Background Briefing: July 25, 2019


Trump Himself Is a National Security Nightmare

We will begin with the main takeaway from the otherwise underwhelming Mueller hearings yesterday and that is Mueller’s warning that the Russians have interfered with our elections and “this deserves the attention of every American” and they are meddling now, “they’re doing it as we sit here” and “they expect to do it in the next campaign”. Amazingly, just hours after Mueller alerted the nation to this clear and present danger, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi blocked the advancement of three bills aimed at strengthening election protection and requiring campaigns to report to federal authorities any attempts by foreign entities to interfere in U.S. elections. Walter Shapiro, an award-winning journalist now covering his 11th presidential campaign who is a columnist for Roll Call, joins us to discuss his latest article at The Guardian “Trump in the White House is a national security nightmare – and Mueller knows it”. We look into how, after hours of one word or non-answers from the star witness and loony conspiracy theories from the Republicans, the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff finally lured Mueller out of the heavily guarded fortress of his own rectitude to agree that the potential of Russian blackmail having Trump on a tape recording “is the stuff of counterintelligence nightmares, is it not”, to which Mueller admitted “Well, it has to do with counterintelligence and the need for a strong counterintelligence entity”. In effect Mueller is his terse and reluctant way, said that Donald Trump represents the essence of a national security nightmare.


Investigating the “Fifth Domain” of Warfare, the Terrain of Cyberwar

Then we  follow on from Mueller’s warnings to investigated the so-called Fifth Domain of warfare after land, sea, air and space, the terrain of cyber war, and speak with Robert Knake, who served from 2011 to 2015 in the Obama White House as director for cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council. He is the co-author with Richard Clarke of the bestseller “Cyber War” and their latest book, just out, is “The Fifth Domain: Defending Our Country, Our Companies, and Ourselves in the Age of Cyber Threats”. We will discuss Trump’s reluctance to defend us from Russia’s malign activities and the growing portent of not just state actors crippling infrastructure, but criminal cartels using ransomware to blackmail companies or even whole countries.


Barr Orders Executions Fulfilling Trump’s Campaign Promise to “Bring Back the Death Penalty”

Then finally, with the announcement today by Attorney General Barr that he is ordering the first federal executions since 2003, we speak with Richard Dieter, who was the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C. He joins us to discuss Barr’s order to the Bureau of Prisons to execute five death-row federal inmates convicted of murder by a new single injection protocol and whether Barr is again acting as the lawyer for his boss Donald Trump who promised in his election campaign to “bring back the death penalty”.