Day: January 20, 2019

Background Briefing: January 20, 2019


Mueller Slaps Down Buzzfeed Scoop

We begin with the widely publicized scoop by Buzzfeed News that the president had directed his fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress over plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow which prompted special counsel Robert Mueller’s office to take the unusual step of issuing a statement saying claims in the story are not accurate. Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist who writes about national security and civil liberties at and serves on the Advisory Committee for the House Fourth Amendment Caucus and is a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, joins us. We will discuss the likelihood that the source for Buzzfeed are FBI agents connected to the Southern District of New York’s investigation of Michael Cohen following their raids on his home, office and hotel rooms which netted in a huge cache of tapes, records and documents. We will assess whether the tight-lipped Mueller team are slapping down anyone who might steal the thunder of their forthcoming report or, in issuing the unusual statement disputing the Buzzfeed report, are they acting under pressure from the White House still smarting from Buzzfeed’s release of the Steele Dossier containing salacious details of Trump’s alleged activities in the presidential suite of the Ritz Hotel in Moscow in November of 2013.


How Much of Mueller’s Report Will Barr Release to the Public?

Then we speak with a former White House Counsel to President Obama, Andy Wright, a Senior Fellow and Founding Editor of Just Security where he has an article “The Enigma of Bill Barr”. He joins us to discuss how the walls are closing in on Trump as anticipation grows for the timely release of the Mueller report and the uncertainty surrounding the gatekeepers at the Justice Department overseeing the report who are in charge of whether it is released to the public and the Congress and in what form it will emerge after redactions of grand jury testimony and classified material.


The Presidential Address That Fell Flat

Then finally, we assess the president’s address to the nation on Saturday in which he offered a plan to end the government shutdown by offering temporary protection from deportation for some undocumented immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for his wall. Margaret Hu, a Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law who served as a senior policy advisor for the White House and in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, joins us to discuss Trump’s offer which has been snubbed by the Democrats and many on the right and whether Trump was successful in shifting the political dynamics away from blaming him for the longest shutdown in history.