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.

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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

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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.

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We begin with Donald Trump’s recent discovery that dropping bombs and threatening war distracts the public and the press from the inquiries into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and the many questions yet to be answered about Trump and his team’s financial ties to oligarchs close to Putin. Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harpers in legal affairs and national security, joins us to analyze the latest explosive revelations from the former British MP Louise Mensch who claims intelligence sources say that Carter Page went to Moscow with a videotape of Donald Trump offering Putin a change in U.S. policy to Russia in exchange for his help in hacking our election.  We will investigate this and other claims that General Flynn was compromised by the Russians and coordinated with Putin to have fake news created by the Russian state fed into the campaign to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump.

Then we will get a further analysis of the narrow victory in Sunday’s referendum in Turkey with European election monitors questioning the legitimacy of the results while the winner, Turkey’s new dictator-for-life President Erdogan, admonishes them imperiously with “Know Your Place”.  Nicholas Danforth, a senior policy analyst for the national security program at the Bipartisan Policy Center joins us to discuss his new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center “Dark Cloud of Illegitimacy Hovers Over Turkey Vote” and Trump’s call congratulating Erdogan which undercuts the European case against Erdogan.

Then finally we will examine alternatives to the collision course the U.S. is on with North Korea as its regime warns that thermonuclear war could break out at any minute. Adam Mount, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress who is the project director at the Council on Foreign Relations independent task force chaired by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, joins us to discuss their new report “A Sharper Choice on North Korea: Engaging China for a Stable Northeast Asia”.

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We begin with the upcoming choice facing the Democratic Party in next Saturday’s election of a chairman of the DNC which may determine the fate of political opposition in the country as a groundswell of resistance to the new Trump Administration is erupting across the country and around the world. Steve Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of “Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority” joins us to discuss his article at the New York Times, “Move Left, Democrats.” He is the founder of Democracy in Color and we will examine the fact that in the last election more Obama voters defected to the Green and Libertarian parties than was the increase in the number of white working class voters who supported Donald Trump, with Hillary Clinton getting 193,000 fewer white voters in Wisconsin for example compared to Obama than Trump, who picked up just 9,000 more white voters that Romney did. We will assess whether the election of an African-American Muslim, Congressman Keith Ellison, will steer the Democrats away from pursuing the wrong white voters in the Rust Belt to instead focus on the growing opportunities in the south and west.

Then we speak with Kamal Essaheb, an Immigration Policy Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center whose advocacy focuses on the DREAM Act and DACA. We examine the memorandums released today by the Department of Homeland Security that appear to declare open season on the deportation of undocumented immigrants and discuss the deputizing of local police and sheriffs that in effect will nationalize the infamous Arizona Sheriff Arpaio’s enforcement approach to immigration reform.

Then finally we look into the human rights dimensions of this change in America’s attitude and approach to immigrants and speak with Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, the Co-Director of the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch about whether Trump’s impending roundup will become a referendum on America’s decency and humanity. And also assess the extent to which Donald Trump is threat to American democracy itself, with his increasing preference for “patriotic” political rallies favored by autocrats that whip up crowds with populist fervor which often scapegoats so-called “enemies of the people”.

Background Briefing

February 21, 2017

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We begin with the election results coming in with many polls closing in the East as we go to air and speak with Richard Parker, who teaches economics and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is a former managing editor of Ramparts, was a co-founder of Mother Jones and serves on the editorial board of The Nation. We will assess the extent of a probable but narrow presidential victory for Hillary Clinton and whether that will extend to the close senate races which will be critical in determining whether or not a new Clinton Administration will be able to overcome gridlock and govern at all since Republicans in Congress have blocked Obama at every turn and have already threatened to deny Clinton any appointments to the Supreme Court. With a dysfunctional Judicial branch and a paralyzed Legislative branch, the possible victories for Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Missouri, with a tie in North Carolina, appear to auger well for what could be a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Then we look into results in Florida which is another must-win state for Donald Trump, and speak with Amy Hollyfield, the government and politics editor of the St. Petersburg Times who oversees PolitiFact.com, the Times’s fact-checking website which received the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She joins us to discuss the latest results in the close presidential race as well as the key senate race which had Marco Rubio ahead of his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in race that is close but might have been closer had the Democrats not conducted political triage, pulling their money away from their candidate then later deciding to fund him again.

Then we examine the results in Ohio, a must-win state for Donald Trump and speak with Robert Alexander, the Chair of the Department of History, Politics, and Justice and a Professor of Political Science at Ohio Northern University. He is the author of “Presidential Electors and the Electoral College”, and we will discuss whether in this election, the Electoral College is likely to come into play in what is called a misfire, where the winner of the popular vote is not the winner in the Electoral College which is what happened in Florida in 2000.

Then finally we get an update from Nicole Hemmer, a professor in presidential studies at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. A contributing editor to U.S. News and World Report and the author of “Messengers of the Right”, she joins us to discuss whether or not the much-promised “undercover voters” for Trump materialized and if after a Trump loss they will accept defeat and either form a new party or fester in further alienation.

Background Briefing

November 8, 2016

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We will begin with the predictable announcement from the FBI Director James Comey that there was nothing to implicate Hillary Clinton in the emails under investigation between her close aide and Huma Abedin’s estranged and disgraced husband Anthony Weiner. Kurt Eichenwald, a senior writer at Newsweek where he has an op-ed “FBI Director James Comey is Unfit For Public Service”, joins us to discuss the extraordinary arrogance of a public servant who thinks his reputation is more important than his duty. We will look into the blithe disregard Comey appears to have for the consequences of his need to protect his reputation of integrity and his image of one who rises above politics to the point where he would tip the scales in a close election in the home stretch, then, at the last minute say there was no there there after reviving the endlessly overblown Hillary Clinton email pseudo scandal.

 

Then we will assess how much the press enabled the political impact of the Comey letter by falling for Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s framing of the letter as a re-opening of the Clinton email investigation that in just a few days reversed Clinton’s momentum toward the presidency cutting her probability of victory from 85% to 65%. Eric Boehlert, a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America joins us to discuss the ultimate absurdity of so-called “balance” in the mainstream media that has devoted four times as much airtime to covering Hillary Clinton’s emails as they have spent covering all campaign policy initiatives from all candidates for the entire year. 

 

Then finally we will speak with Arthur Lupia Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and author of “Uninformed: Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do About It”. He joins us to discuss what steps can be taken to address the deep-rooted problem of an uninformed electorate and to educate low-information voters who, while well-meaning and even passionate about their beliefs, know very little about politics and government. 

Background Briefing

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We begin with the reverberations from the FBI Director’s letter that has shaken Washington and rattled the presidential race possibly slowing the momentum towards victory for Hillary Clinton and diminishing the chances that the Democrats will take the senate which will mean four more years of gridlock and no new appointments to the Supreme Court. Former White House Counsel and author of “The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It”, John Dean, whose testimony helped lead to President Nixon’s resignation, joins us to discuss his article at The New York Times “No Emailgate Is Not Worse Than Watergate” and the ludicrous hyperbole coming from Donald Trump’s absurd comparison of Nixon’s impeachable crimes to Hillary Clinton’s guilt by association because her top aide happens to have been married to a man who takes picture of his genitals while Donald Trump on the other hand, grabs women’s genitals. We also assess whether FBI Director James Comey is politically tone deaf or cynically partisan.

Then we examine James Comey’s ties to Wall Street and Corporate America since he served as counsel to the world’s largest hedge fund Bridgewater and Lockheed Martin as well as serving on the board of international bank HSBC which has been massively fined for laundering drug money and helping wealthy Americans evade taxes. Jeff Hauser, the Executive Director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C., joins us to discuss why Senator Elizabeth Warren has been critical of Comey’s lack of interest in prosecuting white collar criminals.

Then finally we look into an even more sensational political scandal than the one roiling Washington, and that is the revelations rocking South Korea that the country’s president has been for decades under the spell of a cult leader of the Church of Eternal Life, essentially outsourcing her presidency to a fortune-teller who has not only enriched herself by shaking down big conglomerates for some $70 million but has embezzled millions from the president’s accounts by buying cheap clothes for the president to wear at state dinners while pocketing the difference for designer wear. Sue Mi Terry, a Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute at Columbia University who was Deputy National Intelligence Officer for East Asia at the National Intelligence Council and the Director of Japan, Korea and Oceanic Affairs at the National Security Council, joins us to discuss growing protests and street demonstrations in South Korea demanding President Park Geun-hye’s resignation.

Background Briefing

October 31, 2016

PROGRAM NOTES

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