We begin with an attempt to understand why Donald Trump persists in trying to make deals favorable to Russia on Putin’s terms, and speak with Dr. Michael Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense with responsibility for Russia who served as a foreign policy advisor to Vice President Biden and as director for Russia at the National Security Council. Now a senior director of the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania, he joins us to discuss his article at Defense One, “The U.S. Should Steer Clear of Russian Help in Syria”. We look into the folly of working with the Russians to combat ISIS since Putin’s strategy is to support his proxy Assad at all cost without recognizing that Assad is the main reason why Islamic terrorists have a foothold in Syria.

Then we examine the reasons why Trump and the Republicans have sold their souls to Russia following a recent poll that finds 48% of Republicans see nothing wrong with Donald Trump Junior’s meeting with Russian operatives offering help to elect Trump and damage his opponent. James Kirchick, a journalist and foreign correspondent who is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age”, joins us to discuss his article at Politico “How the GOP Became the Party of Putin”. And since Trump’s core supporters live in a bubble of delusion impervious to facts and evidence, we assess the extent to which Trump’s advisors like Bannon and Gorka have followed the playbook of Putin’s media guru Vladislav Surkov to create a parallel universe of alternative facts in which there is no objective truth, but where only subjective truth matters.

Then finally we speak with Abbe Gluck, a Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School. She joins us to try to make sense of the many tweets and statements coming from Donald Trump in the wake of the Republican Senate’s latest failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act which Trump is praising as “a pretty impressive vote by any standard” while declaring he wants Obamacare to fail and that “Republicans are not going to own it”.

Background Briefing

Why Does Trump Persist With Deals on Putin's Terms?

Why Have Republicans Sold Their Souls to Russia?

Trump Calls His Defeat on Health Care "Pretty Impressive"

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We begin with the possibility that Donald Trump has compromised a vital intelligence operation against the Islamic State and speak with a former FBI Supervisory Special Agent who investigated and supervised highly sensitive international terrorism cases such as the East Africa embassy bombings by Al Qaeda and their attack on the USS Cole. Ali Soufan joins us to discuss how painstakingly difficult it is to penetrate terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS compared to how easy it is to blow an operation as apparently Trump has done, and his latest book, “Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State”, which is a compelling and definitive account of how and why bin Laden’s ideology keeps rising from the dead with his son Hamza now poised to take over the growing organization that his father founded.

Then we look into today’s White House meeting between President Trump and President Erdogan of Turkey that was bound to end in disappointment for Erdogan who is demanding the extradition of the cleric he blames for the coup against him, Gulen, and that the U.S. cut ties with the Syrian Kurds, who are the only fighting force the Pentagon can count on to defeat ISIS and take their Syrian capitol Raqqa. Max Hoffman, a Policy Analyst on National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress who focuses on Turkey and the Kurdish regions, joins us to discuss Trump’s business ties in Turkey and why the U.S. president was almost alone in congratulating Erdogan’s power grab in narrowly winning the recent disputed referendum.

Then finally we speak with Joshua Landis,the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma who writes “Syria Comment” a daily newsletter and blog on Syrian politics. He joins us to discuss a comparison that the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. has made between the Assad regime and the Nazis, following the revelation that a crematorium has been installed in a Syrian prison to dispose of the bodies of the thousands of Syrians the regime systematically murders.

 

Background Briefing

Terror Groups Are Hard to Penetrate But Penetrations Are Easily Blown as Trump Has Demonstrated

The Doomed Meeting Between Trump and Erdogan

The US Compares the Assad Regime to the Nazis

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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

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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 will begin with the successful blurring of the line between news and fake news and propaganda that Steven Bannon and the Trump campaign have employed so far and look into how they will manage the press once they are in the White House. Playing by their own rules so far they’ve got the press to give them $5 billion’s worth of free media without him suffering any real scrutiny from them, certainly when it comes to tax returns, and in return Trump has given limited access to Fox News only and no press conferences, all the while threatening the press, insulting them and inciting his followers to attack them as he threatens to change the libel laws to sue them into submission.  An award-winning investigative correspondent for CNN, ABC and NBC, Mark Feldstein, a Professor and the Chair of Broadcast Journalism at the University of Maryland, joins us to discuss whether, as Trump continues to play by his own rules, the press will be able to have access to him, let alone be able to hold him accountable.

 

Then we will assess the fallout from the recent diplomatic upset Israel suffered at the U.N. Security Council where the U.S., which has routinely shielded the Jewish state from international condemnation by using its veto, for once abstained in a 14 to zero vote. Shibley Telhami, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution who was recently a Senior Advisor to the State Department on Palestinian – Israeli negotiations, joins us to discuss further tensions expected from an upcoming speech by Secretary of State Kerry while the White House continues to incur the wrath of Prime Minister Netanyahu whose Ambassador to the U.S. is claiming that Obama orchestrated the whole thing, a charge that he will only provide evidence for once Trump is inaugurated.

 

Then finally, we will speak with Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma who writes the daily newsletter and blog on Syrian politics, “Syria Comment”. We will discuss the so-called Shia crescent as a reality and how much the ground has shifted in the Middle East with the expected victory of the Assad regime in Syria that will mean Iran, through its proxies, will project its power across Iraq and Syria and into Lebanon and right onto Israel’s doorstep. 

Background Briefing

Trump's New Rules for the Press

The Continuing Fallout From the U.S. Abstention at the U.N.

How the U.S. Empowered Iran

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We will begin with Donald Trump’s reported nomination of Governor Rick Perry to be his Secretary of Energy and speak with Luke Metzger, the founding Director of Environment Texas, a statewide, citizen-funded advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces. He joins us to discuss Rick “Ooops” Perry, whose 2011 run for president crashed and burned when Perry couldn’t remember the third of the three government departments he wanted to abolish, which ironically happened to be the Department of Energy. We will look into the former Texas governor’s record in Texas of being pro-coal. pro oil, pro-fracking and pro-nuclear waste, and assess what qualifications compared to his two predecessors Perry has considering he has a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from Texas A&M while one of Obama’s last two energy secretaries was a professor of physics at MIT and the other won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

 

Then we will speak with Jonathan Taplin, the Founder and Director Emeritus of the Innovation Lab at the Annenberg School for Communication at USC and author of the forthcoming book “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy”. He joins us to discuss his article at The New York Times, “Forget AT&T: The Real Monopolies are Google and Facebook” and how Steven Bannon and the Trump campaign used Facebook to win the election by mining social media date which they used to target different groups with different personal messages, while Clinton spent heavily on polling and advertising the same message to the same people.

 

Then finally we will assess whether the Russian/Turkish planed ceasefire and evacuation of besieged civilians and fighters from Aleppo is real and workable since the U.N. has warned that the Assad regime is committing atrocities in Aleppo, murdering civilians in their homes and on the streets. The English-language spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, Rafif Jouejati, the Founder and Director of the FREE-Syria Foundation, joins us to discuss the lack of protection the majority of Syrians will have from the murderous Assad regime if the Russian-Iranian-Assad forces recapture all of the regime’s lost territory and succeed in “winning” the war for the Assads.     

Background Briefing

Rick "Oops" Perry for Secretary of Energy

How Trump Used Facebook to Win the Election

Is the Russian-Turkish Ceasefire in Aleppo Real?

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We will begin with Donald Trump’s unique lack of qualification for the presidency based on the country’s history where not one U. S. President has assumed the office with no prior government or military experience. Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, a Senior Associate in the Democracy and the Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, joins us to discuss how the military and intelligence bureaucracy will find a way to deal with a new chief executive of the government who is also Commander-in-Chief, and whether there are any checks and balances on the president in the executive branch if Trump surrounds himself with the coterie of sycophants and enablers like Chris Christie, Rudy Guiliani and Newt Gingrich and puts General Flynn in a key national security position in spite of Flynn’s murky ties to the Kremlin.

 

Then we will assess how the election of Trump is seen overseas by going to the U.K. and speaking with 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. He joins us to discuss how world leaders have reacted to Trump’s win and the president-elect’s ties to Putin and the European far-right, in particular the architect of the “Brexit” vote, Nigel Farage who has campaigned with Trump and is elated by his election win that Farage has declared “is Brexit times three”.

 

Then finally with Russia escalating its bombing of Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, in conjunction with a ground assault by the Assad regime’s army and Iranian and Russia troops, we will discuss the lack of concern for human rights among some in the European and American left who used to be opposed to dictators the U.S. supported in Latin America during the Cold War but nowadays make apologies for dictators like Putin, Qaddafi and Assad who not only have contempt for human rights but are capitalist kleptocrats. Evan Sandlin, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Davis, joins us to discuss his article in the Los Angeles Review of Books, “Dereliction of Duty? The Left and the Syrian Civil War”.   

Background Briefing

How Will the Military and Intelligence Community Deal With Trump?

How a Trump Victory is Seen Abroad

The Left's Dereliction of Duty

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We will begin with an analysis of the final presidential debate that is widely seen as “game over” for Donald Trump who most of the punditry and many Republicans feel crossed the line in not promising to adhere to the tradition of the loser conceding elections, a cornerstone of democracy which Trump twice refused to agree to last night, then again today, stating that he will only accept the results if he wins.  Jeff Hancock, a professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University who researches how people use deception with technology and whose TED talk on deception has been seen over a million times, joins us to discuss his article at CNN “Trump’s Bullshit: Why his supporters don’t care that he’s lying” and assess whether the outrage expressed by the elites over Trump’s threats against democracy will in any way influence his followers who don’t trust the media and have given up on politics as usual.

 

Then we will speak with John Judis, a senior writer at The National Interest and an editor-at-large for Talking Points Memo. He joins us to discuss his latest book, “The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics” and look into why the traditional political parties in Europe, the duopolies of socialists and conservatives, as well as America’s duopoly of the Democratic and Republican parties, are fraying and is some cases splitting apart. We will examine the surge of populism on the right and left and the long-running and highly consequential readjustment underway as the status quo fails, pitting the “people” against the “establishment”.

 

Then finally we will examine the Syria tragedy from the perspective of the innocent lives devastated by this war which are chronicled in a new book by Janine di Giovanni, “The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria”. The Middle East Editor of Newsweek, Janine di Giovanni is the winner of the 2016 Courage in Journalism Award and has covered wars in Bosnia, Chechnya and Sierra Leone and joins us to discuss her efforts to get us to understand what it like for ordinary people to be trapped inside a war and her hope that we can overcome our the lack of compassion for the Syrian refugees which is reflected in fear mongering going on in our political debate.

Background Briefing

Trump is Not So Much a Liar as He is a Bullshitter

"The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics"

Inside the Syrian Tragedy

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Hammer Forum
Turkey’s Future: Democracy or Autocracy?

Cosponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies Turkey’s recent failed military coup and President Erdogan’s subsequent crackdown have […]Read more »


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Donald the Destroyer
We begin with Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the Nevada caucus and explore his increasingly open path ahead to the Republican nomination with David Lowery, a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for American Political Responsiveness at Penn State University. He joins us to discuss the options Trump has to win the nomination outright or, if what’s left of the Republican establishment is able to stop him, then he could run as an Independent, but either way he is likely to cause down-ticket destruction of the Republicans running in 2016, and while they may hold the House, they will likely lose the Senate and in the States, not to mention the White House.

Congressman Ted Lieu on His “No Money Bail Act of 2016” He Introduced Today
Then we speak with Congressman Ted Lieu who along with Congresswomen Bonnie Coleman and Brenda Lawrence and Congressman Ruben Gallego, introduced a bill in the House today, the “No Money Bail Act of 2016”. We discuss the outrage that of the 2.3 million Americans in prisons today, there are 450,000 who have not been convicted of a crime but are there because they cannot afford bail. And although debtor’s prisons are supposed to be a thing of the past, there is a war on the poor underway in spite of the principle of innocent until proven guilty in America and equal justice under the law.

Putin’s Diplomatic Offensive Over Syria
Then finally, we do an update on Syria as Russia’s President Putin engages in a frantic round of diplomacy calling the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Israel today to implement a ceasefire that Washington and Moscow agreed to on Monday. Joshua Landis, who is the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and writes the daily blog on Syrian politics, “Syria Comment”, joins us to discuss how the facts on the ground that the Russians are creating to bolster the Assad regime, may lead to a ceasefire but will not end the war or stop the flow of refugees.

Background Briefing

Donald the Destroyer

Congressman Ted Lieu on His "No Money Bail Act of 2016" He Introduced Today

Putin's Diplomatic Offensive Over Syria

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A Young Millennial Feminist Supporter of Bernie Sanders
We will begin with the backlash to efforts by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem to urge women and young women in particular to vote for Hillary Clinton. We  look into the apparent split between younger and older feminists following the votes in the Iowa caucus when younger women aged 18 to 29 voted for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton by a margin of 6 to 1. Joining us first is Amanita Funaro, a student in New York City and a first time voter in the 2016 presidential race who is a passionate supporter for Bernie Sanders. We will discuss why young millennial women prefer the 74 year old Senator from Vermont to the former Secretary of State and First Lady who if elected, would be the first female president of the United States.

What Can Hillary do to Win Over Younger Female Voters?
Then we will get another opinion on which of the two Democratic presidential candidates is winning the feminist vote and speak with Gloria Feldt, the Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead and author of “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power”. The former president of Planned Parenthood, she joins us to discuss why younger voters find Bernie Sanders more authentic than Hillary Clinton and what Clinton can do to keep millennials in the tent and motivated to vote in the event Bernie loses the nomination to her.

”How the White House is Handing Victory to Bashar Al-Assad, Russia and Iran”
Then finally we speak with Emile Hokayem, a Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London who has an article at Foreign Policy, “Obama’s Disastrous Betrayal of the Syrian Rebels: How the White House is handing victory to Bashar al-Assad, Russia and Iran.” We discuss the gains Russia and Iran are making on the ground in Syria and whether Saudi Arabia and Turkey will try to counter Putin without the backing of the U.S.

Background Briefing

A Young Millennial Feminist Supporter of Bernie Sanders

What Can Hillary do to Win Over Younger Female Voters?

”How the White House is Handing Victory to Bashar Al-Assad, Russia and Iran"

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