Month: January 2019

Background Briefing: January 31, 2019


The Battle for Venezuela Shifts From the Military to the Spoils of a Bankruptcy

We begin with an update from Caracas over the escalating tensions in Venezuela as Maduro’s regime is squeezed between sanctions imposed on Venezuelan oil while Venezuelan assets in the U.S. are being transferred to Maduro’s challenger Juan Guaido, together with John Bolton’s public display of a cryptic message of 5,000 troops destined for Columbia. Virginia Lopez, a journalist who covered Latin America and Venezuela for The Guardian and Al Jazeera English, joins us to discuss the Maduro government’s travel ban against Guaido and the alternative president Guaido’s call for nationwide demonstrations on Saturday. Since cracks in the Venezuelan military have not emerged as a way to end the impasse, the battleground now appears to be over who gets the spoils as the country goes bankrupt with Russia and China wanting to salvage their loans in competition with U.S. bondholders threatening to seize Venezuelan assets like the oil and gas retailer Citgo.


A President Who Knows More Than His Generals Tells His Intelligence Advisers to Go Back to School

Then we look into Trump’s ongoing public and private chastising of the National Security community following the release of the Intelligence Community’s 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment which places Russia and China at the top while indicating North Korea is not giving up its nukes and Iran is sticking by the deal they made with Obama. A former top intelligence official with the CIA and the State Department, Mark Lowenthal, President of the Intelligence and Security Academy joins us to discuss how Trump, who claims he knows more than his generals, appears uninterested in what the Intelligence Community is trying to tell him and assess what lessons Mark’s students could take from a situation in which a president is telling his own intelligence advisors to go back to school, calling them “passive and naïve”.


Will the Mueller Investigation Be Protected and Made Public?

Then finally we examine the remarkable and telling tweet by Nancy Pelosi asking what Putin might have on Trump either “politically, personally, or financially?” And as concerns grow that the Mueller investigation might not be made public there has been a bipartisan push in the U.S. Senate by Senators Blumenthal and Chairman Grassley calling for transparency and the public release of the report’s findings. Lisa Graves, co-director of the watchdog group Documented, who served as a senior adviser in all three branches of government—as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department, as Chief Counsel for Nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and as Deputy Chief for the U.S. Courts, joins us to examine whether the Mueller investigation will be protected and made public.