Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

September 20, 2018

Michael Cohen has Been Telling Mueller A Lot About Trump’s Dealings With Russia
The Flimsy and Fatuous Excuses Trump and the GOP Offer for Why the FBI Can’t Investigate Kavanaugh
Leftists Can Be Both Idealists on Domestic Issues and Realists on Foreign Policy
Program Notes

We begin with the breaking news from ABC News that the special counsel Robert Mueller has been questioning Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen extensively in interviews in Washington D.C. and New York and that Mueller has primarily been focusing on Trump’s dealings with Russia. Scott Horton, a Professor at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harper’s in legal affairs and national security, joins us to discuss how Mueller has been wary of dealing with Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis since Davis represents prominent Russian oligarchs and organized crime figures. But apparently Cohen’s alleged visit to Prague to pay off Russian hackers involved in meddling in the 2016 campaign, which was first noted in the Steele dossier, has been part of the discussions. And since Cohen himself has ties to Russian and Ukrainian gangsters that preceded Trump’s ties to the Russian and Ukrainian mob, and Cohen first met Trump when he bought condos in Trump properties for his Russian and Ukrainian criminal clients, the combination of what Cohen knows about who funded the Trump Organization together with what the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization knows and is telling Mueller, could prove fatal to Trump.

Then with today’s email from the lawyers for Kavanaugh’s accuser to the Senate Judiciary Committee stating that Christine Blasey Ford “would be prepared to testify next week” if the senators offered her “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety”, we speak with Mike Zubrensky, Chief Counsel at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. He was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Obama Administration working on judicial nominations for the Department of Justice and joins us to discuss his article at Medium“Judicial Nominee Background Investigations – Fact vs. Fiction” and how flimsy and fatuous Trump’s and the Republican’s excuses are for why the FBI can’t do a quick investigation of Dr. Ford’s charges against Kavanaugh.

Then finally we speak with Daniel Bessner, a Professor in American Foreign Policy at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies who has an article at The New York Times “What Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Think About the South China Sea? The rising left needs more foreign policy. Here’s how it can start”. We discuss the sweet spot in American politics the left has yet to discover in which you can be an idealist on domestic issues while being a realist on foreign policy.

Scott Horton | Mike Zubrensky | Daniel Bessner

September 19, 2018

The Kavanaugh-Ford Standoff
Will the FBI Director and the DNI Have to Resign?
Is the Putin-Erdogan Plan for a Buffer Zone on the Syria-Turkey Border Workable?
Program Notes

We begin with the standoff between Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser Professor Christine Ford who wants an FBI investigation before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee which President Trump is denying her offering the most flimsy of excuses. Eric Segall, a Professor of Law at Georgia State University and author of “Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court is not a Court and its Justices are not Judges” joins us to discuss whether Professor Ford’s lawyers are overplaying their hand in making demands on the U.S. Senate whose members are notorious for guarding their privileges and protocols. With Senator Graham warning bluntly that if Professor Ford does not show to testify on Monday, the Committee will go ahead and vote on Wednesday, we assess the chances of a compromise since the excuses for not having a quick investigation by the FBI then a hearing don’t add up. But in the meantime Professor Ford has had to go into hiding due to death threats, hacking and impersonation online, and with the senile patriarch Senator Hatch already calling her “mixed up”, a repeat of the treatment Anita Hill got might not play too well in the #MeToo era and further erode the chances of Republican women remaining loyal to Donald Trump’s GOP at the polls in November.

Then we examine the looming collision if not a constitutional crisis resulting from President Trump’s order to declassify secret work product of on on-going investigation in which the president himself might be a target. Andy Wrighta Senior Fellow and Founding Editor of Just Security who served in the White House as Associate Counsel to President Barack Obama and also worked in Congress conducting oversight of U.S. national security matters, joins us. We will discuss the possibility that both the Director of the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence will be forced to resign to protect intelligence sources and methods from a cynical attempt by Trump to bolster a conspiracy theory cooked up by Fox News and the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House.

Then finally we look into the deal Russia’s President Putin has made with Turkey’s President Erdogan to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe by setting up a buffer zone on Turkey’s southern border for three million Syrian citizens trapped with the remnants of the jihadist opposition to the Assad regime. An expert on U.S.-Turkey relations, Aaron Stein, a Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Hariri Center for the Middle East, joins us to assess whether the plan is workable and how much the U.S. has been sidelined in the region by Russia’s diplomatic initiatives.

Eric Segall | Andy Wright | Aaron Stein

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

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