We begin with the indictments against Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates unsealed today and the surprise smoking gun that ties the Trump campaign to Russia with charges against Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos who was arrested by the FBI back in July and has been cooperating with the special counsel since then.  Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harpers in legal affairs and national security joins us to discuss the role of George Papadopoulos who was acting in collusion with higher-ranking officials in the Trump campaign in attempting to deliver “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and “thousands of emails” to the Trump campaign from a “professor” with links to the Kremlin who he met with in London in March, which he lied about to the FBI. Since Papadopoulos told the Trump campaign about the thousands of emails on Clinton hacked from the DNC in April, months before their existence was made public by Wikileaks in July of 2016, it is likely the Trump campaign had access to this material much earlier.

Then we look into the Manafort indictments with someone who knows him and his work in Ukraine which is central to the case against Trump’s former campaign manager.  Anders Aslund a former Swedish diplomat in Moscow who served as an economic advisor to the governments of Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, joins us to discuss the money laundering charges from the $75 million that Manafort funneled through overseas shell companies and the $60 million in personal loan that he got from a Russian oligarch close to Putin, and the lavish lifestyle the indictments charge Manafort with, noting $1.3 million he spent on expensive clothes.

Then finally we speak with Liz Kennedy, the Director of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress. She joins us to question why Trump hired a campaign manager who is now exposed as an amazingly greedy crook. We examine how much Trump shares Manafort’s disdain for democracy and the rule of law since his campaign manager’s whole history as a lobbyist in Washington has been that of representing third world dictators, kleptocrats and criminals like Mobutu, Marcos and Suharto.

Background Briefing

October 30, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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We begin with the sealed indictment of the first arrest by the special counsel investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the target of which is expected to be revealed on Monday. Joining us to discuss the procedures involved as the Mueller investigation moves towards indictments is Harry Litman, a former United States Attorney and deputy assistant U.S. Attorney General. We speculate on who the first target might be and assess the furious backlash from Trump’s Republican surrogates and the flurry of angry tweets coming from a president who routinely blames Obama and Hillary Clinton for anything and everything.  Although Clinton lost the election and Trump won and is president, she is now being dredged up as Trump turns history on its head by accusing Clinton of colluding with Putin who hates her as he brings up the 33,000 emails that he called upon Russia to hack as well as referring to “the Comey fix” as though the person who many including Clinton consider the main reason she lost the presidency, was in collusion with her.

Then we go to Moscow to speak with Russian defense analyst Dr. Pavel Felgenhauer, whose daughter Tatyana, the deputy editor in chief of the only opposition radio in Russia Ekho Moskvy, was recently stabbed in the neck and almost died. He joins us to discuss the constant danger that journalists who oppose the Putin line face in an environment of propaganda-induced hyper-nationalism with government media branding critics of the Putin regime “enemies of the people” and America spies. We also discuss how the U.S. nuclear buildup announced on Friday by Vice President Pence will play into Putin’s hands

Then finally, with over 300,000 people demonstrating in Barcelona today in support of the Spanish government, we will go to Spain to discuss the volatile political standoff between Catalonia and Spain following a declaration of independence by the Catalan government on Friday then the firing of the Catalan government by Madrid.  Francisco Rodriguez-Jimenez , a Professor of Global and International Studies at the University of Salamanca, Spain joins us to discuss the popular backlash to the independence referendum which around 40% of Catalans voted for and the Spanish government tried to stop with a heavy-handed crackdown.

Background Briefing

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We begin with growing evidence that the Russian influence attack on the election was more widespread and brazen with Facebook announcing that they had shut down several hundred accounts created by a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin who spent $100,000 pushing divisive fake news attacking Hillary Clinton in order to help elect Donald Trump. Dr. Michael Sulmeyer, the Director of the Cyber Security Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs who was formerly the Director of Plans and Operations for Cyber Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, joins us to discuss the warning by Senator Warner, the Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Facebook’s Russian ads are ”just the tip of the iceberg”.

Then we speak with Hal Roberts, a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University who is the co-author of a new study “Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 Election” which documents how, along with Russian interference, highly partisan right-wing sources like Breitbart helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.

Then we speak with Frank Pasquale, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland and author of “The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information”. He joins us to discuss Facebook’s decision to get rid of human curation of the news because of bogus Republican charges of bias and the role of Cambridge Analytica’s owner Robert Mercer and Stephen Bannon in flooding social media with fake news, possibly in collusion with the Russians.

Then finally we try to make sense of the Oval Office about face that stunned Republican leaders as President Trump suddenly embraced his new political allies Chuck and Nancy as he agreed with the Democrats on a 3 month extension of the debt limit instead of the 18 month extension that McConnell, Ryan and the Secretary of the Treasury were arguing for. Lawrence Jacobs, the Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey School of Political Affairs, joins us to discuss if there is a savvy strategy here or whether President Trump has gone rogue.

Background Briefing

September 7, 2017

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We begin with the latest NPR/PBS/Marist poll that finds 54% of Americans think Trump’s dealings with Russia were unethical or illegal while 73% of Republicans believe Trump did nothing wrong with only 4% saying he has done something illegal. The author of “National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear” and “The Great Questions of Tomorrow”, David Rothkopf, a columnist for The Washington Post and a visiting professor at Columbia University and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, joins us. We discuss Donald Trump’s unprecedented attacks on American political leaders and institutions on foreign soil as he stood next to Poland’s authoritarian leader who is cracking down on his press and was no doubt pleased to hear Trump’s attacks on the American Press, along with his trashing of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the U.S. Intelligence community.

Then we speak with Timothy McCarthy, a Lecturer on History, Literature and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of “”Protest Nation: Words That Inspired a Generation” and “The Indispensable Zinn: The Essential Writings or the People’s Historian”. He joins us to discuss the extent to which Trump has laid the groundwork with his supporters by convincing them that the press propagates “fake news” so that when the real news about Trump’s ties to Putin comes out, 35% of Americans won’t believe it.

Then finally we look into the stark division in U.S. foreign policy between the Trump family and his coterie of right wing fringe ideologues, and the broader U.S. defense, intelligence and diplomatic community otherwise known as the “deep state” that have been laid bare by Saudi Arabia’s attack on Qatar. David Hearst, the Editor of Middle East Eye, joins us from the U.K. to discuss the contentious report on the Saudi role in radicalizing young Muslims in Britain and how Trump and his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared’s financial ties to the Saudi Crown Prince are dictating a dangerous Middle East policy that goes against U.S. interests in the region.

Background Briefing

July 6, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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We will begin with the testimony today of FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Judiciary Committee and speak with Nick Akerman, a former federal prosecutor who was an Assistant Special Watergate prosecutor and was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. He joins us to assess the answers to Senator Feinstein’s questions about Comey’s role in tipping the election for Donald Trump and his testimony that he went public with the letter that Hillary Clinton and Nate Silver claim lost her the election because failure to do so required an “act of concealment” that “would have been catastrophic”. However Comey did not elaborate and was not asked why it would have been catastrophic and, as he said, “disastrous for me personally”.

Then we will examine further Comey’s testimony, in particular his efforts to distinguish between journalism and Wikileaks which he labelled as “intelligence porn”, elaborating that “a huge portion of Wikileaks’ activities has nothing to do with legitimate newsgathering, informing the public and commenting on important public controversies, but is simply about releasing classified information to damage the U.S.” Michael Kelly, an editor at Yahoo Finance who was previously the front-page editor at Business Insider where he reported on Military and Defense issues, joins us to assess how much Wikileaks has crossed the line between journalism and being a conduit for a foreign intelligence service.

Then finally we are joined in the studio by Laura Poitras, who made the film “Citizen Four” about Edward Snowden.  She has a new film coming out in theaters nationwide on Friday, “Risk”, which is about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. She joins us to discuss her film that has taken years to complete which explores the territory between the message and the messenger. We will look into whether Assange is simply a publisher who is not responsible for the content he releases which the mainstream press eagerly prints, and whether, when it comes to Snowden and Assange, it is possible to be both a hero and a traitor.

Background Briefing

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