Background Briefing Archive

We begin with a prominent Republican Senator Bob Corker sounding the alarm today that Trump hasn’t demonstrated the stability or competence to be successful and that radical changes are needed at the White House. An expert on the GOP, conservatism, the Tea Party, social movements, race and elections, Joseph Lowndes, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon and the author of “From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism”, joins us. We discuss the despair being expressed by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a time when President Trump is defending neo-Nazi’s, one of whom mowed down pedestrians with his car in Charlottesville killing Heather Heyer, at a time when a similar terrorist act for which the Islamic State has claimed credit, has taken place in Barcelona where a van mowed down tourists killing 13 and injuring 50. We will discuss Trump’s focus on Confederate statues at a time when moral leadership in renouncing acts of terrorism is needed both at home and abroad.

Then we speak with Leonard Zeskind, the President of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and author of “Blood and Politics: The History of White Nationalism from the Margins to the Mainstream”. He joins us to discuss the changing face of white nationalism and neo-Nazism in America with clean-cut, college-educated leaders like Richard Spencer exploiting the fear of demographic changes that will make whites a minority in this country, to inflame the anxiety that simply being born white will no longer confer privilege.

Then finally, now that President Trump, who ran as a businessman who would attract the best and brightest of America’s CEO’s to his administration, had to preemptively disband his White House Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum before an exodus of CEO’s abandoned it, we speak with the Executive Director of ColorOfChangeRashad Robinson. He has led the effort for some time to persuade America’s top CEO’s who joined the president’s councils to unsure that Trump’s actions comport with their own corporate cultures which stress inclusion, diversity and tolerance.

Background Briefing

The Need For Leadership to Renounce Terrorism at Home and Abroad

The Changing Face of White Nationalism

America's CEO's Abandon Trump


We begin with the unmasking of Donald Trump by Donald Trump in an impromptu press conference yesterday in Trump Tower, revealing in public who the president is in private in spite of the efforts by aides who try to dispel Trump of his far-right wing fringe beliefs fed to him by Fox News, Alex Jones and Breitbart. Sarah Posner, an investigative journalist, author and expert on the intersection of religion and politics, who is one of the few journalists to have interviewed Stephen Bannon who boasted to her that Breitbart was the platform for the alt-right, joins us to discuss how Trump showed his true colors as an ignorant racist with no sense of history or decency who has debased the presidency and fanned the flames of hate and division in this country by pandering to a violent extremist minority of followers of a genocidal maniac responsible for World War 11 and the slave-masters responsible for America’s bloody Civil War.

Then we examine Trump’s reference to Southern “heritage” and his claim that there were “very fine people” in Charlottesville protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee decrying that in doing so “you are changing history, you are changing culture”. Karen Cox, a Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, joins us to discuss the mythology of the Confederacy Trump espoused where the institution of slavery is whitewashed in the name of a noble “Lost Cause” and her article at The New York Times “Why Confederate Monuments Must Fall”.

Then finally we look into the move by Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department to demand that the web hosting company Dreamhost turn over data detailing all visits to an anti-Trump protest website. Marc Rotenberg, the President and Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, EPIC, joins us to discuss whether Dreamhost will prevail in its refusal to comply with a government warrant on the basis that Trump’s DOJ is seeking “to identify political dissidents of the current administration”.

Background Briefing

Trump Unmasks the Real Donald Trump

Trump's Whitewash of Southern "Heritage"

Trump's DOJ Seeks to Identify Political Dissidents of the Current Administration


We begin with the extraordinary reopening of self-inflicted wounds by Donald Trump today who reversed his reluctant acknowledgement that neo-Nazis and white supremacists were responsible for the violence in Charlottesvile to blame what he called the alt-left, reviving his inexplicable compulsion to pander to the far right fringe of his base for reasons that remain unclear unless our president is in fact a racist. Antony McAleer, Board Chair and Co-Founder of Life After Hate, a non-profit working to de-radicalize Neo-Nazi and white supremacist youth whose funding grant from the Department of Homeland Security was rescinded by Katherine Gorka, the wife of White House deputy Sebastian Gorka who vowed to shut down the DHS’s Countering Violent Extremism program and shift funds away from white supremacist domestic terrorism to target American Muslims, along with getting his wife a job. From a former member of WAR, the White Aryan Resistance, we will learn about the mainstreaming of white racism today away from tattooed skinheads to clean-cut people in suits such as Richard Spencer who look like our neighbors.

Then we speak with Michael Greenberger, the Founder and Director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland where he teaches courses on counterterrorism and emergency response. He joins us to discuss the shift in focus of Trump’s DHS away from the main and well-documented problem of domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists to the imaginary problem of a Muslim invasion and imposition of Sharia Law, and the role of alt-right advisors at the highest levels inside the White House pushing this racist and counter-productive agenda.

Then finally we look into Trump’s renewed attacks on the press as he tries to shift blame away from his own failure of moral leadership and speak with Lewis Friedland, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin where he directs the Center for Communication and Democracy. He joins us to discuss the right wing media eco-system being built by Fox’s Murdoch and Sinclair’s Smith to serve as the Ministry of Truth and propaganda outlet for the Trump administration, and presidential aide David Gergen’s remark that Trump can’t heal hate in America because HE has so much hate in is his heart.

Background Briefing

A Former White Aryan Who De-Radicalizes Neo-Nazis and Had His Funding Cut by Sebastian Gorka's Wife

Trump's DHS Ignores Real White Supremacist Terrorism to Focus on the Gorka's Muslim Obsession

Trump's Renewed Attacks on the Press


We begin with the grudging acceptance by Donald Trump of the need to condemn Saturday’s violence by neo-Nazi white supremacists in a television address today in which he insisted on first emphasizing what a great economy he has created before addressing the burning issue of Charlottesville as if it were an afterthought. A witness who was part of an interfaith protest by clergy who faced Saturday’s phalanx of heavily armed white supremacist Stormtroopers spewing racist hatred, Bryan Mann, joins us. He is in his sixth year of studies at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in Boston and will be an ordained rabbi in June of 2018. With his prayer shawl and kippa, linking arms with other clergy led by Cornell West, Bryan faced the Nazi taunts of “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us”, and he describes how the police did nothing to protect the counter-protesters who were defended by the Antifa, the anti-fascists who came to their rescue meeting violence with violence which has led many, including Trump, to assign blame to “many sides”.

Then we examine the rumors of palace intrigue that suggest the alt-right radicals close to Trump, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller and the fascist sympathizer Sebastian Gorka, might be on the way out of the White House. Addy Baird, a reporter for ThinkProgress where she has an article “The subtle dogwhistle in Trump’s belated condemnation of white supremacists”, joins us to discuss today’s nasty tweets by Trump who went after the only black member of his manufacturing council, the CEO of Merck Pharma, who resigned to protest the president’s reaction to what happened in Charlottesville.

Then finally we look into the emerging right wing media juggernaut being enabled by Trump’s FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that will effectively become the Ministry of Truth for the Trump presidency. Timothy Karr, the Campaign Director for Free Press and the Coalition joins us to discuss how Ajit Pai’s changing of the rules to allow the Sinclair Broadcasting Group to buy up Tribune will create a monopoly that, along with Fox News and Breitbart, will pump out pro-Trump propaganda and create a Putin-like media machine of alternative facts while attacking the rest of the free press as “fake news”.

Background Briefing

A Rabbinical Student Who Faced the Taunts of Nazis In Charlottesville

Are the White House Right Wing Radicals On Their Way Out?

The FCC's Ajit Pai is Enabling Trump's Ministry of Truth


We begin with the violence that was brought to Charlottesville, Virginia by the Ku Klux Clan, neo-Nazis and white nationalist groups under the banner of “Unite the Right” who organized a Nazi-like torchlight protest Friday night against the removal of a statue of the Confederate leader Robert E. Lee then on Saturday converged on the statue wearing military gear waving Confederate flags and Nazi swastikas chanting “you will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us” as they clashed with counter-demonstrators. Nicole Hemmer, a professor at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and author of “Messenger of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics”, joins us to discuss her article at U.S. News and World Report “Sounds and Silence in Charlottesville: The violence of white nationalism spilled onto the streets of Virginia” and what she witnessed after a car driven by a white supremacist ploughed into a crowd of demonstrators celebrating the dispersal of the “Unite the Right” demonstrators.

Then we speak with sociologist Randy Blazak, Chair of the Coalition Against Hate Crime which monitors hate groups in the State of Oregon and a professor at the University of Oregon and author of “Hate Offenders”. He joins us to challenge the troubling remarks by the President of the United States that implied liberals and conservatives are equally violent when Trump went out of his way to emphasize that the hate, bigotry and violence on display in Charlottesville came from “all sides”. We discuss what is clear and that is there are members of the alt-right in the highest positions in the Trump White House and that the alt-right is trying to hijack the discussion about who is the victim in American history by encouraging the myth that white men are oppressed.

Then finally we assess the extent to which Trump’s threat of military action against Venezuela is playing into the hands of the Maduro government who have brought Venezuela to the brink of collapse and now, thanks to Trump, can blame the “Yankee imperialists” who have a sorry history of military intervention in Latin America. Jennifer McCoy, the Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University and author of “International Mediation in Venezuela”, joins us to discuss how Trump has set back regional efforts to deal with the worsening tragedy in Venezuela.

Background Briefing

White Supremacists Bring Violence to Charlottesville

Trump's Persistent Defense of the Alt-Right

Trump's Threats Play Into Maduro's Hands


We  begin with the latest target of Trump’s personal and public attacks, this time it is Mitch McConnell in the crosshairs, the Majority Leader of the Senate who is a member of Trump’s party and a vital ally in moving the president’s agenda forward. A 21 year veteran of the United States Senate, Jim Manley, who served as a senior advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 12 years as an aide to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, joins us. We will discuss the fratricide going on inside the Republican Party and this unprecedented public putdown in response to the Majority Leader’s mild criticism of Trump, and whether Trump’s biggest billionaire donor Robert Mercer who is putting up $300 million to defeat Republican Senator Jeff Flake because he criticized Trump, will go after McConnell and other Republican lawmakers Trump is annoyed with.

Then, with today’s extraordinary putdown of Secretary of State Tillerson’s by the hawkish alt-right Deputy Assistant to President Trump, Sebastian Gorka, who belittled Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts to calm the situation with North Korea, we  to speak with Lili Bayer, a freelance journalist who writes for Politico and other publications and profiled Sebastian Gorka for The Forward. She joins us from Budapest, Hungary to discuss the letter by 55 Members of Congress asking Trump to fire Gorka and his ties to far right and neo-Nazi Hungarian political parties and the anti-Semitic Vitezi Rend Group whose medal Gorka wore to Trump’s inauguration.

Then finally we speak with Taran Singh Brar, a documentary filmmaker and political activist who erected a giant inflated chicken bearing a striking resemblance to Donald Trump near the White House yesterday. He joins us to discuss why he thinks Donald Trump is too chicken to release his tax returns while he plays chicken with North Korea, and how visitors to the mall in the nation’s capitol reacted to “Chicken Don”.

Background Briefing

Trump Turns on Mitch McConnell After Mild Criticism

Trump's Alt-Right Deputy Trashes Tillerson

The Activist Who Erected the Giant Inflated "Chicken Don" Near The White House


We begin with a raid by the FBI that took place at 4 AM on July the 26th at the home of Paul Manafort who was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and was present in the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower which Donald Trump Jr. set up with representatives of the Russian government who were promising dirt on Hillary Clinton to help elect Trump. Harry Litman, a former United States Attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, joins us to discuss the significance of the raid in terms of the investigation underway by the special counsel Robert Mueller. And since Manafort, who took notes during the meeting with the Russians and was treated shabbily by the Trump family when they disposed of him, might be persuaded to cooperate with the investigation, could he avoid legal jeopardy by ratting out his former employers including Jared Kushner who callously fired him?

Then we speak with an expert on the North Korean nuclear program, Paul Carroll, who has visited North Korea twice and previously worked on nuclear weapons issues at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the U.S. Department of Energy. He joins us to assess whether the Trump-Kim schoolyard exchange of belligerence with the bombast of the strong threatening the tyranny of the weak, could get out of hand. And could Trump, who is increasingly paranoid as the Russia investigation closes in on him, and Kim who is paranoid to the point he preemptively killed his own brother with nerve gas out of fear the Chinese might stage a coup against him, lash out with nuclear weapons?

Then finally we assess the possibility that there will be a fourth attempt by the House Republicans led by the Tea Party Freedom Caucus, to shut down the government in October over the debt ceiling as they have tried to do in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Edward Kleinbard, who served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, joins us to discuss his article at The New York Times “The Debt-Ceiling Crisis is Real” and the likelihood that Mick Mulvaney, the Tea Party zealot who is now the White House Budget Director and his boss Trump, could destroy the full faith and credit of the United States and take away America’s greatest economic advantage of having the U.S. dollar the world’s reserve currency.

Background Briefing

The FBI's 4 AM Raid on Paul Manafort

Could a Paranoid Trump and a Paranoid Kim Unleash Nukes?

Next Time in October Will the Tea Party Shut Down the Government?


We begin with Donald Trump inflaming the combustible situation with North Korea with name-calling and threats that play to his base but could ignite a catastrophic war. Norman Ornstein, a contributing writer for The Atlantic and co-author of “It’s Even Worse Than it Was” whose forthcoming book is “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not Yet Deported” joins us. We discuss whether there is a method to Trump’s madness in continually riling up his base with overheated attacks on his enemies while constructing an alternative reality via propaganda pumped out by Fox News and Sinclair. In addition to unlimited financial backing from billionaires and on-going efforts to suppress the vote, would this be enough to keep him in power? Particularly as long as the Democrats fail to exhibit leadership and offer a narrative beyond Trump is a disaster and if you vote for him you’re an idiot, a refrain which Hillary Clinton ran on unsuccessfully.

Then we get an assessment of why South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has faced six no-confidence votes in parliament and how he dodged the latest bullet in a 189 to 177 vote despite mounting evidence of his corrupt ties to the wealthy Gupta brothers. Ambassador John Campbell, a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria who was political counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria during South Africa’s first non-racial election and is the author of “Morning in South Africa”, joins us to discuss how long the ruling ANC can excuse corruption while clinging to the moral authority bequeathed to them by Mandela.

Then finally we examine the sudden reversal of the Justice Department in withdrawing support from a case before the Supreme Court challenging how voters were purged from the rolls in the important swing state of Ohio.Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School who served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, joins us to discuss how much the Trump Justice Department’s switching to support Ohio’s aggressive purging of voter rolls in the middle of a case is tied to the Administration’s wider efforts at voter suppression via the Kobach Commission.

Background Briefing

Is There a Method to Trump's Madness?

South Africa's Corrupt Leader Survives A Sixth No-Confidence Vote

The DOJ Reversal on Voting Rights


We begin with the worsening situation in Venezuela following the electoral coup by the unpopular Maduro government which has defied the will of the majority in a power grab that has shut down the opposition, arrested its leaders and exposed divisions within the ranks of the military. Alejandro Velasco, a historian of modern Latin America at New York University and author of “Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela” joins us to discuss whether in a country racked by crime and awash with guns, the opposition will turn to armed resistance. We will also assess the likelihood of a split within the military between junior officers who want to re-establish constitutional order and the top leadership whose loyalty to the government has been ensured by Maduro who has lavished generals with economic spoils and allowed their active participation in the lucrative drug trade.

Then we will look into the unusual unity on the U.N. Security Council in their unanimous condemnation of North Korea as the world body ramped up sanctions on the isolated country whose exports of coal, seafood, iron ore, lead and cheap labor are now blocked. Kyung Moon Hwang, a professor of history at the University of Southern California and author of “Rationalizing Korea: The Rise of the Modern State”, joins us to discuss the possibility of imaginative diplomacy ending the stalemate if the U.S. were to offer the North a peace treaty and refuse to be the enemy anymore, thus removing the glue that holds the Kim regime in power.

Then finally we will investigate the real reasons behind the opioid crisis in America and why the epidemic is not being dealt with effectively. Stephan Schwartz, the editor of the daily web publication The joins us to discuss his article in the journal Explore, “America’s Deadly Opioid Epidemic From Which Everyone But the Users Profits”.

Background Briefing

Will Venezuela's Opposition Take Up Arms and Its Military Split?

Could Imaginative Diplomacy End The Stalemate With North Korea?

The Real Reasons Behind the Opioid Crisis


We begin with the warning from Attorney General Sessions to would-be leakers “Don’t do it!” and his threat to reporters that he is “reviewing” press subpoenas that would force journalists to reveal their sources or face jail time. Cora Currier, a journalist who, as a reporting fellow at ProPublica covered national security, and now covers national security and press freedom for The Intercept, joins us to discuss Sessions’ response to humiliating public criticism from Trump that he was “VERY weak on Intel leakers” and the release of embarrassing transcripts of the president’s private conversations with world leaders. We examine the DOJ’s pursuit of three times as many leak investigations that occurred under the Obama Administration and the FBI’s creation of a new unit to handle the investigations.

Then we look into why Donald Trump holds so many campaign-style rallies in West Virginia and why the state’s governor and only billionaire made an appearance at last Thursday’s rally to announce that he had switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party. Bob Kincaid the co-founder of the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Campaign and the President of the Coal River Mountain Watch joins us to explain Trump’s popularity in a state with the nation’s worst opioid addiction crisis and the highest death rate from opioids yet is the most dependent on Medicaid funds to address the crisis as Trump plans to cut Medicaid and proposed a 95% cut in funding for the agency leading the charge against the country’s opioid epidemic.

Then finally we assess why the United Auto Workers failed in their bid to unionize the Nissan plant in Mississippi at which the majority of workers voted with the company against the UAW in a bitterly contested campaign. An expert on labor issues, Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who studies labor, information technology and the organization of work, joins us to discuss the latest defeat for labor in the “right to work” South.

Background Briefing

The DOJ is "Reviewing" Press Subpoenas to Stop Leaks

Why Does West Virginia Love Trump?

The Fight to Unionize the Right-to-Work South


We begin with the release of the transcripts of Donald Trump’s calls to foreign leaders early in his Administration that indicate a woeful ignorance of world affairs, a delusional obsession with the greatness of his campaign and election victory, and a child-like temperament when confronted with facts and reality. We speak with two prominent American historians of the presidency and begin with Sean Wilentz, Professor of American History at Princeton University whose latest book is “The Politicians and the Egalitarians”. He joins us to provide an historical context on how much Trump has lowered the bar to the point where comparisons with prior presidents does a disservice to our history since Trump is such a disastrous aberration to the point that no matter how much his predecessors have faced the harsh judgement of history and are held in low esteem, it does a disservice to them and to our history to compare them to Trump.

Then we speak with the American political historian who teaches at American University, Allan Lichtman. He is the author of “The Keys to the White House: A Surefire Way to Predicting the Next President”, a system that has correctly predicted the outcomes of all US presidential elections since 1984 including the last election when, against all odds, he predicted a Trump victory. His latest book is “The Case For Impeachment” and we discuss whether Trump’s alarming lack of qualification for the job of president that the transcripts reveal, could be considered grounds for his impeachment.

Then finally we are joined in the studio by Bryan Fogel, the director of the new Netflix documentary opening nationwide “Icarus”. He sought to investigate the Lance Armstrong story of doping in sports and the science of cheating the tests for doping. But instead, he uncovered a brazen scheme of state-sponsored cheating that resulted in the hero of the film, a brave Russian whistleblower, having to escape Kremlin death threats by taking his family into witness protection, while the villain behind the cheating scandal was promoted by Putin to be his Deputy Prime Minister.

Background Briefing

Transcripts Reveal How Much Trump Has Lowered the Bar for the Presidency

Could Trump's Alarming Lack of Qualifications Be Grounds for Impeachment?

The Director of the New Netflix Documentary "Icarus"


We speak first with Steve Andreasen, who was director for defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council and is currently a national security consultant at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and teaches at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He joins us to discuss his article at The New York Times “Is Trump Scheming to Kill the Iran Deal?” and assess whether the adults in the room, Generals Mattis and McMaster and Secretary of State Tillerson got rolled by the hardliners like Bannon who have Trump’s ear. Although the adults were able to get Trump to certify that Iran was sticking to the P5+1 agreement for now, the price they paid was to have Bannon put in charge of a group of ideologues who will look for a way to de-certify Iran within the next 90 days to find a pretext to resume sanctions and open the way for military action.

Then we examine further the likelihood of Trump starting a war with Iran and speak with Dr. Trita Parsi, the co-founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and author of “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy”. He joins us to discuss his article at Alternet “This October, Trump Will Try to Start a War With Iran: Trump plans to sabotage the nuclear deal” and explain how Saudi Arabia’s ruling family wants to fight Iran to the last American soldier and what a gift it would be to the hardline mullahs and Revolutionary Guards to have the “great Satan” go to war against Iran.

Then finally we look into why Trump is imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s new dictator Maduro for killing democracy via a phony referendum while praising Erdogan for his recent electoral coup as Turkey’s wannabe dictator rolls back democracy and jails thousands of political opponents. Max Hoffman, the Associate Director for National Security and international Policy at the Center for American Progress where his research focusses on Turkey and the Kurdish regions, joins us to discuss Erdogan’s show trials underway and the reshuffling of the top brass of Turkey’s military.

Background Briefing

Trump's Scheme to Kill the Iran Deal

Will Trump Try to Start a War With Iran in October?

Erdogan's Show Trials


We begin with accusations in a lawsuit against Fox News by a former longtime Fox News contributor that implicate Sean Spicer and President Trump in an effort to deflect attention from connections between Russian intelligence and Wikileaks who released stolen date hacked from the DNC that was damaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Paul Farhi, The Washington Post’s media reporter joins us to discuss his latest article “Sean Spicer claimed to be unaware of Seth Rich story after meeting with donor who pushed it” and how the tragic murder of a DNC IT staffer Seth Rich was used to whip up a conspiracy theory pushed by Fox News and the White House that Seth Rich was the source of the hacked DNC emails, not the Russians and Wikileaks.

Then we look into the extent that Donald Trump might go to sabotage the Affordable Care Act in order to prove his constant refrain that it is collapsing, by withholding payments of subsidies to health insurers for low-income customers and by generally creating uncertainty in the insurance market to hasten its collapse. Gerald Kominski, a Professor of Health Policy and Management and Director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, joins us to discuss the fate and future of Obamacare and a new report that monthly Covered California premiums will rise by an average of 12.5% with Anthem Blue Cross announcing it plans to end its ACA coverage in most of California.

Then finally we assess the fallout from last week’s ousting of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court on the basis of corruption exposed in the Panama Papers. Shuja Nawaz, the author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within” joins us to discuss whether the former cricket star Imran Khan, who has campaigned for Sharif’s removal from office, will benefit from this latest removal of an elected leader that many suspect has been engineered by Pakistan’s powerful army which many believe covertly supports Imran Khan.

Background Briefing

Fox News Sued Over Conspiracy It Pushed

Will Trump Sabotage Obamacare?

Is Pakistan's Army Behind the Ousting of the PM Nawaz Sharif?


We begin with a potential crisis facing a White House in chaos with yet another staff shake-up as Anthony Scaramucci, the newly-appointed Director of Communications, was shown the door today. In response to the latest North Korean missile test and threats coming from the White House, a bi-partisan group of top American officials who have had high-level dealings with North Korea, William Perry, George Schultz, Robert Gallucci, Sig Hecker, Richard Lugar and Bill Richardson, have written to President Trump urging him to open direct talks with Kim Jong-un. Adam Mount, the former project director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ independent task force chaired by Admiral Mullen and Sam Nunn, joins us to discuss how a dysfunctional White House will deal with a clear and present danger that does not lend itself to military force or rhetorical bluster, but rather requires mature and patient diplomacy.

Then with Putin kicking out American diplomats in a tit-for-tat Cold War-like reprisal, we examine Putin’s comments today that in their recent G-20 meeting, Trump agreed with Putin’s version of whether Russia meddled in our elections. David Halperin, who served on the National Security Council and was counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, joins us to discuss his article at The Huffington Post “”The Exxon-Treasury Fight and the Roots of Russiagate” which lays out a credible scenario of what the real ties are between Putin and Trump and why it appears that Trump is Putin’s puppet.

Then finally we speak with Katherine Stewart, the author of “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” about her article in The New York Times “What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean”. She traces the history of attacks on so-called government schools, meaning public education by religious fundamentalist who now have a champion in the new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who has funded crusades casting public schools as Godless government indoctrination camps.

Background Briefing

A White House in Chaos Facing a North Korea Crisis

Why Trump Is Putin's Puppet

The "Christian" Jihad Against What They Call "Government Schools"


We begin with the latest shakeup in the White House with the Chief of Staff Reince Priebus unceremoniously fired to be replaced by General John Kelly the head of Homeland Security. Chris Whipplea writer, documentary filmmaker, journalist and author of “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff define every presidency”, joins us to discuss the challenges facing the four-star Marine General in trying to restore regular order to a White House without a chain of command with competing power centers and various aides enjoying walk-in privileges into the Oval Office. We look into whether a mercurial President who enjoys humiliating subordinates and is incapable of taking responsibility for anything, particularly if things go wrong, can be weaned away from his power-hungry delusions that he and his family are America’s rulers and learn to govern.

Then we look at the new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly who might be part of a wider power shuffle in which the embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions is moved to Homeland Security so that Trump can put someone in at DOJ who will fire the special counsel to end the Russia probe. Michael Cohen, a former State Department Chief Speechwriter for the U.S. Representative to the United Nations who is a columnist for the Boston Globe where he wrote an article back in April “Homeland Security’s John Kelly is Unhinged”, joins us to discuss Trump’s new Chief of Staff and whether he can reign in his boss who more and more observers are suggesting is unhinged.

Then finally we go to Caracas, Venezuela to speak with veteran Latin America journalist with the BBC and The Guardian, Phil Gunson, now the Andes Project Senior Analyst with the International Crisis Group. He joins us to discuss today’s vote that the opposition are boycotting for a Constituent Assembly that will end democratic representation in Venezuela leading to the possible arrest of elected legislators and the installation of a Cuba-style government led by President Maduro who is supported by less than 20% of his countrymen.

Background Briefing

The Historical Role of White House Chiefs of Staff

A Critic of Former Homeland Security Head John Kelly

Venezuelan Democracy at the Crossroads


We begin with the extraordinary public challenge by the newly-appointed White House Head of Communications, Anthony Scaramucci, who is accusing Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus of possibly being a “senior leaker” who should “explain that he’s not a leaker” adding that “He’s gonna need to speak for his own actions”. Following today’s expletitive-laden diatribe to The New Yorker in which “The Mooch” promised to fire Priebus and Bannon, we are joined by Paul Waldman,a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect where he has an article “At Last Trump Finds His Mini-Me: Anthony Scaramucci perfectly embodies the Trump administration”. We discuss the open warfare and public humiliation going on in this chaotic White House and what appears to be a parallel effort with Trump trying to force his Attorney General Sessions to quit while Scaramucci tries to force Trump’s Chief of Staff Priebus out.

Then we examine Trump’s reckless practice of government by Tweet now that it is clear the Commander-in-Chief ignored his chain of command in announcing transgender Americans will no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. A former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Lawrence Korb, a Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information and author of “A New National Security Strategy in an Age of Terrorists, Tyrants, and Weapons of Mass Destruction”, joins us to discuss the danger of having a leader who has shown he could just as well order a nuclear attack without consulting his Secretary of Defense or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Then finally Peter Afrasiabi, joins us in studio. He founded an appellate litigation clinic for civil rights and political asylum in conjunction with the University of California, Irvine School of Law and is the author of the new book just out “Burning Bridges: America’s 20 Year Crusade To Deport Labor Leader Harry Bridges”. We discuss the relentless efforts by the government and an obsession on the part of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, to tie Harry Bridges to the Communist Party in order to deport him for being a champion of the West Coast longshoremen and an honest, incorruptible labor leader.

Background Briefing

Is the "Mooch" Trying to Force Priebus Out to Take His Job?

Trump's Reckless Practice of Government By Tweet

America's 20-Year Crusade to Deport Labor Leader Harry Bridges


We begin with the latest policy reversal of an Obama initiative announced by Trump on Twitter that the U.S. Government will no longer “accept or allow” transgender Americans to serve in the U.S. military. The author of “The Human Agenda: Conversations About Sexual Orientation and Gender”, Joe Wenke, a writer, social critic and LGBT activist, joins us to discuss what appears to be Trump’s new routine of daily distraction, this time scapegoating a vulnerable community in a cruel and cynical attempt to distract the public from the Russia investigation which is closing in on him and his family. We look into Stephen Bannon’s White House strategy of pandering to bigots who call themselves “Christians” in the alt-right’s phony battle against the bi-coastal secular humanists consumed by identity politics who don’t care about the white working class in the flyover states.

Then we assess the impact on the European gas market dominated by Russia’s Gazprom of the sanctions bill that just passed overwhelmingly in the House on a 419-3 vote. Fadel Gheit, the former Senior Energy Strategist for Oil and Gas with Oppenheimer and Company joins us to discuss what inroads U.S. shale gas and Qatari LNG have made into the European market and how much the new sanctions will affect Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany that bypasses Ukraine and Poland.

Then finally we examine the Israel Anti-Boycott Act introduced into the Senate by Democrats at the behest of AIPAC, the American Israel Political Action Committee, which is meant to head off the Boycott Divestment Sanctions, BDS movement, in America that already has proven effective in Europe. M.J. Rosenberg, a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters joins us to discuss how this bill will criminalize political speech and subject Americans to up to 20 years in jail and a million dollar fine for just requesting information about BDS boycotts.

Background Briefing

Trump's Cynical Move Against the Transgender Minority

The Impact of US Sanctions on the European Gas Market Dominated By Russia

Criminalizing Political Speech in Order to Stop the BDS Movement


We begin with the cliffhanger vote in the senate with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote to proceed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and speak with Dr. Adam Gaffney, an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Secretary of Physicians for a National Health Program. He joins us to analyze the three bills that the Republicans will be voting on along with the House bill passed in May and we will discuss the various levels of pain the bills will cause with between 22 million and 32 million Americans suddenly deprived of healthcare which many only recently were able to afford in what is an abomination of the Hippocratic Oath physicians take that begins with the declaration to “first do no harm”.

Then we examine the apparent determination on the part of President Trump to humiliate and force the resignation of the first and only senator to join his presidential campaign, his most loyal and faithful servant the Attorney General of the United States, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions the Third. The author of the new book “Rivals for Power: Presidential – Congressional Relations”, James Thurber, the University Distinguished Professor of Government and Founder and Former Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University joins us. We discuss the likely constitutional crisis that will erupt if and when Trump proceeds to force Sessions out in order to put in a compliant replacement to fire the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Then finally, following Trump’s latest insult against who he called “the beleaguered A.G.” and now calls “VERY weak”, we  assess how long Jeff Sessions can survive on the job and how Trump can get away with appointing someone to stop the Russia investigation by firing Robert Mueller. Bill Yeomans, a former at Assistant Attorney General who is now the Ronald Goldfarb Fellow for Justice at the Alliance for Justice joins us to discuss how this standoff between Trump and Sessions puts all of us in the unfortunate position of asking whether it is better to have a relic from the Jim Crow South turn back the clock, or have Trump escape justice.

Background Briefing

Senate Republicans Narrowly Proceed to Dismantle Obamacare

The Looming Constitutional Crisis As Trump Pressures Sessions to Quit

Will Trump Get Away With Firing Sessions To Kill the Russia Investigation?


We begin with the increasingly important White House role of Stephen Bannon who successfully challenged the Secretary of State’s argument that Iran is sticking to the deal made with Obama, which makes it likely that in 90 days Trump will pull out of the G-5 +1 agreement with Iran. Joshua Green, a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek and author of the new book “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency”, joins us to discuss the deep right wing Catholic fervor driving Bannon’s apocalyptic worldview that appears to go back to the 11th century crusades of the crescent versus the cross. We will look into the key role of Rebekah Mercer who brought Bannon and Kellyanne Conway in to rescue Trump’s flagging campaign and what the Mercer’s expect to get in exchange for being the biggest donors to both Bannon and Trump.

Then we speak with Thomas Nichols, a professor of national security affairs in the National Security Affairs Department of the Naval War College and author of the new book, “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters”. He joins us to discuss his belief that “the abysmal literacy, both political and general, of the American public is the foundation for all these problems. It is the soil in which all of the other dysfunctions have taken root and prospered, with the 2016 election only its most recent expression”.

Then finally we get an assessment of the new Democratic agenda, the “Better Deal” announced by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that aims to rebuild the coalition that FDR put together and bring the white working class back into the Democrat’s big tent. Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, joins us to discuss Schumer’s implicit criticism of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the promising anti-trust measures in the plan that hopes to reclaim the Democrat’s populist mantle that Trump was able to expropriate in the last election.

Background Briefing

The Author of "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency"

Why Americans Have Turned Against Expertise and Knowledge

The Democrat's "Better Deal"


We begin with the Congressional vote to sanction Russia that constrains President Trump in a clear rebuke which indicates a distrust of the president’s peculiar determination to please Putin. Ruth Ben-Ghait, a Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University joins us to discuss her article at CNN “Trump’s Authoritarian Playbook: What’s Next?” and the authoritarian playbook that she witnessed in Italy under Berlusconi that Trump appears to be following which could result in a constitutional crises if he does what he is threatening to do by firing the special prosecutor Robert Mueller and pardoning himself and his family. We will examine the portent of a political and cultural civil war that Trump has laid the groundwork for and the open appeal to American fascism in a recent NRA video that threatens armed insurrection against liberals with “the clenched fist of truth”.

Then we will look into Trump’s assertion that he has “the complete power to pardon” and speak with Brian Kalt, Professor of Law at Michigan State University and author of “Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies”, a book that identified unresolved constitutional questions that could easily lead to chaos and crisis. We will discuss what would happen if Trump fires Mueller as he has threatened to do, and tries to pardon himself and his family.

Then finally we will go to Warsaw, Poland to speak with Jan Kubik, Director of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies and Provost for Europe at the University College, London. He joins us to discuss the power grab by Poland’s right wing government in taking over the constitutional court and the encouragement that the anti-democratic right wing governments in Poland and Hungary are getting from Sebastian Gorka, the Hungarian fascist in the White House who is a close advisor to Donald Trump.

Background Briefing

Trump is Laying the Groundwork For a Political and Cultural Civil War

Questioning Trump's Claim That He Has "The Complete Power to Pardon"

Poland's Right-Wing Government's Power Grab