Background Briefing: February 19, 2020


Trump Offered Assange a Pardon to Say Russia Did Not Hack the DNC

We begin with the explosive news from London revealed in a Westminster Magistrates’ Court ahead of next week’s extradition hearing to send Julian Assange to the U.S. where he could face up to 175 years in prison. The bombshell revelation that former U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher acting as President Trump’s emissary visited Assange in August of 2017 when he was holed up in London’s Ecuadoran embassy offering the Wikileaks founder a presidential pardon if he would say that Russia had nothing to do with the hacking of the DNC and the subsequent leaks damaging to Hillary Clinton election campaign. Mike Harris the CEO of 89up and the publisher of Little Atoms who writes on human rights, surveillance and free speech and has run high profile campaigns on Belarus and Azerbaijan, joins us from the U.K. to discuss testimony an unnamed witness will soon give in Assange’s extradition hearing which the judge has ruled is admissible. Rohrabacher, who lost his seat in the 2018 election, has long been seen a Putin’s champion in Congress causing Republican House leaders to privately speculate that both he and Trump were on Putin’s payroll. And in September of 2017 shortly after returning from his meeting with Assange, Rohrabacher called the then White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to talk about a possible deal with Assange and later told the Wall Street Journal that as a part of the deal Assange was to hand over his computer drives and data storage in order to prove Russia was not the source of the DNC hack.


The Message Trump Sends by Pardoning Financial Criminals and Fraudsters

Then we speak with the former litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board who investigated the Savings and Loan disaster of the 1980’s, William K. Black, about Trump’s pardon of one of the main culprits in the 1980’s era of massive fraud, Michael Milken. A white-collar criminologist who put hundreds of bankers in jail, Bill Black joins us to discuss Trump’s apparent contempt for the law plus the clear signal he is sending by pardoning financial criminals and fraudsters who ripped off Medicare that these crimes don’t matter and are no big deal. This to lay the groundwork for a slew of pardons of Trump’s coterie of criminals expected soon.


How an Article on the Brittle State of China’s Economy Got Under Xi Jinping’s Skin

Then finally we examine China’s expulsion of three journalists from the Wall Street Journal in retaliation for a February 3rd op-ed published in the WSJ by historian Walter Russell Mead, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia” which the Chinese have deemed as racist. An expert on China’s language, people and culture, Perry Link, joins us to discuss why the article’s headline angered the Chinese and how Mead’s analysis of the brittle state of China’s economy is both accurate and likely to get under Xi Jinping’s skin.