Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

July 12, 2018

Anxiety Ahead of Trump’s Bromance Meeting with Putin
Consequences of an End to Asylum
Ties Between the Trump Family and Deutsche Bank
Program Notes

We begin with analysis of the forthcoming summit between Trump and Putin on Monday in Helsinki, Finland which has European allies and even Republican senators concerned about the apparent undue influence Putin has over Trump. Former National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia, Angela Stent, the Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Affairs and a professor of Government and Foreign Affairs at Georgetown University who is the author of The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century, joins us. We assess the extent to which the Trump/Putin summit might be a combination of mendacity and incompetence, given how the much-ballyhooed summit with Kim Jong-un turned out to be nothing more than a gift to a brutal dictator. And since our president is looking forward to a meeting he expects to be “the easiest of them”, after having trashed the two women who are leaders of our most important allies Germany and the U.K., we will look into Trump’s bromance with Putin, the leader of a hostile country which meddled in the 2016 presidential elections to help elect Donald J. Trump.

Then with today’s unveiling of a new asylum policy by the Trump Administration announcing that claims by immigrants fleeing from gang violence and domestic abuse will now be immediately rejected, we turn to the fate of the thousands of migrants and refugees appealing for asylum. Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the bestseller “Enrique’s Journey”, Sonia Nazario, a board member of KIND, Kids in Need of Defense, and contributing opinion writer to the New York Times where she has an article “The End of Asylum”, joins us. We examine the Trump Administration’s illegal efforts in denying the recent wave of migrants “credible fear interviews” and well-considered trials, and assess the chances migrants and refugees have of filing successful asylum claims in the future.

Then finally we speak with James Henry, an economist, lawyer and investigative journalist and co-founder of the investigative reporting news service who has written extensively about global banking and tax havens and is the author of Blood Bankers. He joins us to discuss Deutsche Bank’s $10 billion fine for money laundering and the role it played in rescuing Trump’s business and the possible influence of former Deutsche Bank managing director Justin Kennedy, in getting his father Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire from the Supreme Court before the November elections.

Angela Stent | Sonia Nazario | James Henry

July 11, 2018

The Dangers of Trump Labeling Humans as Vermin
Why Does Trump Insult Merkel While Fawning Over Putin?
Trump Doubles Down on His Demand NATO Allies Pay More for Defense
Program Notes

We begin with the neuroscience behind the success of Trump’s divisive strategy to “Make America Hate Again.” Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst who has an article at CNN “Be Alarmed When a Leader Tries To Make You Think of Humans as Vermin”, joins us to discuss the insula, the part of the brain that is responsible for responding to disgust.  And since the research shows that Republicans have a lower threshold for disgust compared to Democrats, we will assess how, in comparing the recent wave of migrants and refugees to an infestation of vermin, Trump and the Republican party have seized upon the age-old strategy of weaponizing disgust as the Nazis did by calling Jews rats and the Hutu in the Rwandan genocide did in calling Tutsis cockroaches. Despite the human capacity to hate, recent polling indicates that 67% of the population sympathizes with the 3,000 plus children seized from their parents at the border, demonstrating that hate can be outweighed by empathy.

Then we discuss Trump’s counterintuitive and destructive approach to foreign relations on display at today’s NATO summit in Brussels where he chose to alienate our closest allies rather than form a common front against our most aggressive adversary. Daniela Schwarzer, Director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, joins us to discuss Trump’s consistently adversarial stance toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is leading a frail Christian Democratic Union under pressure from a growing right wing backlash against immigrants in Germany.

Then finally we turn to Trump’s main demands at today’s summit: that NATO allies increase their alliance contributions from 2% to 4% of their GDP and that Germany recognize its “captive” dependence on Russian oil and gas. Thomas Berger, a professor of International Relations at Boston University who specializes in German politics and is the author of Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan, joins us to discuss the state of the German military and the scandals that have come to light in recent years regarding the lack of readiness of the underfunded German military.

Robert Sapolsky | Daniela Schwarzer | Thomas Berger

July 10, 2018

Did Trump Choose Kavanaugh as Insurance Against Mueller?

Kavanaugh the Corporatist

How to Make Sure Senators Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly Don’t Vote for Kavanaugh

Program Notes

We begin with Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh and whether he was chosen by the president as insurance in Trump’s fight for self-preservation. Caroline Fredrickson, President of the American Constitution Society where she focuses on judicial nominations, joins us to discuss her article at The New York Times “Will Kavanaugh Provide Cover for Trump?” We assess how much Brett Kavanaugh’s 2009 law review article in which he advocated that Congress consider a law exempting a president from criminal prosecution, swayed Trump. And whether some kind of loyalty assurance was given that if and when the Supreme Court has to rule on a Mueller indictment, or Trump’s claim he can pardon himself and his underlings under investigation, Kavanaugh would rule to protect Trump.

Then we discuss the future of workers' and consumers' rights in a 5-4 Supreme Court with a conservative majority in lockstep with the Republican agenda as it furthers the empowerment of corporations and the protection of “corporate rights.” Gigi Sohn, who served as a counselor to former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and is a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, joins us to discuss Kavanaugh’s May 2017 dissent opposing net neutrality in favor of corporate “First Amendment” rights. We consider whether the most important question for Democrats to ask in the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings is if we want a Supreme Court stacked with corporatists who are opposed to workers and consumers.

Then finally we look into the religious right’s opposition to Kavanaugh’s appointment given Trump’s slighting of Amy Barrett, the Catholic fundamentalist championed by Vice President Pence and Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Sarah Posner, an expert on the intersection of religion and politics and author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, joins us to discuss her article at The Nation, “Will Brett Kavanaugh Pass the Religious Right’s New Litmus Test?” We assess what strategy the Democrats could pursue to make sure the Democratic Senators who voted to confirm Gorsuch-- Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly--will oppose Kavanaugh’s appointment.

Caroline Fredrickson | Gigi Sohn | Sarah Posner

July 9, 2018

The British Government’s Impending Collapse Over Brexit
Collateral Damage From Putin’s Poisoners
Trump Bullies Nations at the Behest of Big Corporations Marketing Baby Formula to the Third World
Program Notes

We begin with disarray in the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet following the resignation of her chief negotiator on Brexit David Davis who is joined today by Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson who quit in protest of May’s Brexit plan. The author of “Brexit – Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union”, Harold Clarke, the co-investigator of the British Election Study at the University of Manchester where he also is a visiting professor, joins us. We discuss this political earthquake rattling the British government which is likely to lead to a leadership challenge and a power struggle within the ruling Tory party who hold a slim majority. And with President Trump scheduled to visit the U.K. on Thursday, we assess what further mischief Trump might cause given his support for Brexit and his sympathy for the Brexiteers like Boris Johnson who makes rosy promises about a halcyon new world of free trade while wanting a crash exit or hard break from Europe and damn the consequences.

Then with today’s death of a British citizen from contact with the Russian nerve agent Novichok which was used in an assassination attempt to poison Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy and his daughter, we will look into how callous and sloppy Putin’s poisoners appear to have been in discarding the container of the deadly nerve agent which was smeared on the door handle of the Skripals home in Salisbury, resulting in the collateral damage of a lethal dose killing Dawn Sturgess and leaving her partner Charlie Rowley critically ill. Luke Harding, the former Moscow Bureau Chief of The Guardian and author of “A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s war with the West” whose latest book is “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House”, joins us to discuss the growing outrage in the U.K.

Then finally we speak with David Dayen, a contributing writer to and The Intercept about his article in The Los Angeles Times “The U.S. bullied the world to stop a pro-breastfeeding resolution? That’s the American Way”. We analyze the attempt by the Trump Administration to remove language from a resolution at the World Health Assembly to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” at the behest of the big corporations who make baby formula which they are marketing to the Third World with misinformation, creating a black market in diluted formula which is crippling the growth of children whose parents cannot afford the costly formula.

Harold Clarke | Luke Harding | David Dayen

July 8, 2018

Alternative Investigations If Trump Shuts Down Mueller

Trump is Quietly Purging the Military of Immigrants Promised Citizenship

By Pretending Russia is Not a Threat, Trump Will Make the Case We Don’t Need NATO

Program Notes

We begin with the efforts underway by House Tea Party Republicans to scuttle the Mueller investigation by pressuring the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein into handing over Mueller’s secret evidence or face impeachment which would provide Trump with the excuse to fire Rosenstein. David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who is the co-founder of the investigative news service DC Reportwhose latest book is “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America”, joins us. We discuss his latest article at The New York Times “How to Initiate a Criminal Inquiry into Trump” and assess whether the call by former Republican Majority Leader of the Senate Bill Frist for the Congress to protect Mueller’s investigation will be heeded and what other avenues of investigation could be pursued in the event that Trump, in league with the Tea Party attack dogs of the House’s so-called “Freedom Caucus”, are able to fire Rosenstein and hobble Mueller.

Tell New York to open a criminal investigation of Trump.

Several officials have the legal authority to refer Donald Trump, his three oldest children and others for criminal tax investigation.

First is New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who can direct the New York State Police or  New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to refer the matter to Attorney General Barbara Underwood for investigation of tax crimes. Underwood could then examine the tax returns and, if appropriate, seek indictments.

Call his office at 518-474-8390.

Then we examine another aspect of Trump’s vindictive, cruel and racist attitude towards Latino immigrants and that is his stealth program underway to quietly discharge immigrant recruits who joined the U.S. Army with a promised path to citizenship. Lawrence Korba senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs and Logistics in the Reagan Administration, joins us to discuss how Trump is using his power as Commander-in-Chief to further his own personal nativist and xenophobic agenda to undermine the structural and moral integrity of the armed forces who have led the way in promoting civil rights since President Truman’s executive order in 1948 ending discrimination in the military.

Then finally with Trump departing soon for the U.K, the NATO summit, then his meeting in Helsinki with Russia’s President Putin, we look into the possibility that Trump will find a way to undermine NATO at its core by threatening to withdraw American troops and funding as he castigates NATO members for freeloading. An expert on NATO and European Affairs, Charles Kupchan, who spent the last three years of the Obama Administration as Special Assistant to President Obama for National Security, joins us to discuss the contrast between Trump’s praise for Putin and Moscow’s delight at how well a meeting they hosted with Republican senators on July 4th.went, compared to disquiet among our closest allies that America’s president is pretending Russia is not a threat so he can make the case that we don’t need NATO.

David Cay Johnston | Lawrence Korb | Charles Kupchan

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