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Background Briefing: December 17, 2019


Calling the Republicans’ Bluff on Impeachment

We begin with the aggrieved and petulant 6 page letter President Trump sent to Speaker Pelosi today ahead of tomorrow’s impeachment vote in which he compared the impeachment to the Salem Witch Trials, complaining “You do not know, nor do you care, the great damage and hurt you have inflicted upon wonderful and loving members of my family”. Jonah Gelbach, a professor of law at U.C. Berkeley who is currently the Director of the American Law and Economic Association, joins us to discuss his op-ed at The Los Angeles Times, “How Democrats can call the Republicans’ bluff on impeachment”. We discuss how instead of the Democrats walking into a rubber-stamp acquittal of Trump which Senate Majority Leader McConnell has promised, Nancy Pelosi could call their bluff by going to court to compel testimony from key witnesses Trump is preventing from testifying. In addressing Republican complaints of “hearsay” she could address their evidentiary demands by suing every subpoena-defying witnesses, even if it takes months in the courts. That way the president’s abuses will stay in the news, and that might constrain Trump from further abuse of power since additional articles of impeachment could pile up, making it easier for the House to strengthen the case before an acquittal by the Senate, rather than after.


Zuckerberg and Thiel’s Secret Meetings with Trump

Then with reports of divisions within Facebook over Mark Zuckerberg’s hands-off policy to not fact-check political advertisements, wew speak with Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies and the Director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. He joins us to discuss his article at The Guardian “Surprised about Mark Zuckerberg’s secret meeting with Trump? Don’t be” and the role of Zuckerberg’s libertarian Republican mentor, Peter Theil who is winning the internal argument against social responsibility even if allowing blatant lies and trolling goes against Facebook’s yearlong fight to combat misinformation.


Trump’s Brazen Stealth Attack on Social Security

Then finally we investigate the Trump Administration’s stealth attack on Social Security with their proposal to strip disability benefits from hundreds of thousands of Americans in a plan many see as similar to the administration’s proposal to cut food stamps and other entitlement programs without adequate explanation. Alex Lawson, the Executive Director of the progressive advocacy group Social Security Works, joins us to discuss what he sees as Trump’s most brazen attack on social Security yet”.