hawk exploded the debt with his tax cuts for the rich while this paragon of family values allowed a reprobate Trump to capture the GOP.  With Ryan announcing today that he is resigning because he wants to spend more time with his kids, we examine the obvious hypocrisy of this Ayn Rand acolyte’s determination to cut programs that allow other parents to spend more time with their kids. We also assess the chances of Randy Bryce, the Democratic challenger hoping to unseat Ryan, and Ryan’s Republican challenger, the neo-Nazi and anti-Semite Paul Nehlin.

Then with Trump threatening Russia with schoolboy taunts as he promises to rain missiles and bombs down on Syria, we examine the possibility of a wider confrontation with Russia breaking out as Trump assembles a coalition of the willing to soon mount a major attack on the Assad regime. Nicholas Heras, a Middle East expert and former Andrew Bacevich USA Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, joins us to discuss whether Russia’s threat to attack American missiles and their “carriers” will mean that U.S. and coalition aircraft will be targeted and navy ships in the Mediterranean will be fired upon.

Then finally we look into the grilling today of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg before the House Energy and Commerce Committee and speak with Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies and Director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia and author of the forthcoming book “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy”. He joins us to assess whether the questions today were more targeted, tech-savvy and aggressive than what Zuckerberg faced in yesterday’s contrition and apology tour before the senate.

Matthew Rothschild | Nicholas Heras | Siva Vaidhyanathan

April 10, 2018

Half of the US Senate’s All-Day Grilling of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg
Trump’s Threats and Russia’s Counter-Threats Over Syria
White House Admits Trump Believes He Can Fire Mueller
Program Notes

We begin with half of the United States Senate grilling the CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg for most of the day today, as he tried to deflect criticism with contrition and vague promises to reform his company’s business model of surveillance capitalism in which the user is the product.  Matt Stoller, a Fellow at the Open Markets Institute who was recently a senior advisor to the Senate Budget Committee, joins us to discuss his article at The Daily Beast with Sarah Miller “Facebook Can’t Be Fixed, It needs to Be Broken Up”. We look into what appears to be the first challenge to the culture of impunity which Silicon Valley has enjoyed in a perfect unregulated libertarian world that transcends nation states, out of which the world’s richest and most powerful companies have been built in part on monetizing the abuse of citizen’s privacy. With regulations now emerging in Europe which Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft oppose, we assess whether the senate will force Mark Zuckerberg to deliver on his promises in a meaningful way.

Then we speak with Frances Brown, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Democracy and Rule of Law Program. She recently served on the White House National Security Council staff under Presidents Obama and Trump and joins us to discuss her op-ed at The Hill “If Trump wants to defeat ISIS, America must stabilize Syria”, and Trump’s threat to make Russia, Iran and Assad pay a price in Syria. Threats which have been met by a counter-threat from the head of the Russian military that if the U.S. attacks Syrian government facilities, Russia will fire back with the Russian armed forces taking “retaliatory measures against both missiles and their carriers”.

Then finally we examine the fallout from the FBI’s raid on Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen and the admission by the White House today that Trump believes he has the power to fire Robert Mueller. Lawrence Douglas, a Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College joins us to discuss his article at The Guardian “The Cohen raid is a game changer: Trump’s reaction tells us so” and the extraordinary claim Trump made that the FBI raid was “an attack on our country” when the opposite is true; it is Trump who is attacking the rule of law in America.

Matt Stoller | Frances Brown | Lawrence Douglas

April 9, 2018

The FBI’s Raid on Trump’s Lawyer Michael Cohen
Trump Promises Those Behind the Gas Attack in Syria Will Have “a Big Price to Pay”
The Criminalizing of Peaceful Protests Against Oil and Gas Pipelines
Program Notes

We begin with the raid today on Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s Manhattan office and his room at the Loews Regency hotel where FBI agents seized privileged communications between Cohen and his clients and confiscated electronic equipment, emails, tax documents and business records. A former FBI Special Agent Michael German, who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at New York University, joins us to discuss the raid that was in part acting on a referral from Special Counsel Mueller, making it the second time only after the FBI raid on Paul Manafort that FBI agents were used to seize material instead of the usual practice of issuing subpoenas. We will assess how much this raid has to do with the Russia investigation because Trump’s lawyer was mentioned prominently in the Steele dossier, or the case involving the second mortgage Michael Cohen took out on his home to pay $130,000 to a porn star a week before the election for no apparent reason since his client Donald Trump insists it had nothing to do with him.

Then we look into whether the bombs and missiles will fall on John Bolton’s first day on the job in the White House or the next day, since Trump has promised that within 48 hours those behind the latest chemical attack in Syria will have “a big price to pay.” Thanassis Cambanis, who writes “The Internationalist” column for The Boston Globe and is a contributor to Foreign Policy, joins us from Beirut to discuss the competing pressures on Trump from his new hawkish advisor and Trump’s need to appear tough and not weak like he accuses Obama of being, at the same time wanting to get the U.S. out of Syria and not wanting to offend Putin.

Then finally we speak with Jeff Biggers, an award-winning journalist, historian and playwright who joins us from Iowa where the state legislature just passed a law criminalizing peaceful protest against oil and gas pipelines, punishable by up to 25 years in jail. He joins us to discuss his article at The Huffington Post “Iowa’s Anti-Protest Bill Would Make the Boston Tea-Partiers Felons” and how the Koch Brothers-backed bills through their front group ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, are already in the legislatures of 20 states and have become the law in Oklahoma.

Michael German | Thanassis Cambanis | Jeff Biggers

April 8, 2018

Trump Calls Out Putin for the First Time
Why Does the White House Press Corps Passively Stomach the Daily Diet of Lies?
Hungary’s Election Marred By Islamophobia and Anti-Antisemitism
Program Notes

We begin with Donald Trump publicly criticizing Vladimir Putin for the first time today in a tweet holding Russia and Iran responsible for backing the “animal Assad” for his use of a chemical weapon against women and children in which Trump threatened they would pay a “Big price”…Nina Khrushcheva, a Professor in the Graduate Program of International Affairs at the New School and author of “The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind”, joins us to discuss why Putin appears to be testing the boundaries of the democratic world’s tolerance for human right’s atrocities and the flouting of civilized norms. We assess whether the latest round of sanctions against Russian oligarchs and government officials, which Trump delayed implementing to the point where the likely targets had plenty of time to move their money stashed abroad, will influence Putin’s behavior and whether a threatened U.S. military attack on Assad will deter future provocations or trigger a wider war in Syria.

Then we examine why the White House press corps tolerates the sneering contempt that the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders levels at them daily while flagrantly lying as she defends her boss the Liar-in-Chief often to the point of laughable absurdity. Eric Boehlert, a Senior Writer for Share Blue Media and author of “Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush”, joins us to analyze the extent to which the press enables Trump’s reality TV presidency and government by stunt by following the bright shiny light down the rabbit hole instead of shedding light by exposing the obvious lies and sleight of hand of a tawdry and transparent carnival huckster.

Then finally we get an update on the elections in Hungary that were marred by ugly Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and speak with Charles Gati, a senior research professor of European and Eurasian Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and author of “Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt”. He joins us to discuss whether today’s strong turnout means a further drift to the right empowering the government of the increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, or that the splintered opposition might win enough seats to constrain Orban in his fourth term in office.

Nina Krushcheva | Eric Boehlert | Charles Gati

April 5, 2018

Trump’s Reality TV Antics on the Border
General McMaster’s Parting Broadside
A Former Sinclair News Director on Having to Mouth Pro-Trump Propaganda
Program Notes

With Donald Trump sending the military to the Southern border to help build his wall, we will begin with President Trump trying to have it both ways taking credit for the drop in border crossings while ginning up fears of a looming invasion from Mexico. Ivan Eland, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independence Institute who spent 15 years in Congress working on national security issues, joins us to discuss Trump’s latest stunt in reaction to criticism from Ann Coulter which has him shoring up his base by making it seem he is doing something to deliver on his promise to build a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for. We will assess how long our reality TV president can keep the press and the public distracted by his daily reality TV stunts to mask the utter incompetence of this dangerous ignoramus who was elected by a minority of Americans. We also look into whether reality will catch up with Trump’s increasingly frenzied performances and at what point will his base tire of his antics and realizes Trump is a fraud, because then presumably, the Republicans in congress will stop defending him thus making impeachment both possible and likely.

Then we speak with Steven Pifer, the Director of the Brookings Institution’s Arms Control Initiative and a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia on the National Security Council. He joins us to discuss outgoing National Security Advisor General McMaster’s broadside at the Trump Administration deliberately contradicting Trump’s claim that nobody has been tougher on the Russians than Trump has. We also assess the U.N. Security Council meeting today called by Russia to head off next week’s release of a report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on their investigation into the use of a nerve agent against a Russian exile on British soil.

Then finally we speak with a former News Director of a TV station that the Sinclair Group took over and forced the local news anchors to mouth “Must run” pro-Trump propaganda mandated by the owners of Sinclair, the Smith Family. Aaron Weiss, who spent 14 years as a local news producer and news director, joins us to discuss his article at The Huffington Post “Confessions of a Former Sinclair News Director” and how Sinclair is forcing professional journalists to become state propagandists”.

Ivan Eland | Steven Pifer | Aaron Weiss

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