Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

April 5, 2018

Trump’s Reality TV Antics on the Border
General McMaster’s Parting Broadside
A Former Sinclair News Director on Having to Mouth Pro-Trump Propaganda
Program Notes

With Donald Trump sending the military to the Southern border to help build his wall, we will begin with President Trump trying to have it both ways taking credit for the drop in border crossings while ginning up fears of a looming invasion from Mexico. Ivan Eland, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independence Institute who spent 15 years in Congress working on national security issues, joins us to discuss Trump’s latest stunt in reaction to criticism from Ann Coulter which has him shoring up his base by making it seem he is doing something to deliver on his promise to build a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for. We will assess how long our reality TV president can keep the press and the public distracted by his daily reality TV stunts to mask the utter incompetence of this dangerous ignoramus who was elected by a minority of Americans. We also look into whether reality will catch up with Trump’s increasingly frenzied performances and at what point will his base tire of his antics and realizes Trump is a fraud, because then presumably, the Republicans in congress will stop defending him thus making impeachment both possible and likely.

Then we speak with Steven Pifer, the Director of the Brookings Institution’s Arms Control Initiative and a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia on the National Security Council. He joins us to discuss outgoing National Security Advisor General McMaster’s broadside at the Trump Administration deliberately contradicting Trump’s claim that nobody has been tougher on the Russians than Trump has. We also assess the U.N. Security Council meeting today called by Russia to head off next week’s release of a report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on their investigation into the use of a nerve agent against a Russian exile on British soil.

Then finally we speak with a former News Director of a TV station that the Sinclair Group took over and forced the local news anchors to mouth “Must run” pro-Trump propaganda mandated by the owners of Sinclair, the Smith Family. Aaron Weiss, who spent 14 years as a local news producer and news director, joins us to discuss his article at The Huffington Post “Confessions of a Former Sinclair News Director” and how Sinclair is forcing professional journalists to become state propagandists”.

Ivan Eland | Steven Pifer | Aaron Weiss


Timothy Snyder – June 6, 2017

We begin with the proposition that we may only have one year left to save American democracy from an autocratic president who is increasingly isolated from reality as he and his tightening inner-circle of right wing zealots move to undo institutions and confront the truth in a fascistic approach to governance that indicates a fascist worldview. Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale who has researched and written extensively on Hitler and Stalin, joins us to discuss his latest book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” and how as the incompetence and crudeness of the Trump Administration drives down the popularity of the Republicans heading into the 2018 elections, Trump will try to stage a coup to overthrow American democracy. We will assess the extent to which American institutions already under attack from the Trump Administration like the judiciary, the military, the intelligence community, the press and now much of corporate America as well as an expanding majority of the American people, will fight back against Donald Trump’s incipient authoritarian regime.


Fatih Akin – December 27, 2017

We speak with the director of a new film that takes on the issues of immigration and race relations roiling America and Europe and deals with the ugly re-emergence of white nationalism. Fatih Akin, the director of “In the Fade”, a feature film out of Germany starring Diane Kruger, joins us to discuss this drama about a German woman seeking justice for the terrorist attack that killed her Kurdish husband and son. Based on a real incident involving young German neo-Nazis who killed Turks living in Germany, the movie reflects the political tensions resulting from immigration in Germany today that Donald Trump has inflamed here at home and which emerged in Charlottesville.


February 27, 2018

China’s President Declares Himself Leader for Life
The Head of Cyber Command Admits Trump is Ignoring Russian Attacks
The Continuing War Within the Democratic Party
Program Notes

We begin with China’s president Xi Jinping abolishing term limits and declaring himself the “unrivaled helmsman” of China for years to come. Orville Schell, the Director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations and author of “Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty First Century” joins us to discuss the growth of illiberal regimes around the world with authoritarian leaders like Xi Jinping, Putin and Erdogan grabbing power and holding on to it ruthlessly and permanently. We will assess the absence of any pushback in defense of Democratic ideals and values coming from the traditional bulwark of Democracy the United States, whose leader Donald Trump does not care for or defend democratic values but instead is infatuated with dictators and demagogues. And although Xi Jinping has vowed to restore the Middle Kingdom to its rightful place as a global power, he presides over a corrupt Communist Party and a brittle economy which if internal pressures were to erupt, the fear is the aggressive nationalism that Xi champions could find expression in Chinese military assertion in the South China Sea and against Taiwan.

Then we speak with a leading intelligence historian and expert on the NSA, Matthew Aid, the author of “The Secret Sentry” the definitive history of the NSA. He joins us to discuss the testimony today before the Senate Armed Services Committee by Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the NSA who is also head of Cyber Command. In response to questions from senators about why the U.S. has not responded to cyberattacks from Russia that continue and will impact the 2018 elections, Admiral Rogers admitted that the President of the United States Donald Trump has shown no interest or inclination to do anything and that the Russians “have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior”.

Then finally we examine the peculiar phenomenon of the DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee attacking a candidate who is one of seven running for congress in the Democratic primary in the Texas 7th congressional district in Houston.Lawrence Douglas, a Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College joins us to discuss the unnecessary and suicidal but continuing battle between the Democratic Party’s progressive Bernie Sanders and centrist Hillary Clinton wings, and his article at The Guardian “The Democratic party is now publicly attacking progressive candidates”.

Orville Schell | Matthew Aid | Lawrence Douglas


February 26, 2018

The Republican’s Successful Stacking of the Supreme Court to Kill Unions and Defund Democrats
Has the White House Succeeded in Burying the Democrat’s Rebuttal to the Nunes Memo?
The Dangerous Complexities of the Combined War in Syria and Iraq
Program Notes

We begin with arguments before the Supreme Court today in Janus vs AFSCME, a case that will likely rule against AFSCME and cripple public sector unions representing teachers, firefighters, nurses and municipal worker and limit the ability of unions representing public employees to fund the Democratic Party.Celine McNicholas, the Economic Policy Institute’s Labor Counsel who tracks the Trump Administration’s wage and employment policies, joins us to explain how, with the death of Scalia, an earlier union-busting case was deadlocked so the Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, were so determined to get a conservative replacement for Scalia to rule against unions that they denied Obama his appointment to the court.  And now with Gorsuch on the court, they have another bite of the apple with the Janus case which was put together by a handful of billionaires, one of whom is close to Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, who not only championed Gorsuch’s appointment, but is an expert in Supreme Court shopping for reactionary causes.

Then we assess the impact of the Democratic memo meant to rebut the Nunes memo which was held up by the White House and released on a Saturday in the hope it would get limited media coverage which appears to be the case. Harry Litman, a former United States Attorney and deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department who is now a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, joins us to discuss how successful Trump and his Republican enablers are in distracting the press and public from the Mueller investigation which is closing in on Paul Manafort.

Then finally we speak with William Harris, a Professor of Politics at the University of Otago in New Zealand and the author of a new book “Quicksilver War: Syria, Iraq and the Spiral of Conflict”. He joins us to discuss the dangerous complexities of a rapidly changing combined war in Iraq and Syria which recently saw Russian mercenaries attacking American troops as we now witness a humanitarian horror unfolding in the suburbs of Damascus with the possibility of a major clash between Israel and Iran looming on the horizon since Iran in poised to send Iraqi Shia militias into Syria and Lebanon.

Celine McNicholas | Harry Litman | William Harris



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