Background Briefing: January 16, 2019


ISIS Takes Credit for Killing Our Troops as Pence Declares ISIS is Defeated

We begin with the deaths of four American soldiers and intelligence contractors in the tense and volatile town of Manbij in northern Syria which ISIS took credit for just as Vice President Pence was declaring “the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated”. David Phillips, the Director of the Peace-building and Rights Program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University who was a foreign affairs advisor to the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations and author of “The Great Betrayal: How America Betrayed the Kurds and Lost the Middle East”, joins us. We discuss the role of Turkey who under an agreement with Trump have a presence in Manbij which was liberated from ISIS by American-backed Syrian Kurdish forces but also has Syrian Arab rebels backed by Turkey nearby who the Kurds consider terrorists while Turkey considers the Kurds terrorists. With Erdogan blaming the suicide bombing on the Kurds, we will explore the need for a full inquiry into who was behind the bombing since it could have been ISIS or even Turkey, and assess the impact of Senator Lindsey Graham’s criticism of the incoherent Trump foreign policy in Syria which he complained is emboldening ISIS while undermining America’s ally the Syrian Kurds.


Nancy Pelosi is Not Dealing With a Normal President

Then, with the new Speaker of the House essentially telling Trump he is not welcome in her House to deliver the State of the Union as long as he has the government shut down, we speak with James Thurber, the University Distinguished Professor of Government and Founder and former Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. He joins us to discuss how Nancy Pelosi is not dealing with a normal situation and with a normal president who deals with facts and is someone you can make a deal with. So while having Trump deliver the State of the Union from a bunker in the White House is not normal, why pretend Trump is normal and these are normal times.


Did Mexico’s President Peña Nieto Ask for a $250 Million Bribe and Settle for $100 Million?

Then finally with revelations emerging from the trial in Manhattan of the Mexican drug lord El Chapo that the former President of Mexico Pena Nieto asked for a $250 million bribe and settled for $100 million, we speak with the Mexico City-based reporter Ioan Grillo, the author of El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency” and “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America”. We discuss why the Mexican press is playing down this unsurprising but explosive story.