Background Briefing: September 22, 2019


Extortion In Plain Sight

We begin with the latest scandal growing from a White House whistleblower’s complaint which Trump’s AG and DNI were trying to suppress into a much bigger problem for Trump as we learn more about the president’s gangster-like extortion of Ukraine’s president who was ordered to dig up dirt on Biden and his son otherwise he would not get the military aid he needs to hold the line on the Russian occupation of Ukraine’s eastern territory. A leading expert on Ukraine, Anders Åslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former Swedish diplomat who served in Moscow and Kyiv and whose latest book is “Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy”, joins us to discuss the question which has not been asked or answered by Trump and that is why did he cut off the military aid to Ukraine in the first place. We will investigate the history of Trump’s lawyer Giuliani’s efforts to find dirt on Biden’s son Hunter who according to a recent profile in The New Yorker, has some personal problems and a checkered business career which makes him a soft target for Trump. Not only was Trump trying to dig up dirt on Biden’s son, apparently there was an effort underway to manufacture documents in Ukraine to make it look like Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was not the serial crook who was convicted and is now serving jail time.

“If This Isn’t Impeachable, Nothing Is”

Then we speak with Tom Nichols, a U.S. War College Professor and author of “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters” who has an article at The Atlantic “If this isn’t impeachable, nothing is”. We discuss how Trump is toughing it out with this latest scandal treating it as if it is no big deal as he trashes the White House whistleblower as a “partisan” and the whole thing as political hack job, at the same time admitting he does not know the person. But meanwhile it appear that we no longer have an accountable executive branch and that the U.S. Constitution itself is becoming meaningless by the day.


Is This Latest Scandal Heading For Impeachment?

Then finally we try to assess where this scandal is heading in terms of impeachment and what that step which Speaker Pelosi is reluctant to take would mean. Richard Parker, who teaches economics and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, joins us to discuss the pros and cons of impeachment and the likelihood of who in the current crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates could best challenge Trump who is highly motivated to get reelected to avoid a possible jail term.