Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

July 29, 2018

The Person Who Brought Down Nixon on the Cohen Tapes
100 Days Out: Winning for the Democrats Is Not Enough
An Expert Analysis of Why Wildfires Are Raging in California and Around the World
Program Notes

We begin with the irony that not just one president Richard Nixon was brought down by secret tape recordings, but that another Donald Trump, could also be vulnerable to the many recording his former fixer Michael Cohen has of conversations between them. The first of which has been made public involving a discussion over the payment of hush money just before the 2016 election to a Playmate with whom Trump is alleged to have had a year-long extra-marital affair. The person who revealed the existence of the secret White House recording system that finally provided the evidence during the Watergate hearing to back up the word of John Dean against all the president’s men, Alexander Butterfield, joins us. He served as the Deputy Assistant to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973 and later served as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and is the subject of the latest book by Bob Woodward, “The Last of the President’s Men”. We  discuss the stark difference between two flawed presidents, one Nixon who was unusually prepared for the office and was exceedingly competent, while the other in office now, Donald Trump, was totally unprepared and is dangerously incompetent.

Then we examine the challenges facing the Democrats as we head into the midterm elections 100 days away and speak with Paul Glastris, the editor-in-chief of The Washington Monthly who was a special assistant and senior speechwriter to President Clinton about his article in The Washington Monthly “Winning Is Not Enough”. We discuss the alarming statistic that only one third of Democrats voted in the last midterm elections prompting President Obama to remark that Democrats have an almost genetic problem of not voting in midterms. Which calls into question whether the so-called Blue Wave will sweep them into control of the House and Senate in November. Paul Glastris argues that merely winning is not enough, to save our Democracy, Democrats need to win big.

Then finally we get an analysis of the wildfires raging across California and as far away as Greece and Sweden from an expert on the history, ecology and management of fires,Stephen Pyne, the Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University and author of “Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America”. He joins us to discuss the difference between good and bad forest fires and what can be done to prevent devastating urban fires such as what just happened in Redding California, and recently in Santa Rosa, California and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Alexander Butterfield | Paul Glastris| Stephen Pyne

July 26, 2018

Facebook Takes a Hit but Is Still Strangling the Free Press to Death
An Emoluments Case Against Trump Moves Forward
Betsy DeVos Sides with the Predators Against America’s Students
Program Notes

We begin with Facebook shares plunging 18% on Thursday wiping over $118 billion off Facebook’s market capitalization and crimping Mark Zuckerberg’s personal fortune by $16 billion, we speak with Barry Lynn, the Executive Director of the Open Markets Institute about his article at The Guardian “Google and Facebook are strangling the free press to death. Democracy is the Loser”.  We discuss Google and Facebook’s relationship to this week’s firing of half of the staff of The New York Daily News and the dangers posed by these monopolies who are the gatekeepers of the news for 93% of Americans.

Then with the Federal District Court in Maryland’s ruling that the emoluments case against Donald Trump by the Attorneys General of the District of Columbia and Maryland can move forward, we will speak with the author of the Amicus brief which is credited with providing the definition of emoluments applying to the president as any profit, gain or advantage and that the historical purpose of the emoluments clause is to function as a broad anti-corruption provision. John Mikail, a Professor of Law and Associate Dean at Georgetown University’s School of Law joins us to discuss the efforts by Trump’s lawyers and the DOJ to dismiss the case which hinges on the legal interpretation of the emoluments clauses and whether they apply to the president. Now that the Attorneys General for the District of Columbia and Maryland have been given a ruling by Federal District Judge Peter Messitte that their lawsuit against the president can move forward, we look into Trump’s apparent violation of the Constitution as he continues to do business with foreign and domestic governments and the historical nature of a federal judge for the first time ruling on what the word in the Constitution “emolument” means.

Then finally we get an analysis of the consequences for students with an insurmountable debt burden and worthless diplomas from fraudulent for-profit colleges in the proposal put forward by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to require that defrauded student borrowers seeking loan forgiveness prove that these colleges deceived them. Aaron Ament, President of the National Student Legal Defense Network who served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the General Counsel joins us to discuss how DeVos has surrounded herself with top advisors who are former executives from for-profit colleges who have had to pay settlements for defrauding students while saddling them with a lifetime of debt.


Barry Lynn | John Mikail | Aaron Ament

July 25, 2018

Trump’s Orwellian Move from Alternative Facts to Rewriting History
Pakistan Is Likely to Elect an Anti-Corruption Crusader Secretly Backed by the Army
Trump Promises the Europeans to Work Towards Zero Tariffs
Program Notes

We begin with the dystopian world of George Orwell’s novel 1984 in which war is peace, love is hate and lies are truth, a world the United States has now entered as our “Big Brother” Donald Trump moves from creating alternative facts to rewriting history. Historian Allan Lichtman, who teaches at American University and has studied both the American right and the presidency joins us. Against all odds, Allan predicted a Trump victory in 2016 and his latest national best-seller is “The Case for Impeachment” and we will discuss Trump’s call yesterday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening”.  But even more Orwellian is what The Atlantic discovered that the White House had altered and censored the official transcript of the recent press conference in Helsinki erasing the question by Jeff Mason of Reuters who asked President Putin “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?” To which the Russian leader responded, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal”. And although millions around the world saw the exchange, it has now been purged from the official record by Donald Trump who after telling his supporters to only believe him and not the press, claimed that Russia was going to meddle in the November elections to help the Democrats.

Then with elections in Pakistan marred by deadly suicide bombings, we will get an analysis of today’s elections in which the Pakistani people had to choose between a former playboy and cricket star Imran Khan and the brother of a former disgraced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Shuja Nawaz, the former Director of the South Asia Center at The Atlantic Council and author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, it’s Army, and the Wars Within”, joins us to discuss how already the incumbent party has rejected the results claiming vote rigging by the military who are rumored to be behind the likely winner, Imran Khan.

Then finally we examine the White House meeting today between President Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker in which the leaders agreed to hold off further tariffs and reassess existing tariffs while working together towards zero tariffs. Timothy Canova, a Professor of Law and Public Finance at Nova Southeastern University College of Law who teaches Regulations of International Financial Institutions and International Trade And Development Law, joins us to discuss how Trump is robbing Peter to pay Paul by pressuring the Europeans to buy U.S. soybeans which China is now boycotting because of U.S. tariffs Trump slapped on them. While at the same time, Trump bribes the U.S. farmers impacted by China’s retaliation with a $12 billion handout.

Allan Lichtman | Shuja Nawaz | Timothy Canova

July 24, 2018

The Republican Push to Gut the Endangered Species Act

Trump Claims the Russians Will Help the Democrats in the Midterms

Streamlining the White House-Fox News Echo Chamber Loop

Program Notes

We begin with the Trump Administration’s proposed revisions of the Endangered Species Act which was passed by Congress in 1973 and signed into law by President Nixon. A world leader in the study of present day extinctions and what can be done to prevent them, Stuart Pimm, a Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University who has testified to both the House and Senate on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act, joins us. We will discuss the orchestrated campaign underway to kill the Endangered Species Act led by global warming denier Senator James Inhofe and Wyoming’s John Barrasso who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, in league with oil industry lobbyists and the Interior Department. We assess this rushed effort by Republicans to push a bill through and get it signed by Trump before the November elections in case the Democrats gain control of either the House or Senate or both and they lose this window of opportunity. We explore industry’s arguments rejecting science while citing an economic burden, and what can be done to save the ESA which has saved from extinction among others, the American alligator, the gray whale and the iconic emblem of the United States, the bald eagle.

Then we speak with Ryan Cooper, a national correspondent at The Week where he has an article “Why the left needs to wise up to the growing Trump-Russia scandal”. He joins us to discuss the latest bone tossed to the press as the daily distraction, Trump’s claim he is “very concerned” that Russia will meddle in the 2018 midterm elections, but this time he asserts (without offering any evidence) that Moscow “will be pushing very hard for the Democrats”.  With a constant stream of lies flowing from Trump to Fox News and vice versa, as conspiracy and confusion is sown by the odious Alex Jones on the right and the fruitcake Louise Mensch on the left, little wonder the public has tuned out the “Russiagate” scandal.

Then finally we look into the role of the new White House Communications Director Bill Shine who came from Fox News where he was fired for covering up endemic sexual abuse at Trump’s favorite network. Scott Horton, a contributing editor at Harper’s in legal affairs and national security, joins us to discuss how Shine has streamlined the echo chamber loop back and forth between the White House and Fox News. First Tucker Carlson floats a call to strip the clearances of former top intelligence officials critical of Trump, then Senator Rand Paul shows up at the White House to lobby for it, then a Fox News plant at the White House press briefing asks Sarah Sanders a softball question, and then she parrots her prepared statement naming 6 former top intel officials, thus closing the loop.

Stuart Pimm | Ryan Cooper | Scott Horton

July 23, 2018

Why is Trump Going After the Top Intel Officials Who Briefed Him?

Trump and Rouhani Exchange Threats

As Trump Goes Up in the Polls, What Liberals Get Wrong About His Support

Program Notes

We begin with the latest act of pettiness from a thin-skinned petulant president who today announced that he was considering revoking the security clearances of his critics, naming six former top intelligence officials; former CIA head John Brennan, former FBI head James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former NSA head Michael Hayden and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.  Loch Johnson, the Regents Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia who served on the senior staffs of both the House and Senate intelligence Committees and is the author of “Spy Watching: Intelligence Accountability in the United States”, joins us to discuss this latest effort to distract the press and feed Trump’s base with more imaginary mendacity from the “deep state”. Since both McCabe and Comey no longer have security clearances, the hollow nature of the ploy is already apparent, and as The New York Times recently revealed, Trump was told of Russia’s meddling in the election and of possible “kompromat” Putin has on him in briefings by Brennan, Clapper and Comey two weeks before taking office. But ever since then, as Trump keeps repeating “no collusion”, he appears haunted by what these “deep state” top officials who briefed him know. Could that be why he is going after them?

Then we  speak with Juan Colea professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan and author of the blog, Informed Comment at He joins us to discuss Trump’s threatening tweet in capital letters to Iran’s president in response to Rouhani’s threat of “a mother of all wars” if the U.S. keeps pressuring customers not to buy Iranian oil. We assess Secretary of State Pompeo’s remarks that Iran is a “mafia state” run by hypocrites in clerical robes who are stealing the country blind, something the Iranian people already know.

Then finally, with the latest NBC/WSJ pollshowing Trump is going up with 45% now supporting him and with 88% support from Republicans, in spite of negative reactions to Trump’s border policies and his performance at the recent press conference with Putin, we  speak with Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of “The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue Collar Conservatism”. He joins us to discuss his article at The Guardian “What liberals (still) get wrong about Trump’s support” and how Republicans don’t care about who Trump is but rather like what he does.

Loch Johnson | Juan Cole | Henry Olsen

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