Background Briefing: May 16, 2024


The Murky Ties to the Poet and Would-be Assassin of Slovakia’s PM Robert Fico

We begin with the assassination attempt on Robert Fico, the PM of Slovakia who is close to Hungary’s Orban and Russia’s Putin and the murky background of the assassin who professes to be a poet and appears to have ties to the Russian neo-Nazi motorcycle gang the Kremlin supports and Putin hangs out with, the “Night Wolves.” Joining us is Kim Lane Scheppele, a Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Princeton University. From 1994-1998, she lived in Budapest, doing research at the Constitutional Court of Hungary and teaching at both the University of Budapest and at Central European University. She studied the emergence of constitutional law in Hungary and Russia, living in both places for extended periods and is the author of 9/11: The Rise of Global Anti-Terrorism Law.


At their 40th Meeting, Xi and Putin Pledge to Deepen Defense and Military Ties

Then we examine the summit underway in Beijing between Xi Jinping and Putin which is the 40th time the two leaders have met at which they condemned the U.S. and pledged to deepen defense and military ties. Joining us is Orville Schell, who was formerly the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and currently is the Arthur Ross Director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. His books include Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China’s Leaders and Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century.


Trump’s Lawyer Attacks Michael Cohen as a Liar Even Though Trump’s Fixer Lied in the Service of the Liar-in-Chief

Then finally we get an update on the so-called hush money trial in New York with Trump’s lawyer relentlessly attacking Michael Cohen today on the stand characterizing him as a liar even though Trump’s fixer lied in the service of the liar-in-chief. Joining us is James Zirin, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and the host of the critically acclaimed television talk show, Conversations with Jim Zirin, which airs on PBS. He is the author of Supremely Partisan: How Raw Politics Tips the Scales in the United States Supreme Court and Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3500 Lawsuits. He is a contributing editor at The Washington Monthly and we discuss his article at The Hill, “In Cohen vs. Trump, which liar will the jury believe?”