Background Briefing Archive
We begin with troubling questions raised in investigative reports by the BBC that in spite of Trump’s talk of bombing the **** out of ISIS and General Mattis’ promise to annihilate ISIS, it seems that some kind of deal was made to allow ISIS fighters to escape from Raqqa, and according to truck drivers who ferried the terrorists to safety, there were huge numbers of foreign fighters among the evacuated ISIS survivors who will likely go on to cause mayhem in the west. Mike Lofgren, who spent 28 years working in Congress, the last 16 as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget Committees whose latest book is “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of the Shadow Government”, joins us. We will discuss his article at The Washington Monthly “The Trump Scandal That Democrats Aren’t Talking About: Did ISIS escape Raqqa with Trump’s connivance?” and try to understand how the world’s most dangerous jihadists were allowed to live to fight another day, and whether there will be any inquiry into what happened given how much time, money and attention was devoted to the phony Benghazi story that pales in comparison.
Then we examine the Trump Administration’s reversal of an Obama-era ban on the importation of elephant trophies from big game hunting which was the result of a suit by Safari Club International and the NRA to block Obama’s 2014 ban. George Wittemyer, a professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology who is the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Save the Elephants in Africa, joins us to discuss the rapidly diminishing populations of African elephants who have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1978.
Then finally we speak with The Guardian’s former Moscow bureau chief who was expelled from the country by the Kremlin about his new book just out, “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House”. Luke Harding who knows Julian Assange and Edward Snowden well and has interviewed the author of the Steele dossier Christopher Steele, joins us to discuss why Steele believes that his dossier on Trump’s collusion with the Russians is between 70 and 90% accurate, and why Steel feels he will be vindicated as the special counsel’s investigation digs deeper into Trump, his family and associates’ contacts and collusion with Russians close to Putin.
November 16, 2017
We begin with the coup in Zimbabwe that so far has been bloodless and speak with Ambassador John Campbell, the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations who was a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria during South Africa’s first non-racial election. He is the author of “Morning in South Africa” and joins us to discuss the military coup in Zimbabwe that has the 93 year-old President Robert Mugabe under house arrest along with his younger wife Grace Mugabe who has been criticized for her conspicuous consumption in a desperately poor country and likened to Imelda Marcos and Eva Peron. We look into whether the military will bring back Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who Mugabe recently sacked and how the generals who are veterans of the war of liberation from white rule in the 1970’s will neutralize the unpopular Grace Mugabe while treating the popular and revered Robert Mugabe with kid gloves.
Then we examine the exhibition of far right wing nationalism and fascism on display in Warsaw, Poland over the weekend with a march by over 60,000 that coincided with Poland’s 99thIndependence Day with marchers carrying banners with “Clean Blood” and “White Europe” emblazon while white supremacists chanted “Seig Heil” in a country where the Nazis carried out the worst atrocities. Jan Kubik, a Professor of Political Science at Rutgers and a professor in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University College, London and author of “Twenty Years After Communism: The Politics of Memory and Commemoration”, joins us to discuss the apparent complicity of the Polish government since the only arrests by the police were 45 counter-protesters and Poland’s Foreign Minister called it “a great celebration of Poles…united around the common values of freedom and loyalty to an independent homeland”.
Then finally we get an analysis of the House and Senate’s so-called tax reform bills that have been negotiated in secret with the Democrats excluded which the House might vote on as early as Thursday. Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist and co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley joins us to discuss how the Republicans are scrambling to find pots of money to offset the enormous tax cuts to corporations and the richest Americans by going after Blue States, post-graduate students and in the case of the Senate bill, grabbing over $300 billion from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
November 15, 2017
We begin with the testimony today by Attorney General Sessions before the House Judiciary Committee that was full of memory lapses when it came to discussions about the Trump campaign reaching out to the Russians and Putin himself. Lisa Graves, who served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department and as Chief Counsel for Nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee, joins us to discuss how Sessions denied that he lied to the Senate in October about contacts with Russians but his memory suddenly got better when he recalled shooting down a proposal for a Trump-Putin meeting. We also examine Trump’s picks for the federal judiciary which he is rapidly filling with far-right bloggers and assess whether the Republicans will stick with the party-line and all vote for a candidate who has never tried a case and is deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Furthermore this 37 year old Hillary Hater failed to disclose that his wife is the Chief of Staff for the White House Counsel Donald McGahn, who along the Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, control the pipeline for lifetime appointments to the federal bench.
Then we discuss today’s hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the “Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons” which has been prompted by bi-partisan concerns that Donald Trump does not have the stability and competence to be a steward on America’s nuclear arsenal and is so volatile and quixotic that he could wake up on the wrong side of the bed and order a nuclear strike. Jon Wolfsthal, who served at a special assistant to President Obama on the National Security Council for arms control and nonproliferation, joins us to analyze what barriers could be placed between Trump and the nuclear button without diminishing the deterrence value of the US nuclear arsenal.
Then finally we look into the revelations in The Atlantic of secret correspondence between Donald Trump Junior and Wikileaks that uncover Julian Assange’s close cooperation with the Trump campaign to disseminate damaging information on Hillary Clinton from Russian hacks and show how much Assange was offering advice and guidance to Trump who he was unctuously endorsing. Michael Kelly, an editor and investigative reporter at Yahoo who previously was a senior news editor at Business Insider, joins us to assess how leftist supporters of Assange can reconcile their hero’s bromance with Donald Trump and his hard right wing presidency.
November 14, 2017
We begin with the emergence of a fifth woman claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Roy Moore when she was a minor, this following a call from the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate demanding that Moore step down as the Republican candidate for the Senate race in Alabama. Asked about Leigh Corfman’s account of being sexually assaulted by Roy Moore when she was 14 and Moore was 32, Mitch McConnell replied, “I believe the woman. Yes”. Diane Winston, who holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and is the publisher of Religion Dispatches, joins us to discuss whether or not a pedophile could be elected to the U.S. Senate by the Republican voters of Alabama. We will also try to assess what possible strategy could be behind Steve Bannon’s championing of far-right fringe candidates and why Bannon thinks Roy Moore, “Chemtrails” Kelly in Arizona and convicted felon Michael Grimm in New York could make America great again.
Then we go to Jerusalem to speak with Israeli journalist and historian Gershom Gorenberg who is the author of “The Unmaking of Israel” and a senior correspondent at The American Prospect where he has an article “In the Saudi Game of Thrones, a Prince Knocks Over the House of Cards”. He joins us to discuss what machinations and war plans as well as financial deals are underway within the secret alliances between Jared Kushner, the Saudi Crown Prince MBS and his mentor the leader of the Emirates MBZ, and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Then finally we look into the war of words between Donald Trump and the former Director of National Intelligence Clapper and Director of the CIA Brennan, following Trump’s remarks in Asia that be believed Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with interfering in our elections. Ali Watkins, a national security correspondent for Politico joins us to discuss Trump’s subsequent correction of his remark to say that he believed Putin believed what he said, then the Russian claim that the conversation never took place, and Brennan’s remark that Trump is being played by Putin.
November 13, 2017
We begin with the changing political winds one year after the surprise upset election of Donald Trump who, in spite of record low approval numbers, remains popular with Republicans, 82% of whom say in a recent poll by Politico that they would vote for him again. Richard Parker, who teaches economics and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is a co-founder of Mother Jones magazine and serves on the editorial board of The Nation, joins us to analyze the reasons behind the recent victories for Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey and how this new momentum can be built on. He argues that it is all about turnout, something which has dogged Democrats in midterm elections. And since already a substantial majority of Americans see Trump as a disastrous and destructive president, a coalition of pragmatic and populist Democrats, together with rueful Independents and disillusioned Republicans, could sweep enough Republicans out of the House and Senate in 2018 to take back control of the legislative branch and then in 2020, the executive branch.
Then we continue the analysis of the beginning of the end of Trump and Trumpism and the revival of a political opposition energized by recent electoral victories, and speak with Ruy Teixeira, the author of “The Emerging Democratic Majority whose latest book is “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think”. He joins us to discuss the reasons why the American left should be optimistic in spite on the unlimited dark money behind the Republicans and their cynical use of voter suppression and gerrymandering. And while he cautions the left not to fall into Hillary Clinton’s trap of labeling Trump voters as “deplorables”, he argues there is a way for the party of working Americans to win back the white working class and for progressives to stop being defensive and pessimistic and to be proud of their achievements and determined to make America better again.
November 12, 2017