Background Briefing: February 15, 2024

What is Behind The Republican Head of the House Intel Committee’s Warning of “A Serious National Security Threat”?

We begin with Wednesday’s warning from the Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee of “a serious national security threat” to the U.S. which apparently has something to do with a possible Russian program to deploy nuclear weapons in space which would violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty banning such weapons in space. Joining us to discuss what might be behind this cryptic warning that House Speaker Johnson was quick to downplay is Tom Collina, who until recently was the Director of Policy at the Ploughshares Fund who previously served as Research Director of the Arms Control Association, was the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Institute for Science and International Security and the Director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is the co-host of the Press the Button podcast and the co-author with William Perry of The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump.


The Role of US Consulting Firms Who Launder Election Money and the Reputations of Dictators

Then we examine the foreign money pouring in to influence our elections and the role of big consulting firms like McKinsey and Company in fronting for unsavoury dictators seeking to buy American politicians and sanitize their reputations. Joining us is Casey Michel, the Director of the Combating Kleptocracy Program at the Human Rights Foundation, as well as a writer, analyst, and investigative journalist working on topics ranging from kleptocracy, illicit finance, dark money, foreign lobbying, and foreign interference to the legacies of Russian and Soviet colonialism. He is the author of American Kleptocracy: How the U.S. Created the World’s Greatest Money Laundering Scheme in History and his forthcoming book is, Foreign Agents: How American Lobbyists and Lawmakers Threaten Democracy Around the World. We will discuss his article at The New Republic, “The American Consulting Firms That Live in Fear of Their Murderous Clients.”


How Brazil Handles an Insurrectionist President Compared to the U.S.

Then finally, on a day when the Atlanta prosecutor Fani Willis was on trial instead of Donald Trump who is on tape trying to rig the 2020 in Georgia, we will compare how Brazil is dealing with an insurrectionist president in Bolsonaro compared to how the American legal system has yet to hold Trump to account for his many crimes. Joining us is John Feffer, the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. Previously, he worked as the associate editor of the World Policy Journal, and has been an international affairs representative in Eastern Europe and East Asia for the American Friends Service Committee. He is the author of a number of books, most recently, Aftershock: A Journey into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams, and we discuss his latest article at Foreign Policy in Focus, “What Brazil Can Teach the US About Defending Democracy From Insurrectionists.”