Background Briefing Archive


We begin with a new poll that finds the overwhelming majority of Trump supporters believe he is honest and trustworthy and will keep his campaign promises. At the same time they do not believe the mainstream media with 78% of Trump voters believing that news organizations regularly produce false stories. Ben Schreckinger, who covers national politics for Politico, joins us to discuss his latest article at Politico Magazine “Trump’s Fake War on the Fake News”, and the paradox that while Trump’s lies are working with cynical perfection on his base, he also wants the approval of the mainstream media that he demonizes as he spends a lot of his time obsessing over how he is covered and how his underlings like Sean Spicer are performing on his behalf. We will also look into the trickle down nature of the culture of lying in the White House that has junior staffers routinely lying to the press just for fun.

Then we will gauge the reactions to the highly touted but thinly supported tax cut and tax reform proposals announced at the White House yesterday and assess the impact of the tax cuts on the deficit with Frank Clemente, the Executive Director and co-founder of Americans for Tax Fairness. He joins us to explain how getting rid of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax while cutting the corporate tax to 15% will benefit Trump and enrich him, his family, his friends and members of his cabinet.

Then finally we will get an update on the deteriorating situation in Venezuela where the son of a top official in the Maduro government made a heartfelt appeal to his father on video begging him “to end the injustice that has sunk this country”. Jennifer McCoy, a professor of political science at Georgia State University and author of “The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela” and “International Mediation in Venezuela”, joins us to discuss plans for an intervention by the Organization of American States that may come too late as this heavily-armed country is poised to descend into violent chaos.

Background Briefing

How Trump's Lies Work For Him

The Impact of Trump's Tax Cuts

Venezuela Poised to Descend Into Violent Chaos

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the White House trumpeting the biggest tax cut in history which will add bigly to the deficit by allowing the top taxpayers to call themselves pass-through corporations reducing their tax rate down from 39% to 15% which is the new corporate tax rate Trump is proposing. Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of “Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy are Structured to Make the Rich Richer”, joins us to discuss how these so-called “tax reform” proposals are the same old tax cuts for the rich that are supposed to magically spur the economy and create jobs, as well as his latest article at Common Dreams “Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut…For Himself”.

Then we will examine the tweet storm from Donald Trump following a ruling by a federal judge in San Francisco that blocked his executive order targeting sanctuary cities. Kevin Johnson, a Professor and the Dean of Public Interest Law at the University of California, Davis joins us to discuss Trump’s latest attack on the federal judiciary that include a personal attack on the judge who issued the nationwide preliminary injunction as well as an attack on the 9th Circuit which did not make the ruling that Trump mischaracterizes as a gift to criminal gangs and cartels when in fact the judge ruled Trump’s order will likely violate the Constitution by depriving a jurisdiction of funds unrelated to immigration.

Then finally we will get an update on the just-concluded meeting at the White House by U.S. Senators invited there for an unusual briefing on North Korea by the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Sung Yoon Lee, a Professor of International Affairs at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University, joins us to discuss whether this was a photo-op for Trump or an opportunity to learn what strategies are to be employed following a sixth North Korean nuclear test which is expected soon.

 

Background Briefing

Trump's Biggest Tax Cut in History... For Himself

Trump's Latest Attack on the Federal Judiciary

What Came Out of the Unusual White House Briefing of Senators on North Korea

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With the House Intelligence Committee in shambles after what appears to be deliberate sabotage by its chairman Devon Nunes, we begin with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with Trump in the 2016 election which is moving at glacial speed. Tim Mak, a senior correspondent at the Daily Beast, joins us to discuss his reports that there are no qualified full-time staff members of the seven working part-time on the Senate Russia inquiry and that “no interviews have been conducted with key individuals.”

Then as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tries to reassure Trump’s base that “priorities have not changed,” we will look into President Trump’s backing down on his repeated campaign promise to build a wall along the border that Mexico will pay for which was supposed to be funded in this week’s spending bill. Sonia Nazario, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her 6 part investigative series “Enrique’s Journey” which is now a best-selling book, joins us to discuss her article at the Los Angeles Times, “How to Secure the Border. Spoiler alert: A Wall won’t do it.” We will discuss how much cheaper solutions will help solve the problems that a $20 billion wall will certain not do.

Then finally, as the general in charge of US operation in Afghanistan refuses to dispute claims that Russia is sending weapons to the Taliban, we will examine the charges and what evidence might support them with Marvin Weinbaum who served as an analyst on Pakistan and Afghanistan for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He is a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois and a resident scholar at the Middle East Institute and the author of The Future of Afghanistan and we will assess whether there are other reasons why we appear to losing America’s longest war other than the possibility of perfidious behavior by Putin.

Background Briefing

Is The Senate Intelligence Committee Also Dysfunctional?

Cheap and Effective Alternatives to Trump's Border Wall

Is Russia Arming the Taliban?

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We will begin with the production line killings being carried out by the state of Arkansas with eight men scheduled to be put to death in 11 days because suppliers of drugs used for lethal injections will only allow their products to be used for medically approved purposes so the state’s executioners, who are short on supply, had to drive to an undisclosed location to make a drug deal with an unnamed dealer who made no record of the sale.  The President of Death Penalty Focus, Mike Farrell, a political and social activist best known for his roles in MASH and Providence, joins us to discuss the unseemly rush to kill which resulted in Justice Gorsuch casting his first vote on the Supreme Court to put a likely innocent man to death even though Ledell Lee in mentally incapacitated, DNA evidence was never tested, his defense was grossly incompetent and the judge who sentenced him was having an affair with the prosecutor.

Then we will go to Istanbul, Turkey to speak with Ronald Suny an historian at the University of Michigan and a professor emeritus of political science and history at the University of Chicago. The author of “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide”, he joins us to discuss the local reaction to the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide and how the educated and urban half of Turkey who voted against President Erdogan’s recent power grab feel about Donald Trump’s endorsement of their new dictator.

Then finally we will speak with the Turkish scholar who is considered the Sherlock Holmes of the Armenian genocide. Taner Akcam, who holds the chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University and is the author of “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity” joins us to discuss how he found documentation, the “smoking gun” that proves the genocide against the Armenians that the Turkish government persists in denying, took place.

Background Briefing

Arkansas' Assembly Line Executions

A Report From Turkey on the 102nd Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

The Turkish Scholar Known as the Sherlock Holmes of the Armenian Genocide

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the first round of presidential elections in France and go to Paris to speak with Richard Robert, the Executive Editor of the Paris Innovation Review who knows some of the candidates personally.  We will discuss the peculiar affection that three of the four leading candidates Melenchon, Fillon and Le Pen have for Vladimir Putin and the possibility that France may go back to the 1930’s and end up with a choice between a communist and a fascist in the next round. We will also analyze the reasons why the French appear to be less afraid of Russia and the east and more afraid of the south in terms of immigration from the Middle East and Africa.

Then, because the youth vote in key to this election since youth unemployment is at 25%, we will speak with Clemence Penard, a 21 year-old law student at the Pantheon-Assas University in Paris who studies criminology, sociology, international law and politics.  She joins us to discuss the sophisticated campaign outreach by Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon with the fascist candidate employing a good ground game and the Communist exhibiting the most tech-savvy use of holograms, YouTube and video games with a Robin Hood theme of stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Then finally we will examine the impact of the global demonstrations in yesterday’s March For Science in support of science and in protest of the Trump Administration’s denial of climate change, disregard for facts and budget cuts on research for medicine and for monitoring global warming. Lawrence Krauss, the director for the Origins Project at Arizona State University and Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, joins us to discuss whether in standing up for science and against junk science, the demonstrations in the nation’s capitol and across the country and around the world will have any impact on the Trump Administration.

Background Briefing

Could France End Up With a Choice Between a Communist and a Fascist?

The Youth Vote in the French Election

The Impact of the March for Science

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with more heated rhetoric from the White House and accusations of “alarming ongoing provocations” from a country that the Secretary of State just said “has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it”.  That country, Iran, is the same country which the Trump Administration on April 18 just certified as abiding by the nuclear of 2015, the same Obama deal that Trump promised to tear up. Joining us to try to make sense of the flip-flopping and incoherence of Trump’s Middle East policy, which is headed up by his son-in-law who has no government or diplomatic experience other than being in New York real estate, is Mansour Farhang, a professor of international relations at Bennington College. He resigned as revolutionary Iran’s first ambassador to the United Nations when Khomeini’s regime refused to accept the U.N.’s recommendations to release its U.S. hostages.

Then with Attorney General Jeff Sessions poised to revive Nancy Reagan’s “war on drugs” prioritizing his personal obsession against marijuana over the very real problem of a nation-wide opiate addiction scourge, we will speak Norm Stamper, a retired Seattle police chief and advisory board member of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, a drug policy advocacy group. The author of “To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police”, he joins us to discuss Sessions’ coming war on legal marijuana.

Then finally we will discuss President Trump’s threat to kill the Affordable Care Act by taking away subsidies to insurers as a way to get Democrats to negotiate changes in the 2010 health law.  Wendell Potter, who was chief spokesman for CIGNA and head of corporate communications at Humana before becoming a senior analyst on healthcare at the Center for Public Integrity  joins us in the studio to discuss this cruel and callous tactic designed to make Trump’s prediction that Obamacare would “explode”, come true.

Background Briefing

Syria, Then North Korea and Now Iran as Enemy Number One

Jeff Sessions' Coming War on Legal Marijuana

Trump's Cruel and Callous Tactic to Make Obamacare "Explode"

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the firing today of Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’s top rated anchor which was announced in a letter to staff by Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlin. Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Farleigh Dickinson University and author of “Fox News and American Politics: How One Channel Shapes American Politics and Society”, joins us to discuss the accumulating accusations of sexual harassment that continue to emerge even after The New York Times revealed settlements with five women who were paid a total of $13 million. This prompted at least 60 advertisers to boycott O’Reilly and Fox and, with the O’Reilly scandal on top of the Ailes scandal, apparently the message finally reached Rupert Murdoch that serial sexual harassment is not only bad, it’s bad for business.

Then we will look into the snap election called for June 8 by Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May in the hope that she can increase her majority to get through the next two years of the “Brexit” transition out of the E.U. The author of “Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union”, Harold Clarke, a Professor of Political and Policy Studies at the University of Texas, joins us. He is co-investigator of the British Election Study and a visiting professor at the University of Manchester and we will discuss the likelihood that the U.K’s. opposition Labour Party will suffer even greater loses that they did in the last election.

Then finally we will speak with Christopher Arndt, who serves on the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council and is the author of a new book “The Right’s Road To Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump”. He joins us to discuss the “freedom fraud” foisted on America by the Koch Brothers and the authoritarian strong-man conservatism that drives the American Right today which run counter to the principles of liberty that conservatives and libertarians espouse.

Background Briefing

Fox News' Top Rated Anchor and Serial Sexual Harasser Fired

A Snap Election in Britain

Authoritarian Conservatism and the Koch Brothers' "Freedom Fraud"

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the fraud-ridden and rigged referendum in Turkey that the Europeans and half of the Turkish population are disputing, but nevertheless, the President of the United States gave it his blessing and called Turkey’s new dictator Erdogan to congratulate him on his “victory”. Turkish-born Asli Bali, the Director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies and a professor of law at the UCLA School of Law, joins us. We will discuss the possibility that Trump is either acting out of ignorance, amateurism or cynicism in undercutting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe who have disputed the vote and complained about the un-level playing field, and the educated and urban half of Turkey who are now under the thumb of a repressive and illegitimate regime bent on further eroding their democratic rights, the freedom of the press and Turkey’s secular traditions.

Then on this last day to file income tax returns, we will look into Donald Trump’s continuing refusal to release his taxes as he and House Speaker Paul Ryan prepares a “tax reform” package that will benefit billionaires, hurt the poor, con the middle class and blow up the deficit. Edward Kleinbard, a Professor of Law at the University of Southern California who served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, joins us to discuss the Democrat’s demand that Trump reveal his taxes before the tax code is overhauled with changes that will further enrich Trump and his family.

Then we will get an update on the special election in Georgia where the Democrats are pinning their hopes on an upset victory in a Republican district which could be seen as an early rejection of the Trump administration before its first one hundred days. Andra Gillespie, a professor of Political Science at Emory University who worked as an analyst for Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, joins us to discuss the results that require 50% plus one vote for an outright win by Jon Ossoff the Democratic challenger, otherwise there will be a June 20 runoff that could favor the Republicans.

Background Briefing

Trump Praises a Dictator on Stealing an Election

Show Us Your Taxes Before So-Called "Tax Reform"

Results in Georgia's Special Election

SHOW NOTES

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

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

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

Background Briefing

Explosive Revelations of Trump's Collusion With Putin

Trump Congratulates Erdogan on His Illegitimate Victory

Alternative to the Collision Course We Are on With North Korea

SHOW NOTES

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We will begin with North Korea’s failure to launch a missile in conjunction with the “Day of the Sun” celebrations commemorating the birth of Kim Il Sung. We will look into speculation that the U.S. has a covert program to sabotage North Korea’s missile and nuclear program and speak with John Pike, one of the world’s leading experts on defense, space and intelligence policy. He is the Director of GlobalSecurity.org and previously worked for more than two decades with the Federation of American Scientists where he directed the Space Policy, Military Analysis, Nuclear Resource and Intelligence Resource projects. He joins us to discuss whether the U.S. has managed to insert a kind of “Stuxnet” malware into the North Korean’s missile and nuclear program or if Kim Jong Un is simply pushing the envelope too hard in a rush to get a long range missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.

Then we will get an analysis of an apparent shift underway in the White House with the adults in the room beginning to take over as Donald Trump seems to have recognized the need to govern and that ideologues like Stephen Bannon offer little in that regard beyond heated rhetoric. Andrew Nathan, a Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and the author of “China’s Transition: the Tiananmen Papers”, joins us to discuss the Trump Administration’s tilt towards China and whether that means Trump has given up on working with Putin and reneged on whatever covert deal they might have had.

Then finally we will get an update on the referendum in Turkey where from early returns, it appears the Turks have voted away democracy in favor of dictatorship. Henri Barkey, the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who served as a member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, joins us to discuss President Erdogan’s the new powers that will enable his megalomaniacal vision of himself as Turkey’s new Sultan who can now rule until 2029.

Background Briefing

Did the US Sabotage a North Korean Missile Launch?

Trump Tilts to China and Away From Russia

Erdogan's Narrow Win in a Rigged Referendum

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the looming nuclear showdown between the U.S. and North Korea as Pyongyang gets ready for Saturday’s “Day of the Sun” celebration of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. With a U.S. carrier task force heading for Korean waters and Donald Trump tweeting that Kim is “looking for trouble” and that Trump would “solve the problem”, we will speak with a former CIA officer Donald Gregg who was Vice President George H.W. Bush’s national security advisor and United States Ambassador to South Korea. He joins us to discuss the “full range of options to remove the threat to the American people and to our allies and partners in the region” that General McMaster has said President Trump asked for and whether there will be another North Korean nuclear test or missile launch accompanying Saturday’s celebration.

Then we will examine the conservative pipeline to the Supreme Court, the title of a New Yorker article by Jeffrey Toobin that profiles Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society who has succeeding in getting John Roberts, Samuel Alito and now Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Caroline Fredrickson, the President of the American Constitution Society, the progressive alternative to the Federalist Society, joins us to explain how Leo, a zealous foe of abortion, has built the farm team of judicial nominees and reared a generation of originalists to turn the American judiciary as far to the right as possible.

Then finally we will get an update on Saturday’s marches across the country and around the world on Tax Day, April 15, and speak with the organizer of the Los Angeles Tax March, Delia Brown, an artist and activist who is demanding Donald Trump release his tax returns. She joins us to describe both the serious side of the demonstration with Congressmen and celebrity speakers, and the fun side with a giant inflated chicken with a Trump hairstyle and golden beak and claws that appropriately is made in China, which will be joining the march.

Background Briefing

The Looming Nuclear Showdown With North Korea

The Right Wing Anti-Abortion Pipeline to the Supreme Court

Calling Out Don the Chicken on Tax Day

SHOW NOTES

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We will begin with the organizer of a national and international protest that will take place on Saturday April 15, otherwise known as Tax Day.  Jennifer Taub, a law professor at Vermont Law School, whose research focuses on corruption, corporate political spending and the links between money and politics, joins us to discuss how she was inspired by Kellyanne Conway’s dismissive remark that voters don’t care whether Trump releases his tax returns. She, along with some comedians and the creator of “House of Cards” have created a movement that has stimulated 130 national and global events in a Tax March taking place on Saturday to point out that while ordinary folks have to pay taxes, Trump does not even feel he owes voters the transparency of whether or not he pays taxes.  Meanwhile Trump and the Republicans are preparing what they refer to a tax reform that will give even more tax breaks to the rich and begin the dismantling of Social Security.

Then we will speak with Steven Pifer, the Director of the Brookings Institution’s Arms Control Initiative. He served on the National Security Council as senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia and joins us to discuss today’s meeting in Moscow between Secretary of State Tillerson and Vladimir Putin. We will discuss the wild swings in U.S. foreign policy of late and speculate whether Putin regrets helping elect Trump now that his former friend finds it beneficial to distract the public from the Russia investigation by bombing Putin’s Syrian ally Assad.

Then finally George Lakoff joins us in the studio. He is a professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley and author of “The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant”. We will discuss what strategies of resistance are forming in response to the Trump Administration in the absence of any strategy coming from the Democratic Party, and look into ways in which progressives can engage conservatives who support Trump even though he has no empathy for them or the issues they care about.

Background Briefing

Organizer of Saturday's Tax March to Get Trump to Release His Tax Returns

Putin's Buyer's Remorse Over Trump

Strategies of Resistance in the Absence of a Democratic Party

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the role of Trump’s friend Rudy Giuliani, who was apparently behind the infamous Comey letter that Hillary Clinton blames for her loss, and examine his latest and sleaziest machination as he now lobbies for the release of Reza Zarrah, Iran’s biggest sanction-buster, to help out Turkey’s dictator Erdogan who is implicated in profiting from the Turkish/Iranian businessman’s racket of selling gold to the Iranians on phony invoices for food and medicine that generated $11 billion in profits. David Phillips, the Director of the Peace-building and Rights Program at Columbia University and author of “An Uncertain Ally: Turkey Under Erdogan’s Dictatorship”, joins us to discuss how Giuliani and his partner former Attorney General Mukasey are trying to get Trump, who fired the U.S. Attorney prosecuting Zarrah, to replace Preet Bharara with Mukasey’s son Marc, so that he would be in charge of the prosecution of the man his father is trying to get out of jail.

Then we will speak with Bartlett Naylor, the financial policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch who served as chief of investigations for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. He joins us to discuss the investigation by Wells Fargo Bank that led to its announcement that it would claw back $75 million in severance it paid to two senior executives, former CEO John Stumpf and community bank head Carrie Tolstedt, who presided over the fake accounts scandal where Wells Fargo customers were ending up with an average of six accounts per household whether they wanted them or not.

Then finally we will go to Wichita, Kansas and speak with Neal Allen, a professor of political science at Wichita State University to get an update on the special congressional election taking place today to fill the seat left by Mike Pompeo who Trump appointed to head up the CIA. With the polls having closed 40 minutes ago, we will look into whether this solidly Republican district could be a bellwether for a Democratic resurgence as resistance to the Trump Administration grows.

Background Briefing

Rudy Giuliani in the Pay of the Biggest Trader With the Enemy

Docking $75 MiIlion From Payouts to Top Level Wells Fargo Executives

A Bellwether Special Election in Kansas

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We will begin with the G7 nations meeting in Italy to find a unified approach to pressure Russia to distance itself from Syria’s Assad regime following its use of chemical weapons on children. Nader Hashemi, the Director of the Center For Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and author of the new book “Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East” joins us to discuss his latest article at CNN, “Obama’s Syria Mistake is now Trump’s Problem”. We will assess whether Assad’s latest atrocity has brought the Syrian conflict back onto the front burner after it appeared that the fall of Aleppo meant that Assad, the Russians and Iranians had won the war and that the U.S. was prepared to accept that reality and go along with a Russian plan to keep Assad in power as this war that has destroyed Syria enters its seventh year.

Then we will look into the Rose Garden ceremony today where Judge Gorsuch was sworn in amid sunny smiles and spring flowers as the president Senator McConnell and Senator Grassley celebrated a great victory for which Justice Gorsuch thanked them without any mention of the seat stolen from Judge Garland and that the U.S. Senate was blown up in order to get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Elizabeth Wydra, President of the Constitutional Accountability Center, joins us to discuss the important cases before the court that Gorsuch will now rule on.

Then finally we will speak with Josh Gerstein, a Senior White House reporter at Politico, about his latest article at Politico “New suit demands Trump White House visitor logs”, and discuss how what used to be public information, is kept under wraps by the new Administration so that the identity of Trump’s visitors to the White House, Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago remain secret. We will also examine how being a member of Trump’s private club in Florida has its benefits with the Koch brothers enjoying a table-side chat with Trump as a perk that goes along with William Koch’s $200,000 annual membership of Mar-a-Lago.

Background Briefing

Is Syria Back on the Front Burner?

Gorsuch Sworn in With Victory Smiles

Making the Visitor Logs to the White House Public Again

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with an analysis of the motives behind President Trump’s bombing of the Syrian airbase and the mixed signals coming from his administration with his U.N. Representative Nikki Haley advocating regime change saying that there can be no peace in Syria with Assad in power while Secretary of State Tillerson says there is no change in U.S. policy with destroying ISIS still the main objective. Thomas Wright, a fellow and director of the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution and author of the forthcoming book “All Measures Short of War: the Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power” joins us to discuss the E.U. conference of reconstructing post-war Syria that was meeting in Brussels when the chemical attack occurred raising doubts about whether the billions pledged will be forthcoming.

Then we will examine how much the bombing of Syria distracted attention away from the inquiries into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Mark Lowenthal, the President of the Intelligence and Security Academy who was the Republican Staff Director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, joins us to discuss the damage that Devin Nunes has done to the House Intelligence Committee and how much it will impact the Russia investigations going forward.

Then finally, following the cruise missile attack on Syria, with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria declaring that “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night”, we will look into the cheer-leading in the press that has accompanied Donald Trump’s use of military force against the Assad regime and speak with Eric Boehlert, a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America and author of “Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over For Bush” and “Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press”. He joins us to discuss the unusual praise for Trump coming not just from the expected sycophants at Fox News, but from many of the anchors on MSNBC such as Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams who are normally critical of Trump.

Background Briefing

Mixed Signals Coming From the Trump Administration

How Much Did Bombing Syria Distract Attention From the Russia Inquiry?

Cheerleading in the Press For Trump's Bombing of Syria

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We begin with Donald Trump’s announced change of mind over Syria following the Assad regime’s use of Sarin gas on Syrian children and assess the likelihood of a punitive strike by the U.S. military against Assad’s military and Intelligence infrastructure. Thanassis Cambanis joins us from Beirut to provide a local perspective on the new rumors of war. He writes “The Internationalist” column for The Boston Globe and is a contributor to Foreign Policy and the author of “A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel”.  We will discuss how much Trump himself is responsible for unwittingly signaling to Assad that he has a green light to escalate his depravity following the White House love fest with the Egyptian dictator General Sisi and the callously stupid remarks by Secretary of State Tillerson that Assad’s fate should be decided by the Syrian people.

Then we look into the meeting and banquet underway at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat between China’s President Xi and President Trump and explore the steep learning curve Trump has as he retreats from heated campaign rhetoric calling global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese and erroneously charging China with currency manipulation. Scott Kennedy, the deputy director of the Freeman Chair in China Studies and the Director of the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joins us to discuss the meet and greet between these leaders and their wives.

Then finally, with tensions over North Korea very much on the agenda in discussions with President Xi following Donald Trump’s remark that “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will”, we will speak with former State Department senior analyst, Stephen Noerper, a senior director for policy at the Korea Society who was a fellow at Korea’s Institute for Foreign affairs and National Security. He joins us to examine the limited options Trump has now that his Secretary of State has declared the era of strategic patience with the Kim regime is over.

Background Briefing

Will A Change of Mind Over Syria Mean Bombing Assad?

Can Trump Retreat From Campaign Rhetoric Bashing China?

Trump's Warning to China to Solve North Korea

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the shakeup on the National Security Council and assess how much or how little President Trump is engaged in the presidency or whether it is simply a business opportunity for him and his family. Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who was formerly with the Foreign Affairs Policy Board, the advisory body for the U.S. Department of State, joins us to discuss how Trump, who seems to prefer visiting the campaign trail to reminisce about his victory in the Electoral College while blaming Obama for everything that goes wrong, is now faced with some real decisions in foreign policy that do not lend themselves to bluster and hollow threats.

Then we will examine the wrangling going on at the U.N. Security Council where expressions of outrage by the U.S., France and the U.K. over the Assad regime’s use of poison gas on Syrian citizens are falling on deaf ears as Russia’s U.N. representative tries to argue that a bomb accidentally blew up a hidden rebel supply of poison gas. Dulcie Leimbach, a fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at City University of New York and founder of PassBlue.com which covers the U.N., joins us to discuss the collective alarm and dismay amongst diplomats at the U.N. who cannot believe Trump is president and have no idea what his administration is up to.

Then finally we will speak with Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean and professor of law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law who frequently argues before the Supreme Court. He joins us to discuss the political power plays underway with the expected filibuster by Senate Democrats against the Gorsuch nomination on Thursday followed by the “nuclear option”, then the promised vote on Friday to confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Background Briefing

Trump Faces Real Decisions on the World Stage

Outrage at the UN Over Assad Gassing Children

Power Plays Underway With Gorsuch Vote

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the revelation in the Washington Post that in early January the notorious mercenary Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, took part in a clandestine meeting in the Seychelles Islands with a confidante of Putin’s in an effort to establish a back-channel between the Trump White House and the Kremlin. The author of “Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror” and a biographer of Erik Prince, Robert Young Pelton, joins us from Kabul, Afghanistan to discuss the reckless amateurism and freelancing that characterizes the chaotic vacuum inside Trump’s all-but-absent foreign policy with the blind leading the clueless as all sorts of opportunists and ideologues come out of the woodwork to make America great again, to make money or in Erik Prince’s case, make war.

Then we will look into the brazen depravity of the Assad regime in Syria which just used what appears to be Sarin gas against Syrian civilians then later targeted hospitals and clinics treating the over 100 survivors and medics attending the wounded. An expert on Syria, James Gelvin, a Professor of History at UCLA and author of “The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know”, joins us to explain Assad’s mindset and his belief that in spite of condemnations from the West, he will get away with killing his own people and destroying his country.

Then finally we will examine the breakdown of democracy in Hungary and Poland as populist leaders in both countries attack constitutional courts and other checks and balances while turning public media into a propaganda arm of the government. Peter Kreko, a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Center for Global and International Studies at Indiana University and the Director of the Political Capital Institute in Budapest, Hungary, joins us to discuss the reversal underway in what were models of democratic change after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

Background Briefing

Erik Prince's Secret Back-Channel Between Trump and Putin

The Brazen Depravity of the Assad Regime

The Dismantling of Democracy in Hungary and Poland

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We will begin with the looming showdown in the U.S. Senate now that it is clear the Democrats will filibuster the nomination of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and in return Mitch McConnell, whose finger is itchy on the trigger, will go nuclear and blow up the Senate rules eliminating the filibuster.  A 21 year veteran of the Senate, Jim Manley, who served as a senior advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for six years and before that served for 12 years as an aide to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, joins us to discuss the recognition that it no longer makes sense to pretend that normal business can be conducted with the Trump presidency. He argues against going along with the Republican charade pretending their Supreme Court nominees are not judicial activists like John Roberts who promised to uphold precedent then made radical changes to increase corporate power and perpetuate Republican rule while restricting worker’s rights and weakening political competition.

Then we will speak with Aziz Huq, a Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He joins us to discuss the difficult and dismal choices facing Senate Democrats and the increasingly phony nature of Supreme Court confirmation hearings in which candidates now say as little as possible in as many words as they can muster.

Then finally with Donald Trump’s lavish praise in a White House greeting for the Egyptian military dictator General Sisi who overthrew the country’s first freely elected president in a coup, we will examine Trump’s disregard for human rights and the throttling of a free press and the filling of prisons with political opponents. Mokhtar Awad, a Research Fellow in the Program on Extremism at George Washington University who specializes in Islamist and Salafist groups and insurgencies in Egypt, joins us to discuss his article at Politico “What Trump Should Ask Sisi” and whether this new era of transactional politics with bring about the peace that both leaders promised today.

Background Briefing

McConnell Can't Wait to Blow Up the Senate

The Dismal Choices Facing Senate Democrats

Trump's Lavish Praise For Egypt's Military Dictator

SHOW NOTES

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We begin with the upcoming visit to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-logo retreat this week by China’s President Xi Jinping and the extent to which the Chinese have already learned that the way to get things done with Trump is to work through the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Michael Fuchs, the former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs joins us to discuss the extraordinary and growing broad portfolio that the 36 year old with no prior government experience has taken on, and the marginalization of the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as the latest antics of the tweeter-in-chief whose daily distractions appear to provide the Republican Congress with cover to enact an unpopular and reactionary agenda while the press and public are fixated on the latest White House scandal.

Then we will go to Caracas, Venezuela to speak withVirginia Lopez, a Venezuelan journalist who covered Latin America and Venezuela for The Guardian and Al Jazeera English. Since most foreign correspondents have had their visas revoked by the Maduro government, she has not yet been kicked out of her own country and we will discuss the reversal of the Supreme Court’s ruling to strip congress of its legislative powers and the political exhaustion of the Venezuelan people who have to spend most of their energy lining up for food and basic staples.

Then finally, with the Koch brothers backing the rebellious Freedom Caucus and now imperiling Trump and Ryan’s tax overhaul plans, we will look into the takeover of the Republican Party by Southern reactionaries and moneyed libertarians with Kevin O’Leary, a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine and author of “How the Sinister Union of Southern Reactionaries and Moneyed Libertarians Hijacked America”.

Background Briefing

The Latest Antics of the Tweeter-in-Chief

Venezuela Circles the Drain

The Takeover of the GOP by Southern Reactionaries and Moneyed Libertarians

SHOW NOTES

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