Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

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


February 25, 2018

The Democratic Memo Rebutting Nunes
The Breakdown of Bi-Partisanship in Intelligence Oversight
Supreme Court Poised to Break Unions and Defund Democrats

Program Notes

We begin with the Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo and speak with Robert Litt, the former General Counsel for the Director of National Intelligence who is now with Morrison and Foerster National Security and Global Risk and Crisis Management Practices. He joins us to discuss whether our intelligence agencies will continue to confide in Congress and the increasing pressure that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is bringing to bear on Paul Manafort whose business partner Rick Gates is now cooperating with Mueller. We assess whether Manafort will break under the mounting pressure of spending decades in prison or hang tough and fall on this sword for Trump in the hope of a presidential pardon and examine the reasons why Rick Gates lied to Mueller as recently as February 1st after his proffer to make a deal in an apparent attempt to cover up for the Kremlin-friendly Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who Gates met with but lied about the 2013 meeting.

Then we look further into the Democratic memo from the Minority Chair of the House Intelligence Committee and the extent to which it reflects the total breakdown of an oversight committee that was traditionally bi-partisan. Loch Johnson, the Regents Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia who served as staff director of the Senate Committee on Intelligence and is the author of a new book just out, “Spy Watching: Intelligence Accountability in the United States”, joins us. We discuss Trump’s Republican enablers apparent willingness to destroy the DOJ and FBI in order to cover up for Trump and distract the public from the Russia investigation.

Then finally we look into the Janus v. AFSCME case before the Supreme Court on Monday which could strike major blow to public sector unions and dry up Democratic Party funding before the 2018 midterm elections. With Janus predicted to win the case thanks to Neil Gorsuch, we speak with labor expert and University of California, Berkeley professor Dr. Harley Shaiken, about how this conservative assault could set a precedent for workers’ invocation of the First Amendment to essentially free-ride on unions without having to pay dues as well as further limiting workers bargaining rights, like the restrictions Scott Walker passed in Wisconsin in 2011.

Robert Litt | Loch Johnson | Dr. Harley Shaiken



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