Background Briefing Archive


We begin with an analysis of the just-released draft of the Republican Senate’s repeal and replacement of Obamacare bill that Mitch McConnell is determined to get passed by the fourth of July holiday in a grotesque perversion of patriotism as Republicans are poised to celebrate millions of their fellow citizens loosing healthcare coverage in order to make a handful of their richest patrons even richer. A veteran of the health insurance industry, Wendell Potter, who was chief corporate spokesman at CIGNA and head of corporate communications at Humana, joins us to discuss what has emerged from secret behind-closed-doors negotiations and the unseemly rush to get something passed before it can be studied or scored to assess its impact, in order to fulfill a Trump campaign promise so that Republicans can move on to the important work of “reforming” taxes to further enrich the wealthiest Americans like Trump and his family.

Then we get an assessment of the Democrat’s recent loss in the most expensive House race in history and why they ran such a bland candidate with a feckless message and whether by reaching so high they gave Trump a gift and squandered millions of dollars of small donations from concerned citizens who are alarmed by Trump’s reckless and destructive presidency. Simon Rosenberg, the President and Founder of the New Democrat Network, a leading progressive think tank and advocacy organization, joins us to discuss the kind of messages and candidates the Democrats need to take back the House and Senate in 2018.

Then finally we speak with John Lawrence, a visiting professor at the University of California, Washington who worked for 38 years in the House of Representatives and served as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s chief of staff. He joins us to discuss unrelenting Republican attacks on Pelosi as well as some criticism of her leadership from a few Democrats and the underlying reason why she is the target of Republicans, not because they see her as a weak leader, but as a strong one.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

The Republicans Celebrate the 4th of July By Making America Sick Again

The Kind of Messages and Candidates Democrats Need in 2018

Why the Republicans are Attacking Nancy Pelosi

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We begin with an analysis of why the Democrats lost the uphill race they hoped to win in Georgia’s sixth congressional district and speak with Ian Haney Lopez, a Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley and author of “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class”. We will discuss how the successful demonization of Hillary Clinton by the Republicans in the last election was updated to target Nancy Pelosi in yesterday’s election and tie her to Jon Ossoff who was depicted as her puppet. We explore why people prefer to believe that Nancy Pelosi is a monster without any apparent evidence to support the demonized portrait of her GOP operatives so successfully employed. Using dog whistle coded appeals they implied Jon Ossoff was not one of us, but a gay-loving San Francisco sanctuary city type who wants to hand out benefits to undeserving minorities while looking down at hard working white folks who the Democrats don’t care about that have been left at the back of the cue.

Then we examine the absence of American leadership with a commander in chief who is AWOL on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, where the Russians appear to be running the show and making the rules. Kate Brannen, the Deputy Managing Editor of Just Security and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council joins us to discuss her latest article at Foreign Policy “White House Officials Push for Widening the War in Syria Over Pentagon Objections” and how hawks on the National Security Council are working behind the backs of the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor to confront Iran and its proxy forces.

Then finally we assess the elevation of Saudi Arabia’s 31 year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the role of Crown Prince by his father King Salman, passing over his older uncle Prince Nayef. Dr. Ali Alyami, the founder and director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia joins us to discuss this palace intrigue and his latest article at cdhr.info “Settling Scores with Qatar in the Guise of Defeating Terrorism” and how the Saudis are shamelessly stroking Trump’s ego while playing him like a gullible fool.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

How Demonizing HIllary and Then Pelosi Has Paid Off

Our Commander in Chief is AWOL

Saudi Arabia's Boy King Moves Closer to the Throne

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We begin with the most expensive congressional race in the nation’s history in Georgia where the polls closed an hour ago and speak with Andra Gillespie, a Professor of Political Science at Emory University who served as a Martin Luther King Visiting Scholar in Political Science at MIT and was an analyst for Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. She joins us to discuss this tight race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel that has been flooded with outside money since it is widely seen as an early referendum on the troubled Trump Administration. We look into whether Ossoff can squeak by with a narrow victory this time with the help of the African/American vote, the absence of which some analysts say cost Ossoff an outright win in the primary in which he fell just short of the 50% threshold.

Then following the shoot-down of 2 Iranian drones and a Syrian fighter-bomber by U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria, we assess the warning from the Russians that any coalition aircraft venturing west of the Euphrates will be painted by Russian radar and treated as targets. An expert on Syria, Nicholas Heras, a Middle East researcher at the Center for a New American Security, joins us to discuss how Syria and Iran are trying to capture territory in the east of Syria, attempting to fill the vacuum as the Islamic State is defeated in the hope that they can create a land corridor from Assad-controlled territory across Iraq to Iran.

Then finally we speak with Jonathan Marshall, an award-winning journalist and researcher who has a 5 part series of articles on foreign lobbying at Consortium News, the latest of which is “Saudis Win Hearts by Lining Pockets”. We discuss how other nations, apart from Russia, interfere in our elections by pouring money into hiring lobbyists and former officials while funding think tanks and political issues using the dark money channels opened up the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

An Update on the Georgia Congressional Race

Could an Accidental War Between the US and Russia Break Out in Syria?

How Other Nations, Apart From Russia, Interfere in Our Elections

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We begin with a looming showdown in the U.S. Senate as Democrats try to force the Republican Obamacare replacement bill out into the open from its behind closed doors negotiations by Republicans whose Senate leader hopes to jam it through using the reconciliation process to avoid a filibuster. Joining us is a veteran senate staffer Paul Light, Professor of Public Service at New York University who was director of the Government Studies Program at the Brookings Institution and is the author of “Government by Investigation: Presidents, Congress, and the Search for Answers 1945-2012”. We discuss the many tactics that can slow down the Senate and the likelihood that when the Republican healthcare bill sees the light of day and is scored by the CBO, moderate Republican will abandon it, as well as try to figure out Trump’s tweet calling the bill “mean” and what effect that might have on its uncertain future.

Then we examine the latest disarray caused by Trump’s tweets attacking the Deputy Attorney General for initiating an investigation of him which Trump calls a witch hunt only to have his lawyer say the president is not being investigated at the same time saying he is. James Kirchick, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington D.C. and author of “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age” joins us to discuss his article at the Los Angeles Times ”If Trump were really in league with Russia, that would be reassuring for America’s civic sanity” and why he thinks it is unlikely that Trump will be found guilty of collusion with the Russians and how the various investigations serve to distract us from the fact that Trump is guilty of being an unscrupulous, unpatriotic demagogue.

Then finally we look into a terror attack in London in which nine worshippers leaving a north London mosque were seriously injured by a van driven by a father of four from Cardiff who told the group of Muslims who held him until the police arrived that “you deserve it” and “I did my bit”. Charles Kurzman, the co-director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations joins us to discuss how this attack is exactly what the Islamic State was hoping to provoke in response to its terrorist attacks designed to drive a wedge between Muslims in the diaspora and their host countries.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Senate Democrats Try to Force Republicans Into the Open

What Trump is Really Guilty Of

Terror Attack in London Against Muslim Worshipers

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We begin with a unique insight into the mind and motivations of America’s number one enemy at the moment the Islamic State. Souad Mekhennet, a correspondent for The Washington Post’s national security desk who was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University, is a visiting fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Policy at Harvard, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Geneva Center for Security Policy. She joins us to discuss how she got access to leaders of the Islamic State and although she was unsure whether she would end up kidnapped and held hostage, she was able to interview them for her now book, just out, “I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad”. We look into the reasons why young Muslims who grew up in the comfort and safety of Europe join ISIS and conduct acts of terrorism against their host countries. We will also examine the role of Wahhabi mosques and recruiters in prisons as well as Saudi Arabia itself, where much of the money and spiritual guidance for anti-Western terrorism comes from.

Then we look further into Saudi Arabia’s petro-dollar-financed spread of their austere, reactionary and anti-Western state religion Wahhabism which they have exported around the world that has already destabilized Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bosnia and has now taken hold in the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia. We speak with Stephen Kinzer, an award-winning foreign correspondent with The New York Times who is now a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute at Brown University where he teaches international relations. We will discuss his article at the Boston Globe, “Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World” and why the U.S. continues its willful blindness towards the damage done by Saudi Arabia’s long campaign to drag the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims back to the 7th century while inspiring murder and mayhem from 9/11 to Nice, from Mumbia to Manchester.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Insight Into America's Enemy Number One

"Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World"

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We will begin with an examination of the resistance against Trump, not so much from domestic critics, but from critics of his foreign policy who decry his America First stance and failure to uphold liberal norms in the international system. Andrew Bacevich, a retired Professor of History and International Relations at Boston University who taught at West Point and served for 23 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army whose latest book is “America’s War for the Middle East: A Military History”, joins us. We discuss his latest article at The American Conservative “The ‘Global Order’ Myth” and his contention that to characterize American statecraft as “liberal internationalism” is akin to describing the business of Hollywood as “artistic excellence”.

Then, with Donald Trump’s visit to Miami of Friday where he is expected to undo another Obama achievement, the end of the 56 year-old U.S. embargo of Cuba and the beginning of normalization, we speak with Ann Louise Bardach, a PEN-USA Award-winning journalist and author of “Cuba Confidential” and “Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington”. She joins us to discuss the role that Senator Marco Rubio has played in laying the groundwork for Trump’s pending crackdown on trade and travel between the U. S. and Cuba.

Then finally we look into the possibility that there could be a do-over of the Trump election and Brexit and speak with John Feffer, the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus and author of “Crusade 2.0”. We discuss his article at Foreign Policy in Focus, “Is It Possible to Undo 2016?” and whether with the special prosecutor now investigating Trump for obstruction of justice, 2016’s accidental president could be sent into early retirement, as well as the growing possibility that Brexit will be undone or perhaps suffer a slow death by a thousand cuts.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

A Critique of Trump's Foreign Policy Critics

Trump Undoes Obama Again: This Time Cuba

Could We Have a Do-Over of 2016?

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We begin with the 153rd mass shooting so far in the U.S.A. in 2017, this time with the victims being a congressman, an aide, a lobbyist and two Capitol Policemen. But later today the 154thmass shooting took place in San Francisco at a UPS facility that left four dead. Joshua Horowitz, the Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and author of “Guns, Democracy and the Insurrectionist Idea”, joins us to discuss whether the unity and bipartisanship on display in the House today as well as President Trump’s call that “our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace”, will lead to an easing of the deadlock over guns rights versus gun safety, over the right to bear arms versus the right to be safe from gun violence. We will assess whether any change will come from this latest tragedy that hit so close to home for lawmakers, or since the perpetrator once supported Bernie Sanders, will right wing media fan the flames as they blame the shooting on Trump-haters.

Then we will explore the broader issue of what is behind the proliferation and availability of firearms and with so much access to data, why is it we as a nation are unable to prevent people with a history of mental illness, or in the case of the gunman who shot the congressman, a history of domestic violence and the reckless discharge of a firearm, from getting hold of lethal military-style weaponry and causing multiple deaths and injuries. Tom Diaz, a former senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center and author of “The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What to do About It”, joins us to discuss what is driving America’s disproportionately-high civilian death toll from guns.

Then finally we will look into the siege of the tiny Gulf state of Qatar and speak with an Arabic-speaking expert on the Middle East, Graham Fuller, the former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council who is currently a professor of history at Simon Frazer University. He joins us to refute the bogus claims by Donald Trump and the Saudi rulers that they are fighting terrorism and confronting Iran when in fact it is all about the self-preservation of autocratic monarchs who can’t stand the freedom of expression on al-Jazeera and want to spread Saudi Wahhabism to dominate the Gulf.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Today's 153rd Then 154th Mass Shootings So Far in 2017

What is Driving America's Unique Epidemic of Mass Shootings

The Bogus Excuses For the Saudi Siege of Qatar

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We begin with today’s testimony by Attorney General Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee and speak with Lisa Graves, the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department. She joins us to discuss Sessions’ stonewalling as he easily answered softball questions from Republican senators but dragged out his answers to probing questions from Democrats to run out the clock by either pretending not to understand the questions, or answering a question not asked. We assess how theatrical Sessions’ indignation was when confronted with his stonewalling and the Attorney General’s assertion that he could not speak about what he discussed with President Trump on the grounds of executive privilege even though Trump himself has not invoked executive privilege.

Then we speak with Russia expert David Satter, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and author of “The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin”. We discuss his latest article at The Wall Street Journal “From Russia With Chaos” and analyze the impact of the demonstrations that took place across Russia on Monday’s national holiday in which young Russians, some in high school, were roughed up and arrested by riot police and assess what this means for Putin’s open-ended rule into the future.

Then finally David Michôd joins us in the studio. He is the writer/director of a new film starring Brad Pitt “War Machine”, now out on Netflix, that is based on the Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hasting’s book “The Operators”. We discuss his satirical dark comedy set around the downfall of the former commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal and, on a day when the Defense Secretary General Mattis testified to Congress that “we are not winning in Afghanistan” and that a new strategy will emerge in mid-July, we examine why after 16 years we keep doing the same thing in Afghanistan yet expect a different outcome.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Sessions Stonewalls the Senate

Russia's High School Kids Revolt Against Putin

The Writer/Director of a New Film Starring Brad Pitt "War Machine"

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We begin on a day when the Trump Administration’s travel was again struck down by the Federal Appeals Court with more trouble for him looming on the legal front from lawsuits the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland filed alleging that Trump has violated Article 1 of the Constitution known as the foreign emoluments clause. Leah Litman a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and writes for takecareblog.com where she has an article “States and the Emoluments Clause”, joins us to discuss a new theory of standing into emoluments litigation. Since Maryland is not a private litigant but a state, they are putting forward the argument that the president’s violation of the Emoluments Clauses is violating the terms under which Maryland surrendered some of its powers over foreign affairs to the federal government and that they have suffered harm to their “sovereign” and “quasi-sovereign” interests.

Then we speak with Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University about his article at CNN“Democrats take your cues from Bernie Sanders” and discuss the warning Sanders issued to the Democratic establishment on Saturday at a meeting of progressive activists in Chicago that “Trump did not win the election – the Democratic Party lost the election”. We look into whether the Democrats can seize the great opportunity they have for 2018 as Trump is consumed by growing scandals and the Republicans are getting little done in a Congress they control except for harmful and unpopular legislation.

Then finally we examine analogies between today and the America of the 1850’s when the vehemently anti-immigrant Know Nothing movement was a national political force just as Trump’s Tea Party Republican base is today, and speak with Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Bill Clinton. He is the author of a new book just out, “Wrestling with his Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Volume 2 1849 – 1856” and we will discuss how the house divided against itself then over ‘’half slave and half free”, is now divided between half educated and half fact-free.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

States Sue Trump Under the Emoluments Clause

Bernie Sanders' Warning to the Democratic Establishment

Analogies Between Trump's Base and the Know Nothings of the 1850's

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We begin with political uncertainty in the U.K. following an inconclusive election that was another catastrophic miscalculation by a Conservative leader following David Cameron’s fateful miscalculation to call for the Brexit referendum. Craig Calhoun, the Global Distinguished Professor at New York University and Centennial Professor and former head of the London School of Economics who is now the President of the Berggruen Institute joins us. We will discuss whether Prime Minister Theresa May, who former Tory Chancellor George Osborne called a “dead woman walking”, can put together a government with the D.U.P., the tiny ultra-conservative North Ireland Unionist party and whether in doing so she will undermine the “Good Friday Agreement” that has brought peace between the north and south of Ireland which could be threatened by putting up a wall along a border that has been largely erased by cross-border commerce.

Then we will examine whether there is a real possibility of an impeachment against President Trump happening soon as the special counsel Robert Mueller begins an investigation that is impacted daily by new revelations in the press, not to mention recent testimony by fired FBI Director Comey and contradictory claims by Trump that Comey both vindicated him in his testimony and lied. Lisa Kern Griffin, a professor of law at Duke University who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner and was a federal prosecutor in the Chicago United States Attorney’s Office, joins us to offer a practical assessment of the complexity and duration of Mueller’s investigation that may be completed around the time of the 2018 elections.

Then finally we will look into the explosion of hate and ignorance erupting around the country as “March Against Sharia” demonstrations took place in St. Paul, Seattle, Washington, New York City and San Bernardino, California, attracting counter-demonstrations that led to violence and a massive deployment of police to separate the sides. Brian Levin, a criminologist, professor of criminal justice and Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, joins us to discuss why a non-existent threat such as Sharia Law is inspiring right wing hate groups to emerge from the fringes.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

The Uncertain Political Situation in the UK

An Analysis of the Impeachment Process

What is Behind the Hate Marches Across America?

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We begin with today’s much-anticipated testimony from the fired FBI Director James Comey about his meetings with Donald Trump that even after petty partisan attempts on the part of Republican senators to defend the indefensible, Comey’s damning testimony now leaves the American people with a momentous choice, do they believe the truth-teller Comey or the serial liar Trump? We will speak with Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice about her op-ed at The New York Times, “James Comey’s Testimony: Comey was Playing Chess” and look into how Comey took careful notes from the outset because he saw Trump as different from Bush and Obama, as a president who could not be trusted and might lie about what was said. We will discuss how Comey appears to have set the special counsel process in motion by leaking a memo to the New York Times which Trump’s private attorney has seized on claiming Comey should be investigated for illegal leaks.

Then an expert on political polarization, Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution joins us to discuss his new book “The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans and Plutocrats are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas”. We will assess the extent to which the alarming significance of the Russian attack on the very foundation of American democracy has been lost in a blizzard of spin and counterspin as tribal politics, plutocratic patronage and partisan propaganda have blurred the difference between lies and truth, selfishness and service, power and principle and demagoguery and decency.

Then finally we will analyze the results of the British election that Prime Minister Theresa May called for to increase her majority, but now in what looks like a grave miscalculation, it appears from exit polls that she may not even eke out a majority and that the U.K will be mired in political paralysis. One of the world’s leading analysts of popular culture, media and their connection to the politics of everyday life, Toby Miller, a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University, joins us to discuss how Theresa May’s hand will be weakened in negotiations with the E.U. over Brexit.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Believing the Truth-Teller Over the Serial Liar

Outrage at Russian Meddling Overshadowed by Political Polarization

UK's PM Theresa May's Grave Miscalculation

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We begin with the high drama on Capitol Hill with a contentious hearing today involving top intelligence officials who appeared to be stonewalling saying they could not talk about their conversations with the president without saying why and without denying that the conversations took place, all of which are documented in great detail on the front page of The Washington Post. Congressman Ted Lieu who serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joins us to discuss the anticipation gripping Washington D.C. ahead of tomorrow’s testimony by the recently-fired former head of the FBI, James Comey. We examine the disconnect between an open press and a closed government as the public waits for clarity on one of the most important issues of our time and that is whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians in the last elections which we know the Russians meddled in to help elect Trump.

Then we speak with a leading intelligence historian and expert on the NSA who attended today’s hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Matthew Aid, the author of “Intel Wars: The Secret History of the Fight Against Terror” and “The Secret Sentry”. He joins us to discuss the remarks by the former Director of National Intelligence that the Watergate scandal pales in comparison to the Trump/Russia situation we are confronting now and whether witnesses who clammed up today will be more forthcoming in closed hearings.

Then finally we look into the tomorrow’s testimony by James Comey and discuss his opening statement that was released today by the Senate intelligence Committee with Scott Horton a professor at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harpers in legal affairs and national security. He joins us to assess the explosive nature of Comey’s notes on meetings he had with Trump that some legal scholars already see as evidence of obstruction of justice and discuss the fate of the young woman charged with espionage for what appears to be blowing the whistle on Russian attempts to hack our election.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Top Intel Officials Stonewall

The Trump/Russia Scandal Worse Than Watergate

Comey's Testimony Indicates Obstruction of Justice

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We begin with the proposition that we may only have one year left to save American democracy from an autocratic president who is increasingly isolated from reality as he and his tightening inner-circle of right wing zealots move to undo institutions and confront the truth in a fascistic approach to governance that indicates a fascist worldview. Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale who has researched and written extensively on Hitler and Stalin, joins us to discuss his latest book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” and how as the incompetence and crudeness of the Trump Administration drives down the popularity of the Republicans heading into the 2018 elections, Trump will try to stage a coup to overthrow American democracy. We will assess the extent to which American institutions already under attack from the Trump Administration like the judiciary, the military, the intelligence community, the press and now much of corporate America as well as an expanding majority of the American people, will fight back against Donald Trump’s incipient authoritarian regime.

Then we speak with Thomas Wright a fellow and director of the Project on International Order and Strategy, as well as a fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. He joins us to discuss his latest book “All Measures Short of War: The Contest For the 21st Century and the Future of American Power” and explore the reasons why Trump is undermining America’s long-standing alliances while ceding global leadership to China on trade, the environment and now human rights.

Then finally, with the Supreme Court taking up a cell phone tracking case that will test the boundaries between technology and privacy, we examine the issues surrounding CSLI, Cell Site Location Information with Marc Rotenberg, the President and Executive Director of EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He joins us to discuss how the current Third Party Doctrine which the government relies on to justify warrantless tracking and surveillance needs to updated in the digital age as smartphones now can provide precise location information on citizens similar to GPS tracking devices which in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled against allowing the police to place on vehicles on 4thAmendment grounds.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Do We Have One Year Left to Save American Democracy?

Why Is Trump Undermining Alliances and Ceding American Leadership?

The Supreme Court to Test the Boundaries Between Technology and Privacy

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We begin with the increasing attacks by Donald Trump on the Mayor of London who is dealing with the aftermath of a terrible terrorist attack which would normally elicit support and solidarity from allies not petty insults and unseemly opportunism. A CIA veteran Robert Baer, who is now the national security affairs analyst for CNN, joins us to discuss the possibility that the leader of the free world in not just out of his depth, but is out of his mind. We examine our tenuous reliance on the few adults in the room that we rely on to contain Trump’s erratic behavior as we learn that Generals Mattis and McMaster were overridden by Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller who edited Trump’s NATO speech at the last minute to remove America’s support for Article 5 of the NATO treaty. We will also assess the pressure on the British PM Theresa May to release a secret report she oversaw as Home Secretary on Saudi funding and influence in jihadist groups inside the U.K. who just carried out a third attack with one of Saturday’s terrorists featured in a documentary shown last year on Britain’s Channel Four “The Jihadis Next Door” who was filmed holding up the ISIS flag in Regents Park complaining about the treatment of Muslims in the U.K. And now that six Arab states have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and are essentially blockading the country to bring about regime change, we will look into whether this confrontation is a step towards a war with Iran.

Then we will examine further the motives behind the growing crisis in the Gulf as a Saudi-led blockage of neighboring Qatar is underway cutting off transportation links and food supplies as well as isolating important American military bases in the Middle East. David Hearst, the Editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye where his latest article is “Three potential motives behind the spat between Qatar and Gulf neighbors”, joins us to discuss the subtexts beyond the Saudi charge that Qatar is too friendly towards Iran. We will look into whether this is a part of a U.S.-Saudi-Egyptian-Israeli strategy to defund and isolate Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and contain Iran and how much it is payback for the “Arab Spring” from reactionary monarchs and military dictatorships who were rattled by popular revolts and want to continue to hold onto power at any cost.

 

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Is Trump Not Just Out of His Depth But Also Out of His Mind?

The Motives Behind the Blockade of Qatar

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We begin with a second horrific terrorist attack in the U.K. that has left 7 innocents dead and 48 wounded and 3 terrorists shot dead by police with 12 more suspects arrested. Nafeez Ahmed, the editor-in-chief of Insurgeintelligence at medium.com and a weekly columnist for Middle East Eye, joins us from London to discuss his latest article at Insurgeintelligence “The Manchester Bombings as Blowback” and the role of the British Intelligence services in covertly supporting jihadist groups in Syria and Libya. We will look into the handling of the 300 ISIS and Al Nusra jihadists who have returned to the U.K. after fighting in Syria and Iraq and how this latest terrorist attack is likely to impact Thursday’s election as the current Prime Minister Theresa May’s lead in the polls continues to shrink while she vows to clampdown after announcing that there has been “too much tolerance” of Islamic extremism in the U.K. Since before coming Prime Minister she was Home Secretary, Theresa May is particularly vulnerable to the same criticism that she herself is levelling.

Then we will speak with Anders Aslund, a professor at the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He served as a Swedish diplomat in Moscow and was an economic advisor to the government of Russia and joins us to discuss Jared Kushner’s December meeting with the head of Russia’s VEB bank that is both a private slush fund for Vladimir Putin and an asset of the Russian Intelligence services. We will examine the Trump family and the Trump campaign’s murky ties to Russian money and who will emerge the winner from Trump’s war with the U.S. intelligence community.

Then finally we will look into another stabbing that was not labelled as terrorism that took place recently in Portland and speak with Daryl Johnson, the former head analyst for domestic terrorism at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He joins us to discuss the political resistance he experienced from Republican lawmakers who thwarted efforts to identify and combat the growth of white nationalist militias and terrorist groups inside the United States which he wrote about in his book “Rightwing Resurgence: How a Domestic Terrorist Threat is Being Ignored”.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Another Terrorist Attack and Blowback in the UK

Jared Kushner's Meeting With the KGB's Banker

Republican Resistance to Dealing with Domestic Terrorism

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We begin with today’s expected announcement by Donald Trump that he is taking the United States out of the 195-nation Paris Accords on combating climate change claiming he is fulfilling “my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens”. Without bothering to analyze the absurd and specious justifications Trump offered, we will speak with Bruce Bartlett, a former senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House and deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush administration. He joins us to discuss his concern that “the evidence is becoming overwhelming that Trump lacks the temperament, basic knowledge or intelligence to be a minimally competent president” and the deeper problem of a leader unable to absorb essential information who listens to the white nationalist world view of a bitter, failed Hollywood producer driven by hatred of liberals, rather than the only adults in his inner circle Gary Cohn and General McMaster, whose tenuous tenure lasts only as long as they are prepared to cover-up Trump’s alarming incompetence. We will assess the even greater danger to the nation if one of the adults quits in disgust, only to be replaced by another Bannon, as well as Bruce Bartlett’s forthcoming book “The Truth Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks” and his article at The Guardian, “Donald Trump’s incompetence is a problem. His staff should intervene”.

Then we examine an alarming new report on the real terrorist threat facing the nation that the White House and the Washington political establishment is ignoring or covering up, and that is the fact that 400 Saudi and Kuwaiti students living in the United States mostly on government scholarships have joined terrorist groups, mainly ISIS, with some of them returning back to the United States. Ali Al-Ahmed, the co-author of the new report “From American College Campuses to ISIS Camps, How Hundreds of Saudis Joined ISIS in the U.S.”, joins us to discuss how the Saudi government has blocked this information from the U.S. government and the failure of American intelligence and the lack of coordination among federal agencies.

Then finally we look into the impact that Trump’s immigration policies are having on migrant workers and their families, with American-born kids living in fear that their parents could be deported at any moment. Gabriel Thompson, a journalist who has worked with immigrant laborers in the lettuce fields of Arizona and the poultry plants of Alabama, joins us to discuss his latest book “Chasing the Harvest: Migrant Workers in California Agriculture”.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Trump joins Bannon's Dark Side to Trash the Planet

Hundreds of Saudi Students in the US Have Joined ISIS

Living in Fear in Trump's America

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We will begin with the apparent intention of the Trump Administration to pull out of the 195-nation Paris Accords to deal with global climate change, leaving the U.S. in the company of the only other holdouts in the world, Syria and Nicaragua. Jody Freeman the Archibald Cox Professor at Harvard Law School and the founding director of the Law School’s Environmental Law and Policy Program who served as Counselor for Energy in the Obama White House, joins us. We will discuss this nail in the coffin for America’s global leadership since World War 11 now coming to an end as China and the European Union vow to step up and accelerate their effort to reduce CO2 emissions causing climate change. And while the once-respected United States is fast becoming an unpredictable, unreliable and even dangerous player on the world stage, we will assess how the rest of the world will move ahead without the U.S. and whether Trump’s actions will in any way slow innovation and technological change underway to move us to clean and renewable energy.

Then we will look into another planned reversal by Trump as this unpopular president intends to kill the popular birth control coverage inviting insurance companies to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that requires employers to cover cost-free contraception in their health insurance plans. Gretchen Borchelt, the Vice President for Reproductive Rights and Health at the National Women’s Law Center joins us to discuss how the religious and moral objections of a minority will now trump the rights of a majority in terms of access to reproductive health care.

Then finally we will analyze the impact of the huge explosion in front of the German and Turkish embassies in Kabul that killed 90 and wounded hundreds in a terrorist act that the Taliban insist they had no part in. Thomas Barfield, the President of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies whose office in Kabul suffered damage, joins us to discuss the exodus of diplomatic personnel underway that is a no-confidence vote in Afghanistan’s weak government and the likelihood that Pakistan is behind yet another act of destabilization.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

The Untimely Death of American Leadership

Trump to Allow Insurance Companies to Drop Contraception Mandate

Diplomats Desert Afghanistan Following Bombing Likely Directed By Pakistan

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We begin with the unexplained and unsettling radical change in U.S. foreign policy the Trump administration has brought about where close allies are punished and insulted while adversaries like Russia are praised and dictators, depots, murderers and kleptocrats in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Turkey are rewarded. Thomas Berger, Professor of International Relations at Boston University who specializes in German politics and political culture joins us to discuss the puzzling nature of Trump’s about-face in U.S. relations, with close allies like Germany, Australia and South Korea gratuitously insulted while thugs and dictators are praised. We will examine the embarrassing optics of a preening president pushing aside the leader of a small European country and the disgust across Europe at Trump’s boorish behavior during the NATO summit and the G-7 meeting, as well as the extent to which the September elections in Germany will be all about running against Trump.

Then we will speak with Joan Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Hasting College of Law who joins us to discuss her new book “White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America”. We will look into why populist movements around the world are gaining traction among the white working class and how much of the elite’s analysis of the white working class is misguided and rooted in class cluelessness.

Then finally Diane Standaert, the executive vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending joins us to examine the stealth move on the part of House Republicans who slipped in a free pass to payday lenders and car-title loan sharks in the Financial Choice Act pushed by the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling. He happens to be the largest individual recipient of money from the payday lenders and title loan bottom feeders that charge up to 400% interest on predatory loans and hold onto car titles, charging exorbitant interest rates which, if you fall behind in payments, means you lose your transportation to work.

 

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Why Does Trump Trash Allies While Praising Adversaries?

"White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness"

Republicans Reward Predatory Payday Lenders and Title Loan Sharks

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We begin on this Memorial Day weekend with reports that Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is slow-walking requests from the Senate Intelligence Committee for financial records and data of transactions between Trump associates and the Russians that FinCEN, the U.S. Treasury Division has collected. James Henry, an investigative economist and lawyer who has written widely on offshore and onshore tax havens, kleptocracy and pirate banking who is a co-founder of DCReport.org and author of “Blood Bankers”, joins us to discuss how important the assets and capabilities of the Treasury Department are in investigating the layers of shell companies and offshore accounts that criminals, oligarchs and money launderers use to disguise the sources of ill-gotten-gains and the beneficiaries of secret transactions.

Then we examine the role that Facebook could play in uncovering who is behind the fake news that was injected into the U.S. election and more recently the British, Dutch, French and now the German elections. Jonathan Taplin, the Founder and Director Emeritus of the Innovation Lab at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and author of the new book “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy”, joins us to discuss how these powerful new monopolies have amassed and monetized personal data while protected by “safe harbor” laws from responsibility for complicity in the dissemination of fake news, jihadist messaging and criminal activity.

Then finally we look into America’s diminishing role on the world stage with the leadership deficit from a president who may have made smart real estate deals but has so little knowledge of foreign affairs and how government works that instead of being the focus of flattery and adoring attention that he craves, he finds himself more and more as the dumbest guy in the room. Roger Morris, who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Johnson and Nixon and is the author of “Kindred Rivals: America, Russia and Their Failed Ideals”, joins us to discuss a president out of his depth and the reckless endangerment of the United States.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Is the Treasury Secretary Sabotaging the Russia Inquiry?

Taking on the New Monopolies: Facebook, Google and Amazon

Trump Now Finds Himself As the Dumbest Guy in the Room

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We begin with Robert Johnson, the Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking who served as Chief Economist of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee and the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. We will discuss America’s shrinking middle class as more plutocratic-friendly policies and priorities are enacted by the Republican Congress while a distracted Trump, who was elected as a populist, is increasingly mired in investigations over Russian influence and possible collusion in our election. With an increase in defense spending being offset by slashing safety net programs for working- and middle-class Americans, we assess how much as a nation we are prioritizing projecting power abroad over protecting the health and welfare of our people at home, as we improve the quality of death at the expense of our quality of life.

Then we continue the conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom Ricks, an advisor on national security at the New America Foundation where he participates in the “Future of War” project. A contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine where he has the prizewinning blog The Best Defense, he joins us to discuss his latest book “Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom”. With the current trend of ideology trumping facts as we appear to be going back to the 1930’s, we explore how the conservative Churchill fought totalitarianism from the right while the socialist George Orwell fought totalitarianism from the left and given the unusually high number of senior military officers at the top level in the Trump Administration, how the generals around Trump should be protecting the country, not the president.

Background Briefing

SHOW NOTES

Improving the Quality of Death at the Expense of America's Quality of Life

Trump's Generals Should Protect the County, Not the President

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