The Barr Report
As we’ve said repeatedly at Gaslit Nation, the crisis in the US was never about Trump vs Mueller, but about corruption and exploitation – about massive institutional failure that worsened over multiple decades, culminating in a kleptocracy backed by a transnational crime syndicate. We discuss what’s next for the US and the world as the Trump team ramps up its autocratic goals.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:00:12 I'm Sarah Kendzior. I'm a journalist and scholar of authoritarian states and the author of the book, "The View from Flyover Country".
Andrea Chalupa: I'm Andrea Chalupa, a writer, filmmaker and the screenwriter and producer of the upcoming journalistic thriller, "Mr. Jones".
Sarah Kendzior: And this is "Gaslit Nation", a podcast covering corruption in the Trump administration and authoritarianism around the world. And this week, we have a special episode––every week is now a special episode on Gaslit Nation––on the Barr Report. On Friday, it was announced that, after nearly two years of investigating, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, had given his report to Barr. On Sunday, we saw a four-page summary of that report, which used only 64 words from the actual Mueller report, which at this time remains unseen. We still don't know what's in it, but the outcome of the Mueller probe unfortunately was exactly what we had been predicting on Gaslit Nation for our entire run, including in an episode literally called "Robert Mueller Will Not Save You". And although I recommend you listen most to our 2019 episodes since they really broke down the failures of this investigation in depth, you can go back and go to the start. You know, this is a case of a prosecutor who clearly knew his subject well. Mueller had been the head of the FBI. He had been investigating exactly this kind of nexus of criminality, which he called "he Iron Triangle" back into 2011 speech which we covered in the third episode of our show, in which he said basically the lines between organized crime, state corruption, and corporate crime had merged to the point that they constituted a danger for all of humanity.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:01:59 Did Mueller do anything to combat that danger? No. Basically, not really. And so we don't want to say we told you so in some sort of gloating way because this is terrible. This is terrible for our country. We wanted badly to be wrong. I do think it's unwise to label anyone a savior to put any kind of faith in a public servant working in a morass of corruption, one who's own record isn't as sparkling and blameless as it's been portrayed. But at the same time, of course you want justice to win. You want rule of law to win. You want corrupt and dangerous and harmful people to be removed from positions of power where they are destroying this country, and attacking the most vulnerable citizens.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:02:45 You know, you can't separate the Mueller probe from the broader corruption of this administration and the detrimental effect it's had, not just on our democracy but worldwide. We're going to get into that, but first I guess I want to do––not quite a greatest hits of Mueller, but greatest misses, because one of the reasons we did not have the same faith in the Mueller probe that others did is ‘cause Mueller made a lot of mistakes along the way, some of which he rectified, but others remain, are still dangerous now and remain unexplained. And a little rundown of those: We first became alarmed at the treatment of Paul Manafort, which was extremely lax. Mueller Initially was going to let Manafort go free even though he'd been indicted, not put him under house arrest. Let him run around without GPS tracking. Thankfully he reversed that, but only once Manafort of course went around trying to commit crimes. Manafort of course then committed even more crimes post-indictment. He did get caught for that but was barely punished, and I'll get into that in a minute.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:03:52 Mueller did the same thing with Rick Gates. The probe announced that Gates was going to be going on a spring break vacation to Boston, therefore allowing this guy who is already a flight risk to become an assassination target. Because this happened, they had to announce that yes, now Rick Gates has been threatened, and needs to be under house arrest. I remember watching this at the time thinking like, these are the brightest legal minds our nation has to offer? Like these seem like kind of rookie mistakes, you know, is there more to this? Am I missing something? I kept hoping I was missing something. I don't think I was.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:04:25 The day I really began to worry was when George Papadopoulos, a low level but nonetheless reprehensible individual in the Trump fold, had gotten only two weeks for his crimes after he had agreed to “cooperate with the Mueller probe.” Papadopoulos of course did not actually cooperate, he impeded the investigation. Mueller's team admitted this, but ended up with this extremely light two week sentence. And right around then was when Paul Manafort, who had at that time been convicted by a jury, a jury who had been threatened, a judge who had been threatened but nonetheless convicted because to suddenly say he's going to cooperate with Mueller. And I remember going on Twitter and being like, “come on, like you've got to be kidding me! He's obviously not doing this. He saw what happened to Papadopoulos, and he saw it happen when he went before a jury. And he knows that ‘cooperating with Mueller’ is the easiest way, you know, to get a reduced sentence and get off the hook for these crimes.”
Sarah Kendzior: 00:05:24 And I kept thinking like, Mueller, you know, he's been dealing with people like Paul Manafort for decades. Obviously he’s going to see through this, right? And, no, he didn't! And now, of course, we have, as we recalled in our last episode, Manafort gets praised by that judge, the threatened judge, as someone who had led an otherwise blameless life and has a fairly minimal sentence––or combined sentences given the scope of his crimes. Then, I think this is in December, we have Mueller giving Flynn such a lenient sentencing guideline that it horrified the judge who is looking at this case, because Flynn, of course, has done atrocious things. You know, he's a traitor. He was working for Turkey and Russia. He plotted the kidnapping of a Turkish cleric. He tried to illegally sell nuclear material. You know, he's an absolute sociopath. He is somebody who needs to be locked up.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:06:13 But instead of that, Mueller has him do this cooperation deal and lets him run free, despite the harm that he is likely causing as somebody who holds all of our national security secrets, yet doesn't have any loyalty to country. And at the time, folks tried to justify this decision by Mueller. They're like, “oh, you know, well, he's reeling in the big fish. You know, he's going to bring down Trump. He's going to bring down Kushner. He's going to bring down the whole administration. So we need to have these little sacrifices along the way". But the first point I would make there is, like, this is not a game. You know, you cannot have people like Flynn who constitute a real danger to American public safety just running around, even if that is the payoff. But secondly, there's no guarantee that Trump will be brought down.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:06:57 And as we see now, that might not have even been his intention. We don't know why these cushy plea agreements were made for people like Flynn or gates or even Manafort, you know, of course violated his and they tried to punish him. It didn't quite work out. But we don't know what the point of any of that was. Then we have the failures of omission. You know, where Mueller failed to interview some of the most important and dangerous players in this probe, including Assange, Jared Kushner, Ivanka, and obviously Trump himself. He never followed through on that. He also failed to indict people who've committed crimes in blatant sight and who essentially confessed to them. You could look at Kushner and all of his multitude of crimes, you know, among them are the security clearance forms, which I brought up on numerous occasions, Sessions committed that same crime of lying on security forms and admitting illicit contacts with various Russian oligarchs and officials.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:07:54 That's why he had to recuse himself from the investigation in the first place. Did anything happen to him? Was he punished? Was he even interviewed by Mueller? NO! And so, yeah, you know, there was no 3D chess going on here. There is no master plan going on here. If there was a master plan, it seems to be letting the GOP off the hook, because what you need to remember is that any probe of the 2016 election is, by definition, a probe of the Republican Party. Any probe of the Trump family and of Trump colleagues like Manafort becomes a probe of the FBI and its failures, many of which took place while Mueller himself was running the FBI from 2001 to 2013. You see indictments from the Mueller probe for people like Manafort having to do with crimes that were committed during that era that they were not punished for then. Had they been, we'd be in a different place today. And of course it goes without saying things got much worse at the FBI when Mueller left and was replaced by [James] Comey whose mistakes were just absolutely disastrous. And you can go back and listen to our episode, "The Comey Effect" for a breakdown of that. But what seems to have happened, is that Mueller is an institutionalist at heart. He's protecting the institution of the FBI rather than protecting the American public. He's protecting the GOP rather than protect the American public. We don't know what kind of limitations he's run into. We obviously know that there are some, because we still have not seen the report. You know, we have Barr who famously exonerated the GOP during Iran Contra and who himself criticized Mueller quite harshly before he was appointed as Attorney General suppressing the report. So, this is not all on Mueller, but you know, Mueller as a professional should've seen that coming.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:09:41 He should have seen the threat of Barr coming. He should have seen the threat of Trump coming. He should have known that he's dealing with a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government because he himself was the person who wrote about that, who warned the world about that in 2011. And so there's a lot of mysterious things here about why he's able to, so adeptly, identify a threat but is unable to actually combat it. And you know, one final point I'll bring up is that this is not just about Russia. You know, this is a transnational syndicate, which includes Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, connections between members of those regimes and members of the Trump administration, in particular Kushner’s connections to people like Netanyahu and MBS [Mohammed bin Salman]. I mean this is a vast, extremely complicated, extremely dangerous syndicate. And so it's not surprising, of course, that we do not get an easy win, or even a clear result. But what we've really been left with here is nothing. We've been left with wasted time, because while Mueller plodded along following all of these institutionalist kinds of norms and rules, Trump and his criminal colleagues were consolidating power and now we're heading into a much more dangerous time. And a lot of this could have been avoided if there had been transparency, if there had been integrity and if protecting the public had really been the foremost thing in the minds of these officials rather than trying to protect their own reputations.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:11:13 Yep. [laughter]
Sarah Kendzior: 00:11:14 Any thoughts Andrea?
Andrea Chalupa: 00:11:16 Yes, I have a lot to say on everything. On this show, we have been trying to prepare everyone for this outcome because we saw it clear as day. Clear as day. And because we kept pointing out the institutional failures of the FBI, we were getting attacked. Like, we were being called "despair trolls" because we didn't believe in some magical savior. And what we've always said on this show is democracy is broken in America. The Kremlin, which you know, all the intelligence agencies, you know, all the arrests, all the indictments that happened under Mueller, those all confirm that the Kremlin attacked our democracy in 2016. And as we've always said on the show, the Kremlin could not have succeeded if it weren't for all the many systemic failures going on in America today, from institutional racism to income inequality, to the breakdown of the social fabric, to the breakdown of unions––all of it. They took full advantage, like the hyper capitalism, the automation of our workforce, disappearing jobs, disappearing retail stores, all of it. So we've always pointed that out, that there's a lot of work for us to do if we want to protect our democracy and bring it back. So we've never sugarcoated things. We've always been clear as day of how we saw all of this going down. And people don't like us because we do not believe in get-rich-quick schemes. We do not believe in lose-weight-fast pills that you can pop. There is no pill you can take right now to make this all go away. It's just the tried and true formula of smart organization and hard work and vigilance, and staying engaged and courage. Basically, what Martin Luther King did in leading the civil rights movement. It's that same formula of tried and true, of smart organization, hard work, faith, courage, not giving up, tenacity, all of it.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:13:17 There's no easy way out of this and people don't like to hear that because as Americans, unfortunately, if you go into any drugstore in America, you will see a huge aisle, maybe two huge aisles, dedicated to pills alone––like all types of supplements you can take to become superhuman. Supplements are a massive, massive scam. It's no surprise that Alex Jones sells all these supplements on his show. It's like one of the biggest scams in America. There is no pill that you can take to get out of this. And Sarah and I have always been clear about this from the beginning, that Mueller was never going to save us, and for all the reasons that she listed. And then we're going to go into deeper about the gaslighting that's currently going on right now that unfortunately a lot of people are succumbing to, which is very sad to see.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:14:03 So we're going to go into all of it and unpack what happened, ultimately, with the Mueller report and the Iran Contra Guy, William Barr, coming in, doing his Iran Contra cleanup job, just like he was hired to do, all of it. How it all went down. We're going to be looking at that, all the different components of this and what it means ‘cause we, we see the gas lighting. It's massive. We see people like Glenn Greenwald, so-called transparency, personal privacy heroes of the Left, celebrating the Iran Contra guy’s cleanup job. We see the absurdity of it. Sarah and I know that people are losing their courage in the media. People are doing a really stupid about face. Suddenly, Christopher Steele's losing credibility, even though there's many wonderful, deeply researched reports out there dissecting the Christopher Steele dossier and what he got right, what's confirmed and what's yet to be confirmed. And we'll point you to one such report, just as a matter of you need to read this now because they're gaslighting you.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:15:03 If you go to Coda Story, this website, codastory.com, Michael Weiss, who we've had on the show––a national security expert–– he wrote one of the very first books on ISIS, “Inside the Army of Terror", which is a bestseller. We had him on the show a couple months ago. So, Michael Weiss does a huge deep dive looking into the Steele Dossier, breaking it all down. What is confirmed, what isn't? Christopher Steele's credibility did not disappear overnight because of the Iran Contra guy's cleanup job. Christopher Steele ran the Russia desk for British intelligence. He did a great service to our country by risking his own career, risking his own life, to warn our intelligence services, our intelligence communities, the FBI, our journalists. The FBI and the mainstream media did not take Christopher Steele seriously in 2016. it was only David Corn who finally, within days of the 2016 election, that listened to Christopher Steele and published an anonymous interview with him laying out, like, the main takeaways of the dossier, which is what we all know now, as clear as day, that Putin had a vested interest in Trump and as has been confirmed, the Kremlin has been developing Trump for some years as an asset that they could tap when they needed him. None of that has changed. The facts have not changed. What has been confirmed, what Sarah and I have always prepared everyone for, is that do not rely on Robert Mueller. Do not rely on an FBI that has failed us repeatedly in recent years alone in its really weak attempt to try to fend off the Russian mafia, the Kremlin's infiltration of our democracy, do not rely on them. We've gone over their track record many times. We're going to do it again today to point out some important things to undo a lot of the gaslighting going on right now in mainstream media. We've always prepared everyone for this. What you need to now do when you're faced with these authoritarian tactics is to restate the obvious, to reread the facts again, to remind yourself that the facts are still the facts.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:17:02 Nothing has changed. And a really, really good book to wrap your head around all of this that's happening that will help you stay grounded is a book by the historian Tim Snyder called "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America". Get your hands on this book. It will make you feel less crazy by the atrocious gaslighting and conformity and submission that's going on right now with the mainstream media and all these pundits. David Brooks, who's always reliably David Brooks, and every piece of his gets just trashed on Twitter, yes, that's true. But, David Brooks even came out and saying that John Brennan and Beto O'Rourke owe an apology to Trump for calling him a traitor. That's bullshit. That is bullshit. It's like, we've seen again and again that Trump believes the Kremlin over US Intelligence. We've seen again and again that Trump puts Kremlin interests before American interests. It's everything you see. Believe your eyes, believe your ears, believe what you see.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:18:05 Do not allow these people to gaslight you. That's why the show exists, because we point out the facts remain the facts. Nothing has changed. This has just been the cover up we've been preparing you for, for weeks now, and, just in terms of the case of Barr. And then months prior to that we were preparing you for Mueller being not the savior that everyone thought he was for the obvious reasons, that the FBI has been failing us for years now in its losing battle against the Russian mafia and Kremlin infiltration of our democracy. And if you want to get deeper insight into that and how that all works. Read, again, "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America" by Tim Snyder. If you're not familiar with Tim Snyder, he is a renowned historian at Yale University. He's a very serious guy. His very serious job at Yale University depends on him being a very serious guy.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:18:54 He has written this massive book called "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin", how those two mass murderers influenced each other. Another fascinating read. It's a bestseller. He stopped what he was doing when Trump was elected and quickly wrote "On Tyranny", providing lessons of authoritarianism and how to resist it. It's deliberately published to be a little pocket guide so you can carry it around in your pocket and so you can be reminded on how authoritarianism works, including the gaslighting, including the purging, including the cover-ups and the utter lack of transparency. There's a reason why Mitch Mcconnell doesn't want us to see the Mueller report. Okay? This is all part of those types of authoritarian tactics. That's what we're experiencing now. In Tim Snyder's book, "The Road to Unfreedom", he talks about how, for instance, the rise of Kremlin aggression, the rise of Kremlin imperialism and how it worked, and he gives, as an example, how Russia invaded Ukraine originally, in recent years alone, through Yanukovych––how Yanukovych was installed, of course, as we all know, with the help of Paul Manafort. And when Yanukovych came in, he started running Ukraine according to Russia's best interests, including giving away a bunch of access, a bunch of control, over Crimea itself. So, the soft invasion of Crimea basically started under Yanukovych. When we say there is a Kremlin puppet president, what we're saying is that's a soft invasion. That's a soft infiltration of our democracy where Kremlin interests, which also serve the puppet itself because they benefit, they enrich themselves, they get to live above the law, there's no accountability. They get to rule their fiefdom as they like, but they're still ultimately like a, satellite state in a way. So, this has been done before. This is being done now. And so, Snyder, in his book, breaks down how Putin invaded Ukraine through Yanukovych and just sucked it dry for what it needed. So, by the time Russia properly invaded––actually had a hot military invasion after Ukrainians overthrew Yanukovych––Russia retaliates by actually invading, first in Crimea and then in the East. Ukraine's military wasn't ready. It was decimated because of what Yanukovych had deliberately done to it. And that's all intentional. So, he built up, over the years, a dependence on Russia. That whole revolution in Ukraine was started because, as part of his fancy, glossed-over election to become president, Manafort gave Yanukovych this Western politician make-over, which included saying things like, promising people that he was going to sign the EU association agreement, which would bring Ukraine's laws and policies up to EU standards, which would be a big step towards EU membership for Ukraine, which would mean stability, safeguards against corruption, all those wonderful things that Ukrainians wanted.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:21:52 So, Manafort told Yanukovych how to dress, what to say, how to sell people. One of the false selling points was, "don't worry if you vote for me, I will sign the EU association agreement and we'll do it on our terms". Remember all the promises that Trump made? Remember? He made all sorts of, you know, lies, he sold people on all sorts of false promises in the 2016 election. He said whatever they wanted to hear. Politicians do that all the time. But Trump was very much doing that and now he’s backtracking on all of it, including protecting their healthcare. That's just out today, that they want to get rid of all of Obamacare. All of it. Take it to court. And so what happens when Yanukovych was about to sign that you association agreement for Ukraine? At the very last hour, he accepts the bailout from the Kremlin. Do you think Ukrainians are going to see that money?
Andrea Chalupa: 00:22:42 No! That's going to enriching him and his cronies. And so this is how it works. And so I'm telling you, you need to arm yourself with facts, you need to arm yourself with historical context, you need to arm yourself with regional context, and all of that is provided for you in this excellent book that will un-gaslight you. And that is "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America". That will be your lifeline right now. That will help you dissect the media's reaction and what's really happening in our country. And yes, president Trump remains an asset of the Kremlin. That hasn't changed. The only thing that has changed is that everything we've said has been confirmed, everything we warned you about has been confirmed, and that there was, in fact, this cover-up that we all saw coming if you've listened to the show for a long time.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:23:25 Yeah, absolutely. I recommend Snyder for broader historical context about Russia, the US, the EU, the events of the last years. I also recommend Craig Ungers book: "House of Trump, House of Putin”, which is basically about the other half which intersects with Snyder's, which is the story of the Russian mafia. It's the story of money laundering. It's the story of criminality becoming so entrenched in state institutions that it's very hard to delineate a boundary between state actors and non-state actors who both prop up the state and benefit from it, who are also hardened criminals. You know, who are members of a transnational crime syndicate. And the reason I'm bringing this up now is because I wanted to sort of go back to the Barr Report itself for a minute, despite the media just basically begging for the opportunity to once again kiss Trump's ass and you know, exonerate him from crimes.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:24:24 The Barr Report does not really exonerate him. It doesn't tell us what is in the Mueller report. There are only 64 words from the actual Mueller report that made it into the Barr report. And so it's interesting to look at what those words are because the way that this was phrased, it does make me wonder that despite Mueller's own errors in the probe itself, especially the lack of indictments, which is more important in my view than the actual report, I do wonder if the Mueller report itself may be somewhat inflammatory. For example, Barr quotes briefly Mueller as saying “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government and its election interference activities.” And those are carefully chosen phrases. You know, who is a “member of the Trump campaign?” I mean, first of all, this does strike me as troubling because Paul Manafort certainly goes into that category.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:25:21 And then the question comes, well, who is a member of the Russian government? Because on both sides you see intermediaries, you see cutouts, you see people, for example, you know Oleg Deripaska or other oligarchs who are deeply entrenched into Putin's Kremlin but are not members of the government in some kind of official capacity, playing a vital role in this entire plot. But framing it in this way, limiting it in terms of these precise words of Russian government versus Russian mafia, Russian oligarchs, it allows Barr to portray this in a way that, I mean, honestly, I'm not even sure if it's technically true, but it's limiting enough that he can try to frame it as an exoneration. And the report itself also says, this is quoting from Mueller: "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him". Obviously, we need to see the rest of what is in the Mueller report to know what that even refers to. This entire thing is extremely frustrating. It's what we had feared from the start. It's certainly what we had feared since Barr got on board, and frankly it is incredibly disheartening to see the media just jumping on this bandwagon to protect a president who is, right now, trying to control media outlets, telling them who can and cannot be on television, who has tried to persecute the Press from the very beginning, who has encouraged violence against members of the Press. That's been carried out. We've seen the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. We've seen the murder of journalists in Annapolis. We saw, you know, the MAGA bomber trying to carry out acts of terrorism, the busted terrorist plot of the former member of the Coast Guard, the white supremacist, that was taken down, thankfully, in time before he acted. I don't know why anyone wants to mollify this administration, wants to play down their crimes.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:27:24 What we should be seeking to do is exposing it, is talking about it honestly and shedding light and transparency on what's an extremely dark criminal and dangerous chapter of American history. I mean, maybe there's some comfort in this for a certain kind of person to just submit, to just give in, to just want to be on the side of the people who are living above the law. The people who have actual power in this situation, which is the Trump Administration. You know, they try to present themselves as anti-establishment or outsiders. I mean, these are as establishment as you can get. These are war criminals. These are Wall Street bankers. These are billionaires. These are old, white men! These are not people who are outsiders in any sense of the word! These are not people who have ever advocated on behalf of the American public, and now they're being buffered by their own kind, by people like Barr, and possibly to some extent, inadvertently or not, by people like Mueller.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:28:24 Mueller should be, at this point, speaking out. He should be testifying to Congress. He should be releasing this report. We should not be in this position where we have members of Congress begging the Trump Administration, begging Barr, getting down on their knees in this pathetic fashion to ask to see the Mueller Report. You should demand it. You need to insist on it because this report is for the public, this report is for our country, and to have this incredibly limited, truncated excerpt written and paraphrased by an untrustworthy ally of Trump who is selected specifically to be the person to manipulate words, to suppress information and to preemptively exonerate a cadre of criminals, I mean, come on! Learn how to fight, Congress. You already preemptively surrendered on impeachment. Don't preemptively surrender on this too
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Andrea Chalupa: 00:29:24 And our position on impeachment has never been stronger. We need to accept the fact that they are empowered now, because when you don't hold them accountable, that's a big green light that they can just push forward. I mean, as soon as their cover-up guy came in and did that smoke and mirrors of “nothing to see here, folks move along”, they were ready with all these celebrations. They were ready with their authoritarian-like letter going out to TV producers targeting enemies of the regime. They were ready with Lindsey Graham calling for investigations into the investigators. This is how authoritarianism works. This is what it looks like. And so we're supposed to now trust that in 2020 we're going to have fair and free elections? Right. I mean, look at how the system is failing us. So, Sarah and I had a calm weekend, relatively calm weekend. We saw this from a million miles away. What really scared us was anytime we get a confirmation of something that we've been long saying and expecting, our other predictions start bombarding us and terrifying us and we have to discuss among each other, where do we draw the line and what we're willing to share with people about how we really see this going down.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:30:42 Because people may not be ready and we don't want people to checkout. That's the last thing we want you to do. That's why we have this show. Sarah and I will be engaging with each other, regardless. We hold these conversations for our own sanity. We’re, first and foremost, friends that happen to have expertise over a decade-plus in authoritarianism how it works past and present. But, first and foremost, we're friends coping with this. So we're having these conversations anyway. And we choose to open them up to the public because we desperately need people to fight right now and be engaged and not checkout and not succumb to the gaslighting. And not to submit. And what we're seeing is many in the mainstream media submitting. And that is, like, normalization. That submitting to the regime is a way to self-medicate, is a way to finally just go to sleep and give up, and just carry on with your business and hope that they don't bother you.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:31:30 So, we choose to fight. We choose to be our own saviors and we choose to stay engaged. So, in addition to making these horrible predictions that have got us labeled 'despair trolls', we have also highlighted groups and people who offer really brave, brilliant, smart solutions on how to get organized and how to fight back. So, every show that we do that's not the two of us talking, those are shows that we desperately need you to pay attention to because they illustrate what we're talking about. For instance, we just did a show with the Ukrainian political prisoner, Oleg Sentsov, and how he is, despite all odds, writing novels and producing a feature film, directing a feature film, from a Siberian prison where the temperatures reach negative 60 degrees [Celsius, minus 76 Fahrenheit], and where he has been sentenced, essentially, to die, for 20 years on trumped up charges. We shared that story with you to illustrate what we talk about when we talk about authoritarianism and the end game of it and, that despite all of that, there are brave human beings that are fighting back that are resisting, and how important that resistance is, so that was a story of hope.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:32:39 If Oleg Sentsov can do that, then what is our excuse here with all of our relative freedoms? We have to keep fighting. We've also shared with you interviews with Every District, a brilliant group that is coordinating how to donate to targeted progressive campaigns on the ground and how important those local races are. It's the local races in the states. It's creating more blue progressive trifectas because that is how you ultimately win is you win in the grassroots, by building a progressive infrastructure across the entire country. That is what is going to help strengthen our social fabric because it's those progressive candidates that you elect on the local level who are going to be protecting healthcare, voting rights, decriminalizing marijuana, and taking on justice reform. All of it. We need to win in those local races. So that's why we highlight groups like Every District, to show you it's up to us now. The system has been failing us for years. It's up to us now and that is very unfair. We know that is very unfair, but that is the reality of our situation that we find ourselves in.
Andrea Chalupa: And another episode that I want to highlight is we did an entire episode on how to pass a law in your state. Even if you are not a lawyer, even though you have a messy artistic temperament, like you know, you could still get a champion, a law and build a grassroots coalition and get a law passed in your state. Even if you're a young mother who's pregnant and has a young child, how do I know all that? Because that interview was with my own mother who as an activist, championed the Child Car Seat Law in California and did it all from scratch and figured it out all on her own, how to do it, while she was pregnant with me.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:34:14 So, we did an interview with her. So if you want to know where my optimism comes from, it comes from that case study. I've been through how through my own work. I've faced years of rejection and peeling myself off the ground. That's why I'm always talking about the process of producing my film because I learned so much from that, of staring disaster in the face and just getting out of bed when you don't want to. I learned so much from that. I'm always trying to pass back on the show. My optimism isn't naive. I believe in and I've seen the power of hard work. And as unfair as this is, and I recognize how deeply unfair it is, but that is the reality. We have no power left except for grassroots power. That is what the show is constantly trying to remind you of. So, if there's an episode that's not me and Sarah sharing what's going on and trying to un-gaslight people, still listen to that episode because it's illustrating what we're talking about, the solutions and how all this works.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:35:07 It's still an extension of our conversations, those episodes. So, if you haven't heard them, go back and listen to them, because we ultimately do not want people to feel despair. That's not what this is about. We run to each other, so we don't feel despair. We support each other. And so what the show is about is saying, “yes, we see it too. We see clearly what's going on, and we're in this together and this is how we're going to get through it.” So, in fact, it turns out the despair trolls were those that promised us all along that Mueller was going to save us. And the only thing that ate into our weekends and made it hard was comforting people that did not see this coming and really believed, did not understand what it meant, when you say that Mueller was an institutionalist. It was really seeing that depression that was hard on us.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:35:53 Yeah, no, that was very hard. And one thing that Andrea and I have noticed for a long time are, I mean at one point we called them “resistance bots”, then we started calling them “Mueller bots” because they were reciting a script. And I don't know if they're just actual bots are just what I've been calling "Bot-brained people", people who are so indistinguishable from automated kind of product that I don't know exactly where their independent thought or humanity is. It's like very Gregor Samsa [protagonist of Franz Kafka's short story "The Metamorphosis"] woke up one morning and found he'd been transformed into a bot. But anyway, you know, if you've seen a lot of tweets that just have the same phrases like “Mueller is just dotting the i's and crossing the t's and trust Mueller and he's reeling in the big fish”, and there are these constant metaphors.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:36:34 They are always put in like idioms and metaphors to the point that I wonder, are these tweets written by native speakers of English, or are they just very unimaginative minds? You know, this sort of endless repetition of cliches. And I'm sure that there were people who really sincerely were writing this and maybe they really sincerely did trust Mueller. They were told by not just the grifters of Twitter, the Louise Mensch, John Schindler-types, who, by the way, all of that crowd, they are all people who worked for associates of Trump at one point. You know, you have Mensch who worked for Murdoch, you have Schindler working for Kushner, and the entire group who were debunked, some as kind of big Call of Duty LAPRers feigning military and intel expertise, some of them were just these sort of randos trying to make profit off you, but others seem to be invested in a big propaganda campaign.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:37:27 And a lot of that propaganda campaign was “trust Mueller, no matter what. Question nothing. You never question the FBI,” you know, and they were always tagging the FBI like they were ratting you out. You know, they are constantly accusing people of being Kremlin agents and Kremlin trolls. And so, you know, I essentially see it as a propaganda operation. It serves multiple purposes. First, it placated the public and made them think they could just sit and wait around and Mueller was going to swoop in and rescue them. And it wasn't just Mueller. Remember Eric Schneiderman, remember him? He was supposed to save us too. And you know, how did that work out? That's why I'm a bit hesitant on all the people who are now saying, “oh, wait for SDNY, wait for the state courts.” The other thing that this group of individuals did was create such an absolutely lunatic portrayal of the "Resistance" that they were like a living, breathing straw man for the Russiagate deniers–– the pro-Putin Left and Right who really wanted to pretend that there was nothing there––instead of looking at the actual evidence in front of their eyes, whether it's statements by Trump, tweets released by Donald Trump, Jr. that were incriminating, the vast array of actions that were committed in public, everything from Trump firing Comey and then partying with Lavrov in the Oval Office the next day, to the Helsinki meeting, to the dropping of sanctions, to Trump's 30-year history of illicit financial dealings with the Russians. Instead of looking at that, they could look at, like, Louise Mensch, who is a Tory––a self-identified Conservative, not a Democrat, Progressive anything––who has worked for Murdoch and other associates of Trump. They could be like, “oh yeah, that's who believes that Trump was engaged in illicit actions with Russia. That is our representation of the ‘Resistance’.”Meanwhile, people like Mensch were ceaselessly attacking people like me and Andrea and weren't really looked up to or acknowledged as a reputable source by anyone.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:39:24 I mean, it's an ongoing joke, like, “the Marshal of the Supreme Court and Steve Bannon is going to be executed” and “I take no pleasure in reporting this”, and honestly, I take no pleasure in like even bringing her up because our strategy was to always sort of just deprive these idiots of oxygen so that you wouldn't turn to them even for the sort of carnival effect. But unfortunately, you know, now that Mueller has wrapped up and there are no sealed indictments and there aren't any of these things that people have promised you, you know, I think you need to take to task the people who have put all those lies. And those were grifters, those were hucksters, those were Republicans, and they should be ashamed of themselves. But then you have the whole another facet to this. I'm not quite sure whether they intended to operate as as propagandists or placaters or they're just such diehard institutionalists that this was their true beliefs, but you have a lot of elite DC professionals, many of them lawyers, who also were ceaselessly insisting that Mueller was going to save you, that he had a secret plan, that they would stake their lives on the process, that they would never doubt him for a minute, and that this was a mob rollup––I kept hearing that again and again––and I'm like, “do you understand that John Gotti was not the President of the United States?”. Like, you can't compare these situations. Like, yes, Trump is in a transnational crime syndicate. He is deeply linked to the Russian mafia. Has the FBI been successful at combating the Russian mafia? No! They got rid of the Italian mafia, and then the Russian mafia moved in and basically occupied every institution of power. This happened, you know, in the UK as well. And as we became a more globalized society, more globalized economy, they became more and more successful.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:41:04 So first you have that, but second of all, Trump, whether he's a moron or not, is the President of the United States and has the powers of the President of the United States. He can pack courts, he can purge agencies, he can hire people who will be there to exonerate him. So it's a completely different situation than the sort of classic mob roll-ups that perhaps Mueller investigated in the past. And I was hoping that Mueller would be cognizant of that fact and would treat this as what it is, which is a kleptocracy. It's an aspiring dynastic kleptocracy. It's an aspiring autocracy. You need to look at how Putin rose to power, how [Victor] Orban rose to power, how [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan transformed a democracy into a dictatorship. Those are the models you need to be looking at when you're looking at this criminal and counter-intelligence, just, disaster that's been created.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:41:58 And so yeah, you know, I really would like all of those people, those DC elites who have been shouting at me and Andrea and falsely assuring the American public to step up and explain why they did that and why they were so confident. Because you know, everyone makes mistakes. I think a lot of times people made innocent mistakes. They wanted to see the best. They wanted to believe that institutions would work. But there comes a time where you have to admit that institutions are failing, because if you don't admit that they're failing, they're going to continue to throttle you. And they are hurting innocent people. You know, you can't separate this crime, the crime of treason and of conspiracy between bad U.S. and Russian actors, from the actions of the Trump Administration itself. If you would like children just stop being kidnapped by the Trump Administration, put in cages and sexually assaulted, you need to get this Administration out of power. When you know that the Administration has committed blatant, provable crimes, and that people that are in this Administration who have been involved in some of the most heinous offenses can be taken down if they are just simply prosecuted for these crimes and locked up, obviously you should want that to happen for the good of all the innocent people who have been hurt, for the good of those kids, for the good of our democracy, for the good of Rule of Law, because nobody is above the law. And instead, we just have just such a perverse, disgusting reaction to this where no one is really thinking of the public good. And so yeah. Anyway, I got a little bit off track, but I would appreciate some self-reflection from those who tricked vast swaths of the American public and really made them think that there were secret indictments, that things were going to be okay, that Mueller was some kind of superhero.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:43:44 I mean, it is so unhealthy. It's a terrible tendency. It’s the flip side of authoritarianism. You know, there's the kind of authoritarianism that Trump wants to breed.––the strong-man, the demagogue, you know, the person screaming at rallies and stirring up hate––but then there's another side to it, which is just this submission to authority, submission to the FBI, submission to people like Mueller who's supposed to be, you know, the big strong "G man", the strong and silent type. He was too silent. He didn't speak up for his country, he didn't succeed in defending the American public. And this is not just on him. This is a systemic problem that no one man or woman was ever going to fix. And so he should not be the sole person blamed by any means. But this entire tendency is unhealthy.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:44:31 You need to look at systemic failure, at institutional failure, and then you need to be honest about it and think, what can I do to help? And sometimes all you could do to help is help out on a local level. Sometimes all you could do to help is just be a decent person to other human beings while you figure out the rest of the plan, those are all things you can do and they matter. They matter more than any crappy op-ed David Brooks is pumping out. They matter more than any blathering pundit on TV. How you treat people is what matters.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:45:00 Yeah, absolutely. So, what we're seeing here, if you've been following, for instance, Kremlin aggression for years, and what we've always said on the show is our enemy is absolutely shameless. So prepare yourself now for the worst. We've said that months ago: we are up against an enemy that plays above the law.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:45:22 The rules are not the same. The institutionalists are set up for failure because they're trying to play by the rules and you simply cannot do that. For instance, imagine an institutionalist like Mueller being a Nazi hunter. He would go up to Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, tap him on the shoulder and be like, "excuse me, are you Adolf Eichmann"? [laughter] and Adolf would be like: "no, that's not me. I'm not the architect of the Holocaust", and Mueller to be like, "okay, thank you". And he'd come back and be like "he says it wasn't him". [laughs] It's like same as what he did with Papadopoulos, same as what he did with Manafort, same as what he did with Flynn. Institutionalists do not make Nazi hunters. What we need right now are Nazi hunters because we have actual Nazis in power. The reason why we talk a lot about white supremacy on this show is because “that”, to quote Steve Bannon describing Trump, “is the blunt force instrument" that they're using to terrorize us and to get us to submit.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:46:26 You see a mosque getting shot up in Montreal by a Trump supporter. You see a synagogue getting shot up by a Trump supporter. You see a mosque getting shot up in New Zealand by someone who knows Trump's an idiot, but thinks he's great for the white supremacy movement. This is all part of the terrorism they're using to inflict against us. They really do believe that. It is an ideology of hate. Just like Nazi-ism had an ideology of hate, the inhumane border policy that Steven Miller is carrying out on the border, which Ivanka Trump fully endorses, that is an ideology of hate, which is a big recruitment tool for all the sadists as sexual predators and pedophiles to go join ICE, to go carry out the orders of this ruthless regime that is deliberately carrying out acts of terror on the border to try to keep asylum-seekers from coming here.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:47:19 White supremacy is in the center of all of this. We have actual Nazis in the White House. Steve Bannon is building a fascist academy in Italy right now. Steve Bannon and that whole white supremacy movement is working with Kremlin money. The Kremlin is propping up Far-Right parties across the U.S. That's central to all of this, and there is even a stat that came out saying that wherever Donald Trump holds a rally, hate crimes in that county shoot up over 200%. it's all connected. Jo Cox, the British MP, in the days before the Brexit vote, was killed because of this Far-Right hate-filled propaganda. White supremacy is an ideology that has infiltrated the highest offices of our country, that is carrying out acts of human rights crimes in our name with our tax dollars. It is central to all this. So when you're up against actual Nazis, what you need are Nazi hunters. And unfortunately what we're stuck with are a bunch of institutionalists, like, Nancy Pelosi included, who says things like “Trump is not worth it.”
Andrea Chalupa: 00:48:28 We went into all of that in our last episode together and we'll go into that again and again because it's central to everything that we say. And you cannot have institutionalists at a time when you need actual Nazi hunters to fight actual Nazis. And so we ask everybody when you are taking a hard look at the candidates to take on Trump, yes, you want to get rid of him no matter what, because apparently if the Democrats are so sold on not using their power, as they tend to––you know, Democrats are known for bringing a baguette to a gunfight, so as we said, they’re gonna give away their power and that's what they're doing with refusing to call impeachment. If it does come down to 2020 when the Kremlin's going to be helping their candidate stay in, where Trump needs to stay in to avoid all of the many investigations coming at him and his family, make sure we elect a Nazi hunter. I know we want to get rid of him, but we really need to not have another institutionalist in power because the corruption, the rot, goes so deep now, especially since Trump and his Klan, with a k, has been in there, that we need to elect someone with moral courage, with an independent mind, who is not afraid to dig up the massive coalition of corruption, name names, name receipts, bring them before investigations and unafraid to call Ivanka Trump––for whatever reason, the Democrats did not want to call Ivanka Trump, even though she was central to all this and ran the transition team with Pence, which Gates and Manafort advised and Flynn said, told him to go call the Russians to console them––we need courage, we need independence, we need fearlessness. The institutionalists are losing and have been losing for years, and I do want to go into that really quickly.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:50:07 The big headline, the big headline of this Mueller Report, which we have yet to see, which we may never see, is not just that the Iran Contra Guy, William Barr, came in and did his clean-up job as expected. The big headline is that the FBI has not changed its original opinion, which it broke down in that intelligence report that Obama called before leaving office, where they said with total confidence that “the Kremlin attacked our democracy in 2016 to hurt Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump.” 17 intelligence agencies have said this with confidence. If you look at all of Mueller's indictments, they're targeting a lot of Russians and Russians around this attack of our democracy, so that has not changed. Okay? What the intelligence community under the FBI investigation by special counsel Mueller is reluctant to do, understandably reluctant to do, is admit that there was an historic intelligence failure by Donald Trump willingly, knowingly, being complicit in the act of being a Russian mafia asset.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:51:24 No one wants to admit when they're wrong. James Comey did not want to admit that he was wrong. He has failed to apologize for his contribution in tipping the scales against Hillary Clinton by sending out that abysmal letter, opening up Emailgate again and all the things that he did to deliberately hurt her and deliberately withhold information about how the Russians were attacking us, as they were attacking us. Okay? Comey has not wanted to admit that he was wrong and the FBI does not want to admit that a Russian asset has been installed as President of the United States. They simply do not want admit that. So I want to repeat that. That's the headline, is: Yes. The FBI has confirmed, with 17 total intelligence agencies, that yes, the Kremlin did attack our democracy in 2016. But no, the Trump campaign, you know, so far, is innocent. They were just the beneficiaries, but that doesn't mean that they were in on it by any means. Despite their countless, countless meetings with the Russians, their entire surrogates, from Jeff Sessions meeting with Ambassador Kislyak during the campaign, from Carter Page being a suspected Russian asset going back to 2013, from Don, Jr.'s infamous meeting with Manafort and Kushner with the criminal representatives in Trump Tower in June, 2016, where Manafort wrote down––his notes about the meeting said things like “money.” [laughs] “GOP.”––from all the dark money that was funneling into the GOP and NRA, all of it. I mean, if you look up what the whistleblower at Cambridge Analytica, what he had to say on the heels of the Mueller Report alone, like this is just one quote from Christopher Wiley. He wrote on Twitter, "whatever this report says, here's what I know. When I was at Cambridge Analytica––which is the militarized propaganda firm founded by American oligarch, Robert Mercer, and Steve Bannon, who ran the Trump Campaign––the company hired known Russian agents, had data researchers in Saint Petersburg, tested U.S. voter opinion on Putin leadership, and hired hackers from Russia all while Bannon was in charge".
Andrea Chalupa: 00:53:31 Okay? That's Christopher Wiley, a whistleblower who worked at Cambridge Analytica saying that. So, that's just one tiny component. So, all these components that had been coming out into the Press for over the past two years, all these indictments, all this still stands. The President of the United States is a Kremlin asset. The intelligence community does not want to admit that because that would be an historic failure on their part, on their watch. And this failure has been happening for years. Okay, so the headline is they do not want to admit that Trump and his family are guilty because that means the FBI is guilty. That means the FBI was not doing its job. And we know they have not been doing its job. I mean, we talk about that all the time on the show. Harry Reid begged Comey to come out in two public letters saying, “please, please stop withholding this information about the Kremlin's attack on our election. Please.”
Andrea Chalupa: 00:54:29 Harry Reid was begging him to do this. And James Comey, as FBI director, ignored him. And then you had, also, a statement that was released on October 7th, 2016 by two agencies, two government agencies, where––it was the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence––they issued a statement saying “the U.S. Intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. Political organizations. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” That statement, released by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, released on October 7th of 2016, that was telling us, finally, yes, this attack is going on and it's done so with a purpose to attack our democracy. And it was theft, it was criminality, all of it. Guess who refused to be a part of that statement and sign his name to it? James Comey, the Director of the FBI.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:55:31 So James Comey had no problem holding a press conference on Hillary and her emails. James Comey had no problem being the October Surprise days before the election issuing, saying, “we're opening up Emailgate again.” Oh guess what? Nothing there. A week later he comes out and exonerates Clinton, but by then the damage is already done. So, Robert Mueller, in 2011, gives his "Iron Triangle" speech saying how the mafia is no longer a bunch of fat guys sitting in a pizza parlor in Brooklyn busting peoples’ knee caps in. The Russian mafia in the 21st Century, the Mafia of the 21st Century, is fancy accounting firms, fancy law firms, blood money being made in developing countries like Ukraine and being funneled and laundered into big Western capitals like London and New York. He described the entire coalition of corruption that would go on to get Trump elected in 2016, and he said the face of the Iron Triangles is the head of the Russian mafia, Semion [Yudkovich] Mogilevich, and he's going to stay on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List until he is caught.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:56:33 Well for some reason, which no journalist who interviewed Comey about his book––“a higher royalty” as we call it here on this show, because he's cashing in on helping destroy the Republic––not a single journalist asked Comey: "Why did you take the head of the Russian mafia off the FBI 10 Most Wanted List in 2015? Why did you do that?” And then this mobbed up, corrupt businessman, total con-man, gets elected, who had Trump Tower, that had a Russian mafia legal gambling Don inside Trump Tower. Okay. Why? “Why did you do that, James Comey?" Not a single journalist that interviewed Comey about his book asked him that question and we've never heard Comey asked that question. So for the FBI to come out with the Mueller report and say “yeah, the president and his whole family was in on it. You know how they kept covering up and and denying and lying about all their meetings with the Russians? You know how the President himself looked at Don, Jr.’s letter trying to say that they're talking about adoptions in June, 2016? All those lies, all those cover-ups, all those mysterious meetings. Oh, all those plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow, the highest tower in Europe with a spa branded by Ivanka Trump, that she was in on an emailing about, and penthouse for mass murder Putin? That's nothing. There's no collusion. There was none of that”, because for them to admit otherwise is to say, "we fucked up guys. This was on our watch. We allowed this to happen. Historic intelligence failure that will be remembered centuries from now. No, that wasn't us. Couldn't have been us. The system works. The system works". They want you to believe the system works, when we see clear as day that it's not and it's endangering all of us.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:58:13 Final point, if you look at Bruce Orr––so, go to Google. Sarah and I are not here to Google things for you. We discuss them, but go to Google because you want to read this. Look at Bruce Orr and look up "Oleg Deripaska". Google those two names together. Read the articles on how Bruce Orr of the FBI thought that he could negotiate with the Russian mafia, that he could flip Deripaska. You cannot flip Deripaska, who won the Aluminum Wars in the Car Bomb Nineties in Russia. The Aluminum Wars actually had a body count. That guy is gangster to the core! You cannot flip him. Just like you could not flip Manafort. These guys are gangster to the core. And yet boy scout Bruce Orr diligently tried, you know, under Comey's leadership, to flip Deripaska, thinking that hardcore Deripaska was going to actually come to the side of the United States federal government?
Andrea Chalupa: 00:59:08 No. The oligarchs that surround Putin, like Deripaska, they are ride or die. It is the Russian people, it is the anti-corruption activists, it is the investigative journalists that Putin and the oligarchs fear. It is the grassroots that the Kremlin fears. That's why they're violently suppressing them all the time. And yet, the FBI, and Obama as well, had this naive, boy scout, institutionalist––"The institutions will save us"––mindset strategy in place that if they just did enough sanctions (and this isn't a knock on sanctions because sanctions do work. Sanctions are essential. It's a "Banks Not Tanks" strategy. We do not want to go to war, so sanctions are a peaceful alternative to warfare. We don't want war). Okay? But the problem was that Obama, with his foreign policy, and the FBI, miscalculated, thinking that the oligarchs around Putin would eventually flip because the pressure got so hot they couldn't handle the sanctions.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:00:16 They thought that the oligarchs would finally come around and what, like, dispose of Putin? Do a coup? They thought that these gangsters would turn on the head of their own mafia. That's not how it's done. These guys enjoy their lives in the west. They enjoy feting their politician friends in London. They enjoy buying up all of our real estate and buying our football clubs and all of that, like Abramovich in the UK who's like a son to Putin. And they enjoy having their family back home in Russia taken care of. They don't want their family wiped out because they turn on Putin. So this was a total miscalculation. Russian oligarchs that make up Putin's court love being Masters of the Universe and they love living with all that privilege. That's why they fall in line and are disciplined.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:01:08 It’s the grassroots army on the ground that the Kremlin has been squeezing and suppressing violently. That's who Putin fears. And you've seen that again and again. And he had to invade Ukraine after that popular uprising overthrew his puppet. He had to make sure that Ukraine would fail by having this invasion, by funneling money into pulling puppet strings of corrupt pro-Kremlin politician's inside Ukraine. Putin needs Ukraine to be a failed state because, otherwise, it shows the Russian people that revolutions are successful! Okay? And so, if you want to know where the Russian Resistance is today, it's in Kyiv. Ukrainians and Russians are united and I've had Ukrainian Civic Leaders say “we're keeping the flame of Revolution warm for Russia when Russia's ready.” That is what Putin fears. So, Obama's White House would have saved itself and made a much bigger impact by releasing reports relentlessly, exposing for the Russian people the vast levels of corruption of Putin and his gang.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:02:04 All of that. By, no matter what, supporting financially, throwing all this money at all these civic society groups and investigative journalists, all of these crowdsourcing anti-propaganda efforts, really, really supporting those grassroots, often volunteer-led efforts on the ground––and not just in countries in Russia where Putin makes it impossible, but countries like Ukraine and the Baltic states and so forth.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:02:28 Instead, there's this damning report in the Washington Post that Obama's Foreign Policy Team was ignoring warnings from the Baltics and other states saying this is all happening––that in the 21st Century, the Kremlin's asymmetrical warfare where the little guy has all these clever tactics like social media bots and fake news, propaganda, buying politicians, all these things that are clever and insidious and working––Obama, his White House ignored all that. We saw Ben Rhodes on election night in that brilliant documentary, "The Final Year", where, in his shock of Trump winning the election, Ben Rhodes says, "I guess we underestimated the Russians". These are boy scouts up against the international crime syndicate of the Russian Mafia. Okay? So, no, we're not surprised that it went down like this. We've been telling you it was going to go down like this.
Sarah Kendzior: 01:03:14 Yeah, exactly. And I mean the irony here is that basically American exceptionalism is what enabled treason. American exceptionalism and the belief in it is why we have a Russian asset in the White House. And I completely agree with Andrea that the FBI and other organizations and administrations who should have stopped this, who probably could have stopped this, refuse to engage in the kind of self reflection necessary to move forward. And of course as this is happening, all of these people are being purged. You know, the top Russia mafia and crime experts in the FBI were purged. We had a slow motion Saturday night massacre for, you know, basically from the time that that Trump came into office, and got rid of Preet Bharara and Sally Yates and then, you know, slowly went down the line. And it's enormously frustrating. It's also mindblowing to kind of see the credulity with which people are greeting Barr, who, as we've now noted many times, is best known for exonerating criminals in Iran Contra. You know, he's a clean-up guy for the GOP. But people are acting as if this is just some sort of straight-forward statement of exoneration and, more to the point, they're acting as if massive crime has not been committed by members of the government, by white collar elites and by all of the people who, historically, have always committed crimes throughout American history and gotten away with it. And within this administration alone, you don't just see a replication of a pattern, you see literally the same participants from Watergate, from Iran Contra, from the 9/11 aftermath and the illegal War in Iraq, from the 2008 crash. They are all converged in the Trump Administration. They are all people who, generally speaking, have been unpunished for their crimes––they’ve faced no repercussions––or severely under-punished, or in the case of people like Scooter Libby, they get pardoned by Trump.
Sarah Kendzior: 01:05:16 You know, this is an American criminal cabal that has been intertwined for at least a decade, probably many more––certainly many more in the case of Trump, Manafort and others––with the Russian mafia and with other mafia alliances around the world. And it's been interesting over the last couple years because, not only has the extent and scope of this particular criminal syndicate been exposed, but kind of, you know, tentacles/off-shoots of it that represent their own vast syndicate were finally getting the attention that they should have. For example, Jeffrey Epstein and his career of crime, his underage sex trafficking to world elites. You know, that went on unfettered for decades, you know, and he gets a slap on the wrist with the help of Trump's current Labor Secretary. Trump, you know, was was accused of raping a 13-year-old that was procured for him by Epstein. And so all of this is horrible to contemplate.
Sarah Kendzior: 01:06:12 Nobody wants to think, first of all, that these crimes are happening. They don't want to think that leaders and trusted figures are people who are participating in these crimes or who are allowing them. You don't want to think that the FBI and other organizations are so incompetent or so compromised or so complicit or whatever, that they're not going to stop it. That they're going to abet these billionaire, pedophile rapists and murderers and criminals. But that is the darkness that we've been forced to stare into, and I know it's an unpleasant place to look. I know it's a hideous and reprehensible thing to look at, but it is what we need to see because people were hurt. And that's what it comes down to is that innocent people were hurt. Innocent people are being hurt. Innocent people will continue to be hurt unless this is stopped.
Sarah Kendzior: 01:07:09 And before the Barr report broke––this is not the Mueller Report, it's the Barr Report––it's interesting to sort of look at what was in the news. You know, we had had the Michael Cohen hearing, the testimony, in which he basically admitted that Trump was part of a mafia syndicate, that he, Michael Cohen, was part of this. You know, he was careful about the way he worded it, but he certainly included all of the tactics they use: the threats, the bribes, the extortion, the violence of it all, and then it went on for decades. We are seeing revelations about Epstein come to light, in that case going back not just into the news but into the courts. We had revelations about Robert Kraft and about China and about Trump's connection to Chinese organized crime and sex trafficking. And of course we had, you know, the controversy over Jared Kushner and his clearance forms and Kusher's participation in international crime worldwide, particularly with Saudi Arabia, you know, crimes involving nuclear material.
Sarah Kendzior: 01:08:05 Until a few days ago, people were taking this very seriously. They were rightfully recognizing all of this as a giant international crisis, as a massive threat to American national security, global national security and of course to public safety. None of that has changed because Barr released a four-page, truncated synopsis. None of this has actually gone away. All that's happened is that you have an excuse to look away. But do not take that excuse, especially if you are an elected official. If you're an official––and also if you're a member of the FBI or any other agency that has the capacity to stop or slow this––it is your job to stop it. And if you're in Congress, it is your job, certainly, to do whatever is in your power, which includes impeachment. The Mueller Report was not the grounds on which impeachment was going to be made. It was not some necessary document that anyone needed, because so many of the crimes that this administration committed fell outside the purview of Mueller anyway.
Sarah Kendzior: 01:09:12 You have emoluments, you have abusive of pardon power, you have illegal abuse of migrants, you have other high crimes and misdemeanors. All of this is still happening. We are not safer than we were before. Trump is not somehow more innocent than he was before. He's more guilty. We're watching them participate in an active cover-up. We're watching them set the stage for what are likely to be show trials of the very people who sought to bring these crimes to light, because just as Andrea was describing in Russia of who Putin sees as a threat, it's those who try to bring transparency and those who try to bring accountability, whether they are elected officials or judges or journalists, that is who they need to clamp down on. They’re beginning to do that now. This is not just sort of "raw meat" to throw to the crowd rallies style.
Sarah Kendzior: 01:10:01 They may actually engage in show trials. You may have the Reality TV President putting out a show trial. I mean, it's completely befitting of this administration and, you know, there are some kind of indicators of this beyond them just flat out saying, you know, they intended to. While I am no fan of Michael Avenatti––you know, I think he's a scumbag––it is extremely interesting the timing of this indictment to him by SDNY. I mean, first of all, it shows that yes, federal officials can move fast (this was a Federal and a State indictment, if I have that correctly). The officials can move quickly on indictments if they want to. They have not even though they needed to, in the case of people like Kushner. And of course they're going after one of Trump's enemies, you know, someone who initially was very effective at bringing Trump's crimes into the spotlight, and who may well have prompted further investigation of Michael Cohen, who is one of the few, sort of, I don't want to say "success stories" because this is such a horrible tragedy for America, but he's somebody who has, you know, since come forward and told the truth about what's happened.
Sarah Kendzior: 01:11:05 And there's great value obviously in telling the truth. You know, Avenatti helped put that in motion. That's who they target first. And so you should be concerned about this. You should be worried about how this is going. The reason that Andrea and I have been able to accurately predict so much isn't psychic powers. It's because we've studied autocracies around the world and they follow a playbook. The playbook varies in terms of cultural context, but what we're seeing right now is further entrenchment and I think we're about to see a much more brutal and forthright violation of basic rights like Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of the Press. That's where they go when they consolidate power. And you know, one final point: a lot of people are saying, “okay, Trump feels so comfortable now. He feels exonerated. That's why he's revving up for revenge.”
Sarah Kendzior: 01:11:56 Trump would be doing this anyway. If the Mueller Report had, in a very strong way, convicted him of these crimes yet not actually indicted him––not removed him from power.––he'd be behaving in the exact same way, because revenge is his default mode. Violence is their default mode. And so they would be doing this nonetheless. This is how regimes consolidate and, you know, a thing you should keep in mind is that we had this National Emergency right around the time when, I think, word came out that Mueller was wrapping up, we suddenly get this National Emergency. One of the powers that Trump is now given due to this fake National Emergency, which he said had to do with the violence on the border, is the ability to deploy troops in the U.S. The only other time that power has been given to a president during a national emergency was after 9/11. We are not living with a 9/11 like terrorist crisis. There is a reason that Trump wanted that power and I think everyone should be thinking very deep and hard about what these emergency powers are going to be used for in the months to come, because we're headed into much darker times even than we've seen up until now.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:13:12 And one Italian observer on Twitter noted how the biggest mistake the Left made in Italy when it came to Berlusconi was to expect the justice system to work. They sat back and waited for the justice system to work and it didn't. And Berlusconi stayed in power and then he was reelected and reelected again and so forth. And Italy has just been sinking deeper in corruption. It has a Far-Right government that is proudly in the pocket of Putin. There's been reports out there showing that the Kremlin, with its own corruption, Putin enjoys a lot of wide support in Italy, not only among politicians but of the people. Because what happens is leadership matters. Leadership sets a culture. It sets the norms. And when you have decades of corruption, the norms start changing. And so what we're up against here in the U.S. and, as we're already seeing with the normalization of Barr and what he's done, with people saying things on cable with a straight face saying, “well, shouldn't we all be happy that our President didn't collude with a hostile foreign power?”
Andrea Chalupa: 01:14:17 That's normalization. So, norms are changing and like Sarah said, yes, the Reality TV Show Tyrant might hold these show trials. And the Press will get in lock-step and cover that breathlessly. Ken Dilanian or whatever the hell his name is on NBC has so many fresh bad takes, you know, doing the regime’s bidding, like he likes to do. David Brooks is going to be all over that. You better guarantee, you better believe it. [laughter] So yes, the National Nightmare continues, and it has been depressing for me and Sarah, as prepared as we were for this moment, to watch people wake up to it live on cable TV as it's unfolding, to watch all those fancy legal experts who have been selling us justice porn for so long be genuinely shocked and not know what to make of this, or fall into normalization and say bullshit things like “the system works.”
Andrea Chalupa: 01:15:06 Okay, “we should all be happy that our laws work.” No! This was a massive intelligence failure that's been happening over the course of many years and the intelligence community, from James Comey to Mueller, they don't want to admit the obvious that anybody can see. Yes, we should all be proud that Mueller's investigation has, of course, produced five prison sentences, 37 indictments or guilty pleas, 199 criminal charges and yes, we understand that if all of those charges, all of those guilty pleas, all of those things were announced in a shorter period of time instead of the slow bleed over two years, yes, psychologically it would have a much bigger wow factor. We understand all that. But our issue is that the family, the crime family of the Trumps were central to this––for all the reasons we've already listed, for all the reasons that have been widely reported––and they are allowed, so far, to go free. And they are allowed, so far, to carry out more crimes while in office, including possibly being complicit in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, including possibly selling our state secrets, our nuclear secrets, to enrich themselves and so forth. And including, again, carrying out a human rights crisis in our name, which has led to the deaths of a lot of innocent people and caused incalculable damage to families, including very young children, including babies that have to represent themselves in court.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:16:31 These atrocious crimes are going on since the Trumps came to power and those atrocious crimes since they had come to power, that alone demands impeachment, demands impeachment hearings. So yes, take Russia out of it. And the Democratic Party was extremely smart to show they could walk and chew gum at the same time. They could do the Russia investigations, lead that, and also hit the campaign trail, work on building progressive infrastructure across the country and be a more progressive Democratic Party, and everybody jumped on the Medicare For All bandwagon. All those things are fantastic, that the Democratic candidates smartly did not make Russia central to their campaign, of course. And that's great because we need a more progressive union desperately, because income inequality has ballooned in this country. It's atrocious, the crisis we're under right now. By strengthening the social fabric across our country, we make it harder for Russia to do what it did.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:17:24 So yes, all of that is essential, what they're doing, and the Democratic Party was very smart in that regard. What is dangerous is that they are allowing human rights crimes and rampant corruption to get away without a fair hearing. And yes, there's other hearings, other committees, other things, but impeachment is obligated when you have this level of corruption. It's a political choice not to call impeachment, and that is simply not true, as Joaquin Jeffery said, that this big blue wave didn't come on impeachment, it absolutely did. We've seen impeachment signs at all these demonstrations. We've seen candidates that were running talk openly about impeachment. We've seen this whole grassroots army rise up creating blue wave miracles in Newt Gingrich's former district in Georgia, which is deeply Red, in Staten Island where Max Rose pulled off a Staten Island miracle, which was when that district was deeply Red and for Trump, we've seen this grassroots army emerge.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:18:19 It's the grassroots power that drove the blue wave, not Nancy Pelosi's institutionalist calculations and backroom deals.
Sarah Kendzior: Mmhmm.
Andrea Chalupa: I don’t know what Nancy Pelosi traded and got in return for not calling impeachment because impeachment was very much a war cry of this grassroots movement. I saw it myself directly. We all saw it. Don't gaslight us that that wasn't a part of what motivated us. Even though we know it will never pass the Senate, well, guess what? That doesn't stop the House from passing all types of things they know aren't going to pass the Senate. So why? Why are they stopping short of impeachment? And we know it's not going to remove him from office. We know that. We know that 2020 is really our last chance to actually remove him. What we're saying is “my God, Democrats, follow the rule of law. Don't make some weird, mysterious calculated move that's a purely political decision not to call impeachment when it is your duty constitutionally in the House to call impeachment when the facts demand it. And you are buried in facts that are screaming loud and clear that this is a corrupt, abusive administration and the crimes go very deep, and we need an airing. And impeachment is something that is what our founders baked in the Constitution to allow for that.” So you know where we stand on that, and the American people are being gaslit left and right right now. We know it's painful and that's why this show, unfortunately, goes on. If the Trump Family did nothing wrong, then the intelligence community did nothing wrong. And so that's why we don't have faith in any of these other investigations.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:19:54 Yes, there are several other federal investigations and other districts states like Virginia and New York. Yes, there is a state level district here in New York, which has been called by the Manhattan DA Cy Vance, the same Cy Vance that essentially took a bribe to look the other way when a Trump lawyer came and made a donation to his campaign when he was in the middle of investigating Ivanka and Don, Jr. for frauding investors in Trump Soho, that Cy Vance. So no, we don't have any confidence there either. And yes, there are several state AGs that are also looking into the Trump Klan and Mueller essentially decentralized his investigation by farming out all these other cases to all these various swirling investigations. Forget any of those exist. They simply do not exist because, as Sarah noted, we had a big purge of the FBI. There's a lot of intimidation that goes on that we don't even hear about.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:20:49 You don't even know my sister's full story of what the hell she's gone through. That's her story to tell when she's ready, but we're always holding up her story, you know, my sister being a DNC consultant that blew the whistle on Manafort and suffered death threats and all types of harassment for exposing him to the Press. And she's still targeted. Even after Manafort was arrested, he was still working with the White House to target my sister, Christopher Steele and the FBI. And guess who they are coming for now that they've been "exonerated"? My sister, Christopher Steele and the FBI. And they're investigating, now, the investigators. The real witch hunt is beginning. So it's very scary times ahead and yes, people did not expect it to be this bad and they're struggling publicly on TV. We're watching, in real time, people either succumbing to normalization or being shocked that it was really this bad all along. Yes, it was really this bad all along.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:21:45 Amd the one victory in all this––the one thing we can all be absolutely proud of––are in the investigative journalists. They did their jobs. Investigative journalists, reporters, good ones, hey are obsessive. They are obsessive and they beat down a story. They get all the facts out. And they have left us with a brilliant, wide-in-scope record of this massive coalition of corruption and how it all went down. They did exactly what Sarah told everyone to do back in November, 2016 when she said, “write it all down. Write it all down. Make a record of how the norms are changing, how everything's changing around you because they're going to say, one day this didn't happen. They're going to tell you, ‘do not believe what you see. Do you not believe what you hear’”, and that's what's happening now.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:22:31 And so, where Mueller and the FBI failed us in order to cover their own asses, the investigative journalists left us a deep, wide-in-scope record of how all of this went down, who Christopher Steele is, what his report really means, how Ivanka Trump is implicated, Jared Kushner, all of it. That record remains in these great books like "Russian Roulette" and the books of Malcolm Nance and all of the wonderful reporting by Natasha Bertrand, who is also being targeted, by the way, and others. This was a victory for the investigative journalists. That all stands true. David Corn is relentless in trying to say to us, “do not be gas lit, do not be gas lit. Trump was treasonous. Trump is corrupt. Trump is guilty”, and he's being attacked by absolute hypocrites like Glenn Greenwald. History will look back on Greenwald and not know what to make of him, or understand why we treated him like a hero of transparency or a hero of the Left at any point, given that he's all over Tucker Carlson's show, he's all over the state propaganda channel owned by Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, given that he's cheering on the Iran Contra guy’s cover-up. History will not look kindly on Glenn Greenwald and there's nothing Glenn Greenwald can do about it. He, who deleted 27,000 tweets or something like that over key years when he was essentially working with Assange, who has been identified as a Kremlin asset––yes, the NSA should not be spying on us, but at the same time, why is Greenwald the master of transparency deleting tweets during a really active key year for him when the Kremlin especially was ramping up?
Andrea Chalupa: 01:24:04 It's a misinformation war in the West and giving refuge under Assange's advice to Ed Snowden. Greenwald is an absolute hypocrite and he cannot escape history––the judgment of history––and that's a fact. And he can cheer on the Iran Contra guy all he wants. He can spread his nonsense on Fox News all he wants. He can attack us all he wants. But, the reality is, you cannot escape the judgment of history in free societies. We don't know what the future will hold in this country, but we're working to try to fact-check normalization, refuse normalization and to give you a place to go to become un-gaslit, because yes, people are scared and they fall into lockstep and they submit and it's horrifying to watch.
Andrea Chalupa: 01:24:43 But we refuse to ever do that. And they know that. And that's why people like to attack us.