Background Briefing: February 5, 2019


Is Erik Prince Working for China Against US Interests?

We begin with the denial by the founder of the mercenary army Blackwater Erik Prince, stating he had “no knowledge” of a training agreement between a company he founded Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group and the Chinese government to build a training center in southern Xinjiang province aimed at facilitating a security clampdown on the restive Muslim minority Uighurs. We be joined by Robert Young Pelton, an author, filmmaker, journalist, and explorer who was hired by Erik Prince to write his biography. We examine the role Prince has been playing in China’s geopolitical and economic initiative “One Belt One Road” and how Frontier Services Group which started out as a logistics and consultancy firm, has moved into securing rare minerals in Africa for China and privatized military security and intelligence for the Chinese government, possibly violating international law and working against U.S. interests and policies.


A Presidential Historian on Trump’s Astonishing Amount of “Executive Time”

Then we be joined by Allan Lichtman, an historian of American politics who teaches at American University and has studied both the American right and the presidency. We discuss the White House leak of Trump’s daily schedule revealing an astonishing amount of “executive time” which is code for watching TV and calling his friends. We discuss how leaks coming from the White House paint a portrait of chaos from a President who doesn’t inspire confidence in those closest to him, aside from a few sycophants like Sarah Huckabee Sanders who managed a hyperbolic spin on the President’s schedule saying Trump is ‘the most productive President in modern history.”


What to Expect from Trump’s State of the Union Address

Then finally ahead of the State Of The Union we speak with Princeton presidential historian Julian Zelizer about his article at CNN, “State of the Union will kick off an epic fight between Trump and Pelosi.” We discuss what to expect from Trump’s address that was postponed due to a government shutdown over his border wall, and whether he will announce he intends to declare a national emergency tonight to get his wall. Then we assess how effective the Democratic rebuttal might be and look into past presidents delivering their addresses in front of House Speakers with whom they had contentious relations, noting Nixon’s 1974 State of the Union, delivered 6 months before his resignation.