Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

July 15, 2018

Trump Meets with Putin in Spite of His Own Government’s Warnings
Trump’s Trail of Wreckage
How Discredited Foreign Policy Ideas and Blunders Contributed to Trump’s Election
Program Notes

We begin with growing doubts about why Trump is meeting with Putin in Helsinki and what is the nature of their relationship. Malcom Nance, a career U.S. Intelligence officer and author of “The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West” joins us to discuss the extraordinary disconnect between the latest indictments by Robert Mueller of 12 Russian military intelligence GRU officers and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’s warning that the red light is blinking as it was before 9/11 warning that “Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack” by Russia, and our president’s eagerness to get along with Putin who is orchestrated the meddling in our 2016 elections and is now orchestrating Russia’s on-going cyber attacks on our infrastructure and election systems. When asked by CBS News what is the biggest foe America faces globally, the first thing out of Trump’s mouth was the European Union, not Russia and we  examine the evidence which suggests Trump is either Putin’s “useful idiot” or a traitor who has bought into Russia’s agenda, which if true, would make Putin Trump’s case officer and the spymaster behind the most significant intelligence operation since the Germans sent Lenin in a boxcar to Russia in 1917.

Then we go to London to speak with Polly Toynbee, a columnist with The Guardian and the author of “Dismembered: How the attack on the state harms us all”. She joins us to examine the trail of wreckage in Donald Trump’s wake as he trashed NATO, undermined the women leading Germany and the U.K. by in effect campaigning on behalf of their political opposition, then advised Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May to sue the E.U. rather than negotiate with them over Brexit. We also assess the impact of massive demonstrations in London and Scotland and the indignation felt by many in response to Trump posing smugly in Winston Churchill’s armchair.

Then finally we get an analysis of the radical break from traditional U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy with a president intent on destroying treaties, alliances, democratic institutions and diplomatic norms and speak with Stephen WaltProfessor of International Affairs at Harvard University and author of the forthcoming book “The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy”. We discuss how discredited ideas and policies and blunders like Iraq, ironically contributed to Trump’s election which has led to a dramatic worsening of these trends.Then finally we get an analysis of the radical break from traditional U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy with a president intent on destroying treaties, alliances, democratic institution and diplomatic norms and speak withStephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University and author of the forthcoming book “The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy”. We discuss how discredited ideas and policies and blunders like Iraq, ironically contributed to Trump’s election which has led to a dramatic worsening of these trends.

Malcolm Nance | Polly Toynbee | Stephen Walt

July 12, 2018

Anxiety Ahead of Trump’s Bromance Meeting with Putin
Consequences of an End to Asylum
Ties Between the Trump Family and Deutsche Bank
Program Notes

We begin with analysis of the forthcoming summit between Trump and Putin on Monday in Helsinki, Finland which has European allies and even Republican senators concerned about the apparent undue influence Putin has over Trump. Former National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia, Angela Stent, the Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Affairs and a professor of Government and Foreign Affairs at Georgetown University who is the author of The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century, joins us. We assess the extent to which the Trump/Putin summit might be a combination of mendacity and incompetence, given how the much-ballyhooed summit with Kim Jong-un turned out to be nothing more than a gift to a brutal dictator. And since our president is looking forward to a meeting he expects to be “the easiest of them”, after having trashed the two women who are leaders of our most important allies Germany and the U.K., we will look into Trump’s bromance with Putin, the leader of a hostile country which meddled in the 2016 presidential elections to help elect Donald J. Trump.

Then with today’s unveiling of a new asylum policy by the Trump Administration announcing that claims by immigrants fleeing from gang violence and domestic abuse will now be immediately rejected, we turn to the fate of the thousands of migrants and refugees appealing for asylum. Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the bestseller “Enrique’s Journey”, Sonia Nazario, a board member of KIND, Kids in Need of Defense, and contributing opinion writer to the New York Times where she has an article “The End of Asylum”, joins us. We examine the Trump Administration’s illegal efforts in denying the recent wave of migrants “credible fear interviews” and well-considered trials, and assess the chances migrants and refugees have of filing successful asylum claims in the future.

Then finally we speak with James Henry, an economist, lawyer and investigative journalist and co-founder of the investigative reporting news service who has written extensively about global banking and tax havens and is the author of Blood Bankers. He joins us to discuss Deutsche Bank’s $10 billion fine for money laundering and the role it played in rescuing Trump’s business and the possible influence of former Deutsche Bank managing director Justin Kennedy, in getting his father Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire from the Supreme Court before the November elections.

Angela Stent | Sonia Nazario | James Henry

July 11, 2018

The Dangers of Trump Labeling Humans as Vermin
Why Does Trump Insult Merkel While Fawning Over Putin?
Trump Doubles Down on His Demand NATO Allies Pay More for Defense
Program Notes

We begin with the neuroscience behind the success of Trump’s divisive strategy to “Make America Hate Again.” Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst who has an article at CNN “Be Alarmed When a Leader Tries To Make You Think of Humans as Vermin”, joins us to discuss the insula, the part of the brain that is responsible for responding to disgust.  And since the research shows that Republicans have a lower threshold for disgust compared to Democrats, we will assess how, in comparing the recent wave of migrants and refugees to an infestation of vermin, Trump and the Republican party have seized upon the age-old strategy of weaponizing disgust as the Nazis did by calling Jews rats and the Hutu in the Rwandan genocide did in calling Tutsis cockroaches. Despite the human capacity to hate, recent polling indicates that 67% of the population sympathizes with the 3,000 plus children seized from their parents at the border, demonstrating that hate can be outweighed by empathy.

Then we discuss Trump’s counterintuitive and destructive approach to foreign relations on display at today’s NATO summit in Brussels where he chose to alienate our closest allies rather than form a common front against our most aggressive adversary. Daniela Schwarzer, Director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, joins us to discuss Trump’s consistently adversarial stance toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is leading a frail Christian Democratic Union under pressure from a growing right wing backlash against immigrants in Germany.

Then finally we turn to Trump’s main demands at today’s summit: that NATO allies increase their alliance contributions from 2% to 4% of their GDP and that Germany recognize its “captive” dependence on Russian oil and gas. Thomas Berger, a professor of International Relations at Boston University who specializes in German politics and is the author of Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan, joins us to discuss the state of the German military and the scandals that have come to light in recent years regarding the lack of readiness of the underfunded German military.

Robert Sapolsky | Daniela Schwarzer | Thomas Berger

July 10, 2018

Did Trump Choose Kavanaugh as Insurance Against Mueller?

Kavanaugh the Corporatist

How to Make Sure Senators Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly Don’t Vote for Kavanaugh

Program Notes

We begin with Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh and whether he was chosen by the president as insurance in Trump’s fight for self-preservation. Caroline Fredrickson, President of the American Constitution Society where she focuses on judicial nominations, joins us to discuss her article at The New York Times “Will Kavanaugh Provide Cover for Trump?” We assess how much Brett Kavanaugh’s 2009 law review article in which he advocated that Congress consider a law exempting a president from criminal prosecution, swayed Trump. And whether some kind of loyalty assurance was given that if and when the Supreme Court has to rule on a Mueller indictment, or Trump’s claim he can pardon himself and his underlings under investigation, Kavanaugh would rule to protect Trump.

Then we discuss the future of workers' and consumers' rights in a 5-4 Supreme Court with a conservative majority in lockstep with the Republican agenda as it furthers the empowerment of corporations and the protection of “corporate rights.” Gigi Sohn, who served as a counselor to former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and is a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, joins us to discuss Kavanaugh’s May 2017 dissent opposing net neutrality in favor of corporate “First Amendment” rights. We consider whether the most important question for Democrats to ask in the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings is if we want a Supreme Court stacked with corporatists who are opposed to workers and consumers.

Then finally we look into the religious right’s opposition to Kavanaugh’s appointment given Trump’s slighting of Amy Barrett, the Catholic fundamentalist championed by Vice President Pence and Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Sarah Posner, an expert on the intersection of religion and politics and author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, joins us to discuss her article at The Nation, “Will Brett Kavanaugh Pass the Religious Right’s New Litmus Test?” We assess what strategy the Democrats could pursue to make sure the Democratic Senators who voted to confirm Gorsuch-- Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly--will oppose Kavanaugh’s appointment.

Caroline Fredrickson | Gigi Sohn | Sarah Posner

July 9, 2018

The British Government’s Impending Collapse Over Brexit
Collateral Damage From Putin’s Poisoners
Trump Bullies Nations at the Behest of Big Corporations Marketing Baby Formula to the Third World
Program Notes

We begin with disarray in the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet following the resignation of her chief negotiator on Brexit David Davis who is joined today by Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson who quit in protest of May’s Brexit plan. The author of “Brexit – Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union”, Harold Clarke, the co-investigator of the British Election Study at the University of Manchester where he also is a visiting professor, joins us. We discuss this political earthquake rattling the British government which is likely to lead to a leadership challenge and a power struggle within the ruling Tory party who hold a slim majority. And with President Trump scheduled to visit the U.K. on Thursday, we assess what further mischief Trump might cause given his support for Brexit and his sympathy for the Brexiteers like Boris Johnson who makes rosy promises about a halcyon new world of free trade while wanting a crash exit or hard break from Europe and damn the consequences.

Then with today’s death of a British citizen from contact with the Russian nerve agent Novichok which was used in an assassination attempt to poison Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy and his daughter, we will look into how callous and sloppy Putin’s poisoners appear to have been in discarding the container of the deadly nerve agent which was smeared on the door handle of the Skripals home in Salisbury, resulting in the collateral damage of a lethal dose killing Dawn Sturgess and leaving her partner Charlie Rowley critically ill. Luke Harding, the former Moscow Bureau Chief of The Guardian and author of “A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s war with the West” whose latest book is “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House”, joins us to discuss the growing outrage in the U.K.

Then finally we speak with David Dayen, a contributing writer to and The Intercept about his article in The Los Angeles Times “The U.S. bullied the world to stop a pro-breastfeeding resolution? That’s the American Way”. We analyze the attempt by the Trump Administration to remove language from a resolution at the World Health Assembly to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” at the behest of the big corporations who make baby formula which they are marketing to the Third World with misinformation, creating a black market in diluted formula which is crippling the growth of children whose parents cannot afford the costly formula.

Harold Clarke | Luke Harding | David Dayen

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