Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

June 18, 2018

In Resisting Trump “We Lose Only When We Get Quiet”
How Propaganda is Working for Trump
An Update on the World Cup in Russia
Program Notes

We begin with the relentless nature of the Trump Administration’s government by stunt and spectacle and Trump’s constant assault on our political, legal, economic, cultural and social structures in a tyranny of the minority which is demoralizing the outraged majority, making us numb and weakening our resolve to fight back. Dahlia Lithwickwho writes about the courts and the law for Slate Magazine and hosts the podcast Amicus, joins us to discuss her article at Slate “It’s All Too Much, and We Still Have to Care”. With growing signs of outrage as two thirds of Americans now disapprove of Trump’s cruel border policies separating young children from their mothers, we discuss the warning by the head of the Poor People’s Campaign the Reverend William Barber that “We lose only when we get quiet”. And since Republican women like former First Lady Laura Bush and even Melania Trump (with a conspicuous silence from women’s and children’s advocate Ivanka Trump) are speaking out against the callous inhumanity Trump, Sessions, Kelly and Stephen Miller are displaying in the name of the American people, there are signs that truth and justice will prevail in the end.

Then we speak with Jason Stanleya Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and author of “How Propaganda Works” whose forthcoming book is “How Fascism Works”. He joins us to discuss the extent to which Donald Trump has weaponized the advice of the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels to “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it”. Amid signs that Trump’s campaign to discredit the Mueller investigation is working with 36% now having an unfavorable opinion of Mueller and just 32% approving of the inquiry, we will discuss how, thanks to Fox News and other pro-Trump propaganda outlets, propaganda is working for Trump and America is getting closer to fascism.

Then finally we look into the FIFA World Cup underway in Russia and the surprising defeat of the soccer powerhouse Germany by Mexico, a victory undermined by Mexican fans chanting a homophobic slur which FIFA is now investigating. Andrei Markovits, Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan and author of “Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism” and “Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture”, joins us for an update on the world’s most-watched sporting event.

Dahlia Lithwick | Jason Stanley | Andrei Markovitz


June 17, 2018

The Utility of Psychological Profiles on Kim Jong-Un, Putin and Xi Jinping
Trump Denies His Own Cruel Policy
Can the White House Press Corps Unite to Force Trump and Sanders to Stop Lying and Answer Questions?
Program Notes

We begin with an analysis of why the recent summit in Singapore might be successful now that North Korea’s main propaganda outlet has broadcast a 45 minute documentary full of the requisite praise for Chairman Kim, but with favorable words for President Trump and a mentioning of the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula with images of the gleaming Singapore skyline as a modernistic future for North Korea to aspire towards. We will speak with someone who predicted a successful summit, Ken Dekleva, a clinical psychiatrist who until recently served as a psychiatrist with the U.S. State Department. He has created psychological profiles of foreign leaders ahead of presidential summits having created profiles on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping among others. Given President Trump’s emphasis on personal engagement as opposed to policy preparation, we discuss the importance of personal chemistry in terms of meetings between heads of state and how understanding who you are dealing with and what makes them tick can be helpful if not crucial.

Then we examine the cruel immigration policy underway on the southern border directed by a president who is denying what he is doing, which amounts to child abuse, then blaming it on Democrats. Ruthie Epstein, an immigration policy analyst and lobbyist at the American Civil Liberties Union joins us to discuss the brazen nature of Trump’s cynical denial of his own policy and attempts by the Republicans next week to pass a bill that their so-called moderates and hard-liners can agree on, about which Trump has sent mixed signals.

Then finally, with President Trump holding an impromptu press gaggle in the White House driveway at which one reporter asked “why are you lying” but was drowned out by other reporters shouting questions, we assess whether it would be possible for the White House press corps to form some sort of solidarity and united front to demand that Trump and Sarah Sanders stop lying and answer questions. The author of “The Press effect”, Paul Waldman, who blogs at the Washington Post’s Plum line and is a senior writer for the American Prospect, joins us.

Ken Dekleva | Ruthie Epstein | Paul Waldman


June 14, 2018

The Long-Anticipated DOJ IG’s Report Trump is Seizing On
The First Look Inside a Detention Facility Holding 1500 Immigrant Children
The Worsening Situation in Yemen
Program Notes

We begin with the release of the long-anticipated report by the Department of Justice Inspector General who investigated former FBI Director Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email saga which Trump has relentlessly tried to build up as a criminal outrage worse than Watergate in order to distract from the on-going Mueller investigation into him and his family. Lisa Kern Griffin, a professor of law at Duke University who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner and spent five years as a Federal Prosecutor in the Chicago United States Attorney’s Office, joins us. We will discuss how the report’s main finding is that Comey was “insubordinate” in his handling of the Clinton investigation but it finds there was no “bias” in the FBI’s decision to clear Clinton. However buried in the 568 pages of this report are seven words that Trump and his Fox and friends media allies are blowing up into a smoking gun to proves the “Deep State” is out to get Trump, and that is an exchange of texts between a former Army officer and FBI agent Peter Strzok and his girlfriend FBI lawyer Lisa Page who asked rhetorically “Trump’s not ever going to become president right? Right?” To which Strzok fatefully replied “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Then we speak with Emma Brown, an investigative reporter at The Washington Post where her latest article is “Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart where the U.S. is holding nearly 1,500 immigrant children”. We discuss the first access the press has had to a detention facilities housing some of the 11,200 children now in federal custody. And while the excuse is given that the privacy of children is being protected, the U.S. public knows very little about the fate of children as young as breast-feeding babies who have been ripped from their mother’s arms at the southern border, and the conditions in which they are being detained under what the Trump Administration calls a “zero tolerance policy”.

Then finally we get an update on the worsening situation in Yemen which is already a humanitarian catastrophe, as a Saudi-led force moves on the port city of Hudaydah to close off the only access to aid for a country under a merciless blockade which has resulted in a third of the country’s population facing starvation. An expert on YemenDr. Sheila Carapico, a Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Richmond and author of “Arabia Incognita: Dispatches from Yemen and the Gulf”, joins us to discuss the extent to which the U.S. has blood on its hands as a result of supporting and arming the Saudi war now threatening to destroy a city of 600,000.

Lisa Kern Griffin | Emma Brown | Dr. Sheila Carapico


June 13, 2018

Normalizing Trump’s Embarrassing Amateurism
Meanness and Madness in Trump’s America
The AT&T-Time Warner Mega-Merger
Program Notes

We will begin with the embarrassing amateurism on display with Trump’s train-wreck leadership now being normalized as being an unorthodox way of doing business. Meanwhile it is increasingly clear that Trump hates meetings like the G-7 because he is unable to keep up with his peers without looking foolish and exposing his ignorance. And having purged those few top White House advisors who tried to speak truth to power, we now have a team of sycophants, lightweights, cranks and crackpots surrounding a woefully unqualified president who has to resort to reality TV spectacle to disguise his incompetence and inability to govern in an executive branch unable to implement policies and enact promises. Kent Harrington, a former CIA analyst who served as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, joins us to discuss the staged-for-TV Singapore summit which late night TV hosts have likened to the TV reality show “The Bachelorette”. And now that the only adult left in the Trump cabinet who is not a sycophant or a toady, Defense Secretary Mattis, has been blindsided by promises to stop exercises and pull troops out of South Korea, we will examine whether there is the capacity in this Administration to follow through on the opening Trump has claimed his wildly successful summit has provided.

Then, with a white supremacist sympathizer running as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, and a wife-beating Democrat running for the House in South Carolina, and a pimp running as a Republican for the State Legislature in Nevada, we will assess the meanness and madness in Trump’s America that will escalate as the November elections approach. With Republican Senator Corker describing his Republican Party as having become “a cult-like situation under Trump”, we will speak with Mike Lofgren, the author of the best-seller “The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted”.

Then finally we discuss the $85.4 billion mega-merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which was approved on Tuesday in full by the Federal Judge Richard Leon in defiance of the Department of Justice. With 50,000 mergers having taken place in 2016 and 50,000 in 2017, and $2 trillion spent on mergers so far in 2018, we will speak with Jesse Eisinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning senior reporter at ProPublica who covers Wall Street and Finance about this new laissez- faire business environment in which AntiTrust tools are not being used.

Kent Harrington | Mike Lofgren | Jesse Eisenger


June 12, 2018

Singapore Summit Light on Disarmament
Maybe the Ego-Driven Amateur is the Right Person to Pull Off the Korean Deal
How a Trade War With Canada Could Backfire

Program Notes

We begin with the choreographed Kim-Trump photo-op that was very light on substance and even lighter on the takeaway, a one-page signed agreement which promised much less than the 1994 and 2006 joint communiques, which has left almost all specialists on Korea and U.S. officials who have dealt with the peninsula considerably underwhelmed. Grace Liu, a Research Associate at the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey, joins us to discuss what was left undone and glossed over and that is some kind of nuclear arms reduction agreement with North Korea in exchange for vague security guarantees offered by Secretary of State Pompeo who declined to describe what they might be. With no substantial action forthcoming on denuclearization the Singapore summit was hardly a victory for disarmament but now that the door is open for more meetings ahead, we will assess whether at the end of the day the best deal that could be arrived at between the U.S. and North Korea might end up looking a lot like the Iran deal which Trump tore up.

Then we speak with Kyung Moon Hwang, a Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California who writes a bi-weekly column for the Korea Times of Seoul whose most recent study is “Rationalizing Korea”.  He joins us to discuss how the ego-driven amateur who talked of pristine North Korean beaches as real estate opportunities to build condos, might just be the best person to pull of this deal since clearly over the decades the professionals have failed. We will also look into the frightening signal that a desperately poor country devoting all of its resources to make nuclear weapons sends to the world; if you want respect and to be taken seriously, then get a nuke.

Then finally we speak with the Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University, Leo Panitch about President Trump’s new best friend the North Korean dictator he describes effusively as “a talented man who loves his country very much” compared to his newest global enemy Canada’s Prime Minister who Trump refers to dismissively as Justin. We discuss how China reaches out to the world by building roads while Trump builds walls.

Grace Liu | Kyung Moon Hwang | Leo Panitch


June 11, 2018

Could North Korea Play the US Off Against China?
Could Starting a Trade War Backfire on Trump?
The Supreme Court OK’s Purging Voters If They Miss One Election
Program Notes

We begin with the meeting between President Trump and the North Korean dictator due to take place in one hour from now and explore the possibility that Kim Jong-un could put himself in the position of playing China off against the U.S. in the way that Nixon’s meeting with Mao during the Cold War enabled the U.S. to play China off against the Soviet Union. A former deputy secretary of defense and a member of the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council, Rudy deLeon, a senior fellow with the National Security and International Policy team at the Center for American Progress, joins us to discuss how a nuclear deal with North Korea could be negotiated if the U.S. and its allies know so little about what North Korea has in terms of weapons, nuclear facilities and delivery vehicles. We also assess the role of China and South Korea behind the scenes and going forward if a deal is to be struck. And since Trump has done little to no preparation compared to Nixon, we will analyze what Kim Jong-un has won so far and what he might want out of a deal which Trump appears eager to make up front without paying much attention to the details that will have to follow.

Then with Trump attacking Canada’s Prime Minister again on Monday in tweets from the summit in Singapore, we speak with Matt Golda Professor of Law who teaches international trade law at Fordham University who held an appointment within the Executive Office of the President as Deputy Assistant Trade Representative for North America. He joins us to examine whether insulting close neighbors and long-standing allies could degenerate into a trade war.  And while Trump is obviously playing to the “Rust Belt” for the mid-terms and 2020 and using the “national security” rubric against Canada to avoid input from Congress, if reciprocal tariffs start escalating in a tit-for-tat trade war, the stock market could tank and backfire on Trump.

Then finally we look into the 5 to 4 decision on the Supreme Court by the conservative majority to break a bi-partisan tradition and side with the Trump Administration to uphold a controversial Ohio voter purge to remove voters from the rolls if they fail to vote in one election. A nationally-recognized expert on election law, Richard Hasen, the Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine joins us to discuss his article at Slate “Sonia Sotomayor’s Dissent in the Big Voter Purge Case Points to How the Law Might Still be Struck Down”.

Rudy deLeon | Matt Gold | Richard Hasen


June 10, 2018

Trump Forges a Global Realignment Rewarding Despots While Punishing Allies
The Now-Obvious Hold Putin Has Over Trump
“Nicaragua on the Brink of Calamity”
Program Notes

We begin with the politics of petulance as the man-child and leader of the free world blows up alliances and tramples on relations with traditional allies while reaching out to rehabilitate Russia and reward China as our president forges a radical global realignment with despots and kleptocrats with Trump, like a Godfather meeting with fellow mob bosses to carve up territory, announcing that “we’ve got a world to run”. Thomas Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College whose latest book is “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters” joins us to discuss the extraordinary inversion of national security priorities as Trump embraces enemies and trashes allies with an insulting attack on America’s closest neighbor and ally Canada at the same time elevating one of the world’s worst dictators with praise and prestige. We look into Trump’s childish reversal over an imaginary sleight by Canada’s Prime Minister who Trump gratuitously demeaned, rejecting a consensus reached at the G-7.  And the unreal nature of the reality TV summit about to take place in Singapore where the theatrics of an easy deal with a do-over dictator is about to be sold as great global statesmanship.

Then we explore the now obvious hold that Vladimir Putin has over Donald Trump with Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence at a meeting in France warning that Putin is trying to divide the NATO alliance while at the same time Trump calls for Putin’s re-admission to the G-7 at the testy meeting in Quebec at which the British Prime Minister was hoping to get a unanimous condemnation of Russia for their nerve gas attack on British soil.  Roger Morris, who served on the National Security Council under both Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, until resigning with Anthony Lake over the bombing of Cambodia, whose latest book is the comparative history of the U.S. and the USSR, “Kindred Rivals: America, Russia and Their Failed Ideals”, joins us to discuss the disturbing possibility that our president is Putin’s puppet.

Then finally we speak with Stephen Kinzerwho served as The New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua and is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs about his article at The Boston Globe “Nicaragua on the Brink of Calamity”. He joins us to discuss how for the second time in many generations, Nicaraguans are rebelling against a decadent family regime and efforts by the Catholic bishops to get the authoritarian leader Daniel Ortega to stop shooting down peaceful protesters and agree on a new election.

Thomas Nichols | Roger Morris | Stephen Kinzer


June 7, 2018

Trump Stiffs Allies While Embracing Despots
Trump Revives Nativism and Protectionism Like the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act
Senate Confirms a Proponent of Equating Criticism of Israel with Antisemitism as Head of Civil Rights at the Dept.of Education
Program Notes

We begin with tomorrow’s G-7 Summit in Quebec City, Canada which President Trump is reluctantly attending because it is likely he will get an earful from the leaders of France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and Canada who as America’s allies, are furious that he is imposing tariffs on them and starting a trade war. Donald Abelsona professor and chair of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who specializes in American politics and U.S. foreign policy, joins us to discuss the alarming ignorance of history displayed by Donald Trump in his testy phone call with Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau and Trump’s State Department spokesperson who cited the D Day invasion as an example of America’s “very strong relationship” with Germany.  We review the list of world leaders and close allies such as Abe, May, Macron and Trudeau who went out of their way to court Trump and establish friendships with him only to be stiffed and assess what the impact might be of a threat from France’s President Macron to join with other world leaders at the G-7 to issue a rare rebuke by excluding the U.S. from the joint statement issued at the end of the summit.

Then we examine further Trump tariffs on allies and neighbors and the extent to which, because of anger at Trump from indignant populations in France, the U.K., Germany, Japan, Mexico and Canada, leaders of these countries will be forced to reciprocate and perhaps trigger a trade war. Rodrique Tremblay, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal who was president of the Canadian Economics Society and a member of the Committee of Dispute Settlement of the North American Free Trade Agreement, joins us to discuss Trump’s revival of the nativist and isolationist stupidity which led to the Smoot/Hawley Act signed by President Hoover in 1930 which triggered a global depression. And since Trump is pandering to nativist protectionism in hopes of winning reelection in the Rust Belt in 2020, we assess whether corporate America and the Congress will step up to prevent a looming trade war.

Then finally we speak with Rabbi Joseph BermanGovernment Affairs Manager at Jewish Voice for Peace about the 50 to 46 vote in the Senate today to confirm Kenneth Marcus as assistant secretary for civil rights under Education Secretary DeVos. In what appears to be yet another example of Trump appointing someone who is implacably opposed to the mission they are charged with, we will look into how the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act before Congress which Kenneth Marcus champions, would prevent schools and colleges from supporting Palestinian rights or criticizing Israel because of the risk of losing federal funding and being branded as anti-Semites.

Donald Abelson | Rodrique Tremblay | Rabbi Joseph Berman


June 6, 2018

The Democrats Squeak by with a Low Turn-Out in California
A Mexican Court Demands a REAL Investigation into the 43 Missing Students
Trump Sells out the Kurds and US National Security
Program Notes

We begin with the results of primary elections in eight states yesterday with close attention being paid to New Jersey and California for signs of a Blue Wave that could sweep away Republican control of the House in November. Ed Kilgorethe Managing Editor of The Democratic Strategist and a political columnist for New York Magazine where his latest article is “California Democrats Did Well, But Not Perfectly, in Primary”, joins us to discuss the light turnout by Democrats who narrowly avoided being shut out of key House races and, in spite of Trump’s unpopularity in the Golden State, there was a strong showing of Republicans. With a considerable number of mail-in ballots yet to be counted, we will analyze whether in a number of close races where a Democratic candidate in a crowded field of other Democratic hopefuls, managed to slip into second place behind a Republican incumbent, the chances of a Blue Wave upset in November could be diminished. And since the margins between Democratic challengers in second and third place are so close with 2.7 million mail-in ballots now being counted, we assess who might end up being the most viable Democratic candidates in the general since some were chosen by the DCCC and others by the California Democratic Party.

Then with Mexico’s opposition candidate Lopez Obrador polling over 50% way ahead of other candidates including the PRI Party of outgoing President Pena Nieto, we  go to Mexico City to examine the latest twist in the tortured sage of the 43 missing students which had gripped Mexico and led to Pena Nieto’s downfall. John Gibler, the author of “I Couldn’t Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us: A Oral History of the Attacks Against the Students of Ayotzinapa” joins us to discuss how a Mexican federal court has ordered the government to investigate the 2014 disappearances again, this time under the supervision of a truth commission led by Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights along with parents of the victims. This time the court insists that for the first time the role of the Federal Police and the Army in the massacre and disappearances has to be investigated.

Then finally we speak with David Phillips, a former senior advisor and foreign policy expert to the State Department under Presidents, Clinton, Bush and Obama. He joins us to look into a major strategic blunder underway with Secretary of State Pompeo making a deal with Turkey to sell out the Kurds over the objections of Secretary of Defense Mattis. We try to make sense of why Trump is letting ISIS off the hook just as it is about to be finished off and rewarding Turkey, Russia and Iran against the national security interests of the United States.

Ed Kilgore | John Gibler | David Phillips


June 5, 2018

Trump’s Cynical Politicization of Sports
A Conversation With Michael Eric Dyson
Manafort Faces Jail For Witness Tampering
Program Notes

We begin with President Trump un-inviting the Super Bowl winners the Philadelphia Eagles to a White House celebration today to get ahead of the fact few of the team were going to show up. Ben Carrington, a Professor of Sociology at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC and author of “Race, Sport and Politics”, joins us to discuss his article at The Huffington Post “You Can’t Separate Sports From Politics Because Sports Are Politics” and how Trump has set himself up as the arbiter of patriotism where he alone decides who is patriotic enough to be invited to the White House. We examine how patriotism and sports have been fused in the rituals of playing the national anthem and having military honor guards open NFL games as military jets fly overhead. With Trump using every opportunity to insert himself into patriotic events such as he did on Memorial Day when he tweeted out that those who died fighting for our country would be happy with the Trump economy, we will assess whether erroneously tarring the Eagles with not standing for the national anthem, American sports fans will fall for Trump cynical ploy which Samuel Johnson wrote about in 1775 warning that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.

Then we speak with Michael Eric Dyson, one of America’s premier public intellectuals and the University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University whose latest book, just out, is “What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversations About Race in America”. He joins us on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of RFK to discuss what white America can learn from the black experience just as Robert Kennedy learned after meeting with James Baldwin and other black activists in 1963. And how we can all fight back as Trump tries to turn the clock back on race relations and divide America with dog whistle appeals reviving racist hatred to rile up his base.

Then finally we speak with Louis Michael Seidman, Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University’s School of Law who served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He joins us to discuss the latest twists and turns as Trump tries to discredit, slow and stop the Mueller inquiry. With Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort now facing jail for witness tampering, we assess whether the truth will win and justice prevail in the end as Trump desperately fights his rear-guard offensive against both the truth and the law.

Ben Carrington | Michael Eric Dyson | Louis Michael Seidman



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