Coalition of Corruption
We breakdown Trump's war on America in the form of the longest government shutdown in our nation's history, the urgent case for#ImpeachmentNow, and examine Deripaska's very sweet sanctions deal.
Sarah Kendzior: 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 activist focused on Ukraine and Russia.
Sarah Kendzior: And this is Gaslit Nation, a podcast covering corruption in the Trump administration and authoritarianism around the world. We are now in our fourth episode devoted to the government shutdown. The shutdown has now been going on for over a month, making it by far the longest shutdown in U.S. history, and there are no signs that it is stopping. We have been telling you the same thing from the start: this is not a shutdown but a hostile restructuring. This is not about Trump knowing too little about how government works, but about a team of GOP operatives and outside advisors knowing far too much. They know that a shutdown achieves kleptocratic, destructive goals that the Trump team has held for a long time. You can see it in the 2013 GOP led shutdown, which sought to make temporary cuts permanent, and Trump repeatedly saying that tanking the economy is a good idea, and Bannon calling for the deconstruction of the administrative state. We have discussed all of this in the past three episodes of Gaslit Nation, which are titled Cabinet of Horrors, American Carnage and The Comey Effect—it’s a very fun show. So I recommend you go listen to those, but to summarize, under a shutdown, the Trump team and the GOP have even less oversight and accountability than before. They can destroy federally protected lands. They’re already doing this through offshore drilling, and it’s likely that they’re going to move on to National Parks, and to saw on both our environment and our national heritage. They’re purging agencies of workers essential to public safety, and national security: the TSA, the FDA, Cybersecurity officials. They’re slowing down the Mueller Probe, making it difficult to operate, and ultimately, they may make it impossible for the FBI, Mueller and others to investigate financial crimes in which the Trump Administration is implicated. They’ve created a humanitarian crisis. Already, you have furloughed workers unable to pay their bills and on the verge of losing their homes. We’re about to have a massive food stamp crisis since 2500 retailers could not renew their EBT debit card licenses under the shutdown, which means that 39 million people may not be able to get food. And the population that relies on EBT the most includes a large number of children and elderly people. So this is an attack on the most vulnerable people in this country. But in addition to being an attack on the most vulnerable, the shutdown is also a defense of the most privileged. As we’ve discussed on Gaslit Nation, the attempts to seriously hold Trump and his criminal cronies accountable has been lackluster at best, and as we warned years ago, the longer an autocrat stays in office, the harder it is to remove him or prosecute him for his crimes. That’s why we’ve seen purchase of agencies like the FBI, and especially of officials with expertise like organized crime, or in Russia. Now we have even more those officials unable to do their jobs, leaving a power vacuum that, if history is any guide, will likely be filled by Trump lackies, particularly by members of the Trump family like Jared and Ivanka. We have the House, with its newly Democratic majority, unable to wield any structural power because they are too busy dealing with the shutdown. The shutdown is a very effective means for Trump and other criminals to consolidate power, and it also shows how they see the American people as disposable. Our incomes, our freedom, our lives are all disposable to them.
And so those attempting to fight this need to reconceive what this is about, especially what leverage means here. Because the people do not have their traditional leverage in this situation. The Trump Camp and the GOP aren’t worried about public approval, because they’re not worried about losing elections, because they don’t plan on having free and fair elections. They’re moving us toward authoritarianism, and have been for years, and this is just an acceleration of that process. This is why time is and always has been the enemy, and the refusal to recognize the urgency of this threat has been fatal to fighting it. The Trump Camp is content to let the clock run out, and they are content to let the shutdown go on eternally, and every day is time that we can’t get back. Every day is damage done.
So Andrea, what are your thoughts?
Andrea Chalupa: My thoughts are—well you know. You know what my thoughts are.
Sarah Kendzior: [laughter] Well, I think everyone needs to know what your thoughts are.
Andrea Chalupa: Well, the shutdown is now in my dreams. I am having nightmares about the shutdown. I was just telling Sarah before we recorded I had a dream last night about being stuck in an airport, just flooded with people. The airport was like a refugee camp of people, and we were all trying to get through security. And then we managed to get on a flight, and getting on a flight was like getting on a Titanic lifeboat, but even though you’re on the flight, you still have this sense of danger, of, “Is anyone watching us? Are we safe? Is anyone in air traffic control?” And so I think what people have to understand, that this isn’t just a government shutdown. This is essentially the Fyre Festival. It’s an immense, Ponzi Scheme-level crisis designed to protect Trump and his family and distract from impeachment moving forward, impeachment being something Trump cared deeply about, as reports said during 2018. He was obsessed with Mueller, obsessed with impeachment. He saw that coming should the Democrats win Congress. And of course, we had such a huge showing in the House, which votes for impeachment, so suddenly Trump created this whole excuse that he must suddenly listen to Ann Coulter. You know, Ann Coulter is essentially giving Trump coverage right now so he can fight for this border wall that would just be such a huge waste of money that even experts on border security are saying, “That’s not the solution.” And he’s ignoring practical border solutions, security solutions that both sides of the aisle have already agreed to and voted on. This is like the Fyre Festival, which is that huge rich-kids-of-Instagram, Lord of the Flies, dystopian meltdown that was excellently retold in this Netflix series I just watched—
Sarah Kendzior: I watched that, too! I watched both of them, dude!
Andrea Chalupa: Oh my god—
Sarah Kendzior: Netflix and Hulu—
Andrea Chalupa: It was a horror. It was a horror.
Sarah Kendzior: It was! I felt the same way. I was looking at it, and I was like, “This is what are government is.” It’s like, white collar crime—
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah.
Sarah Kendzior: —luring people in, bankrupting them, shaking them down, deceiving them with social media. There’s a lot, unfortunately, to be learned from the Fyre Festival, only instead of these idiots running a festival, we have these progeny, Jared and Ivanka, running a government.
Andrea Chalupa: How the shutdown is like the Fyre Festival is that the rich kids of Instagram, the elite, suffered. They were brought down by this in this consumerism-themed dystopian disaster in the Bahamas. They were brought down by this, and so were the very poor. So what I want to underline is Trump’s shutdown is coming for all of us. It’s not just the people who, the middle class that are going to be suffering from this, it’s going to have a trickle-up effect, because we’re talking about issues like the regulation of our food safety. That is dangerous, there. I know there could be civil lawsuits and what have you that could hold these private companies accountable, but really what we’re seeing overall is that the shutdown is imbedded in this much larger trend of the Trump administration and the judges that they keep appointing being very pro-business and anti-regulation generally. So what we’re having is a deliberate failure of government, a deliberate mass-purging of government, and a much larger context of profits being put between human lives. And that is very much the position of this government, that’s very much who Trump stacked his cabinet with, sort of like a who’s who, a garbage pail deck of cards with some of the worst people for the environment, the health industries and what have you. So it’s a Ponzi scheme that’s coming for all of us. I’m very worried that there’s no end in sight, and that is by design.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah.
Andrea Chalupa: And I’m very worried about the very human toll it’s going to take, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are reported casualties related to this, just like there have been related to, for instance, his state-sanctioned kidnapping on the border that’s been going on, the family separation and what have you.
Sarah Kendzior: Or Puerto Rico is an example of being a massive humanitarian crisis, you know, within U.S. Government territory, that the government did nothing to solve. It just let people die and then lied about the deaths and covered it up. I think that it would be, you know, easy, especially with the way that our media operates, for them to hide this or play it down, and even now I feel like people aren’t fully grasping the scope of it. And I think there’s an expectation that, you know, “Of course this has to end,” or, “Of course this can’t drag on forever,” because in the past it never has. And what people need to get is we hit a turning point at 2016. You know, we entered a new phase of American history, and possibly the demise of America. And you know, I hate stating it that starkly, but if you want to save this country, you know, if you want to save people’s lives and try to mitigate this damage, you know, we need to confront that head on because we are very vulnerable right now, everything you listed about the lack of regulation and the lack of oversight, they kind of go hand in hand, with regulation you see environmental destruction, you see the potential of food poisoning, of the lack of inspections, of the lack of, you know, for example, cyber-security, you know that’s a big defense mechanism that we’ve let lapse under this shutdown, which ironically was about border security itself. I mean, that’s the border that they should be looking at is cyber-invasion and infrastructure hacks. And then with that you have accountability, you know, where you have a series of criminals working in our government that are not going to be held accountable for their crimes, because they’re not allowing the people that could investigate those crimes or indict them for those crimes do their jobs, although their willingness to do that was in question already. But yeah, you know, it’s a disaster at every level. It’s weird looking back, because, you know, if you listen to our older episodes, we were both worried about the integrity of the midterm election. You know, there had been a lot of signs that they either wouldn’t accept the vote or try to rig the election, and we did see some of that play out, for example, with Stacey Abrams in Georgia. But overall, the Democrats won the House, and with them winning the House, it meant that certain policies could be put in play, and certain proceedings could begin, like impeachment.
You know, I was sort of surprised that the Republicans were not fighting that quite as hard as I expected them to, with the level of dirtiness that I’ve come to expect from them, and I think it is possible that they had this shutdown mechanism in mind, you know, that this was sort of in the background all the time, of like, “Well, we can just shut it all down.” There doesn’t need to be a reason. There doesn’t need to be logic. There doesn’t need to be adherence to law, because there’s never any repercussions. There’s never any consequences, so why would they expect any now. And that unfortunately means that for us, you know, citizens having to live under this, we need to expect the worst, or else we’re never going to be able to fix it and react to it properly.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. When you’re following the shutdown news, never lose sight of the fact that Nancy Pelosi has to negotiate with people like Jared Kushner that know they could be indicted. That’s the dynamic we’re dealing with, is that this new House came in, and Trump went from fearing impeachment, expecting impeachment, to suddenly sitting opposite side of the table of the Democrats in a negotiation that is holding our government hostage. I just think that it’s, the Democrats of course are in a tough position as well, and even though there’s a long list of reasons by now, as Brad Sherman’s resolution on impeachment, he’s of course a Democrat in California who one of the very first things he did when he got sworn in was introduce this resolution for impeachment. There’s a long list of reasons to impeach Trump, but of course we can’t get there now, because it’s become a growing crisis that we have to get the government back open, and unfortunately the Democrats are being forced to negotiate with a person, Donald Trump, who is notorious in his many decades of corrupt and questionable business dealings of being a very bad dealmaker and a demeaning negotiator. The was one account of that, he doesn’t want to—the way Trump judges a negotiation of whether it’s successful or not is if he’s able to humiliate the other side. And so it’s not going to end until he gets that, and who would give him that for a waste of five billion dollars on a wall that’s just going to become a monument to this man’s greed and stupidity?
I think it’s imperative of the media not to fall into the trap of both sides-ing the shutdown, and I think it’s going to be very easy to do that, because what you’re dealing with is, naturally, nearly a million people. There’s around 800 thousand federal workers alone, and then on top of that you have contractors, so that’s a huge talent pool that if these people start fleeing to private sector jobs, we’re gonna be stuck replacing that brain drain, which is going to adversely affect our services, our government, as well. So all of this is a big security threat to all of us.
Let’s go back to the fact that Trump wants this to keep going because it is protecting him. And you’ll have to forgive me—I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night because of my Trump shutdown nightmare. I really didn’t. But it’s important for the media to provide larger context to what the shutdown is, how it started, what the motivation is for this shutdown, what it stems from. Because remember, John Kelly told us. John Kelly said Trump himself didn’t care about the wall. The wall was just some throwaway line by Roger Stone, who probably had tons of them during the 2016 campaign. Suddenly, Trump has resurrected his need for the wall, and you need to call all of this into question, and the media, when you’re interviewing people who are literally facing life and death, they’re fighting chemo while their paycheck has been turned off, so these are very, very incredibly vulnerable and incredibly scared people who have a right to say what they need to say in order for their pain to be heard, but when you show people on TV saying, “I blame both sides; I blame the Democrats,” they have a right to say that. They absolutely have a right to say that because we need to, all of us as a nation need to rely on the Democrats to get us out of this. But the media, also you have to provide important context for Mitch McConnell and his role in this. Jared Kushner’s role in this. Trump’s long list of motivations for how this shutdown is serving him.
Sarah Kendzior: Yes.
Andrea Chalupa: All of it. Do not let your audiences, your viewers, lose sight of the black, dead heart of Trump’s shutdown. You know what it is. You’ve been reporting on the indictments that have been chipping away at his inner campaign circle. You know what’s at stake for him and his family. So please stay grounded in the larger picture here. It’s sort of like, think of it this way: with all of the Russia investigation exploding over the last several months and last few years, it was very, very important for people in the media to stay grounded and walk back this sort of hysteria that Putin is hiding under our beds, you know, that Putin is in every little thing, and that Putin is to blame for everything. So it’s been very important for the media to stay grounded in sort of providing larger context to the bombshells that were coming out on the Russiagate investigation as they were being revealed, because you don’t want to sort of spread that hysteria, and we certainly don’t want there to be like an anti-Russian backlash, because the Russian people themselves, of course, are victims Putin’s kleptocracy just like we were with his attack on us in the 2016 election. So all this is to say is that we know the media’s working overtime now, and that it’s very stressful on all of us. Sarah and I are both sick on this podcast, as you might be able to hear, and we wonder if it’s because the Trump regime is bad for our immune systems, which I’m sure he is. [laughter]
So I know we’re all working overtime. It’s very hard. It’s very distressing, and we’re dealing with nearly a million people, plus contractors, who have every right to be furious and terrified, and I can’t even imagine what they’re going through, and it’s important, though, regardless of that, to not both sides this thing. You cannot, for the sake of those people who are suffering, for the sake of the solutions we need to get through this, for the sake of getting our government back open, you cannot both sides Trump’s shutdown. There is only one person to blame for this, and that is Trump, and of course his enablers like Mitch McConnell.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, I was about to say, you know, a lot of people are sort of structuring this as Trump versus Pelosi or Trump versus the Democrats, which is a stupid structure anyway, you know, this shole horse race vision of American politics, which in many ways is divorced from American life. You know, people aren’t wondering, “Ooh, who’s gonna win?” They’re wondering, “How am I gonna eat? How am I gonna pay my bills?” And that’s what’s at stake. But I think it’s important to put what Trump is doing in the context of all these different enablers, especially Mitch McConnell, and you know of course hostile foreign states that work with Trump and benefit from this shutdown. This situation is tremendously beneficial for a large number of parties, and in previous episodes of the show, you know, we’ve broken down those groups into detail, and one of the things that stood out to me as you were talking, you know, about the pain people were going through, and the sort of sense of uncertainty about the future, is, you know, and I was kind of thinking of this in terms of the Fyre Festival and these Instagram kids who thought they lived above it all but were brought crashing down to earth by that disaster is, one thing I have always wondered is you have all these corrupt officials. Okay, I can see why they’re acting this way for themselves. They want money. They want to rise in the ranks. They want to hold on to their position, they’re being blackmailed, etc.
But when you look at the long-term future of this country, we know this situation is not sustainable. We know the goal is to strip the U.S. down, sell it for parts, and that a tiny, tiny group of kleptocrats is going to benefit from this. It’s not even going to be, like, the one percent; it’s going to be like the .0001 percent. And then you combine that with climate change, and the threat of climate change, and you can basically see this, you know, cultish sort of group, this very apocalyptic group. If you look at people like Pence or Pompeo, they really don’t see a future for this country, and Trump his whole life has always said he doesn’t see a future in general for Earth. He thinks that Earth will be destroyed in a nuclear war. It’s something he’s thought this whole time, and so that’s something that really frightens me about this situation, is you can’t argue with logic. You can’t argue with sort of long-term thinking. It’s not that they don’t share the same long-term vision. They don’t have a long-term vision. It’s all short-term, and maybe some of them are focusing on little gains and wins, but I think it’s something darker than that. I think it’s something deeper than that, especially for the very, you know, the religious extremists, and for Trump, who you know is a sociopath.
This is not who we want in charge, and yeah, you can’t both sides it. You have to give context. You have to analyze the power structure. You know, what exactly can the Democrats do in this situation? And you certainly don’t want them giving in when you know they will not be rewarded for it, because this is not really about a wall. This could go on endlessly. And also you see people like Steven Miller trying to get really horrific policies passed related to immigration, you know, neo-Naziesque policies put into these bills, and force the Democrats to make that kind of concession and decision, which is just immoral, and it harms real people.
So yeah, hopefully the rest of the media will catch on to that.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, the media cannot lose sight of the fact that experts in border security say we do not need this. In fact, Trump’s wall will not work, and both sides of the aisle already voted on sensible solutions for border security. It’s already there. I just want to say, media, do not lose sight of the fact that experts in border security say that we do not need Trump’s wall. It will not work. It’s a waste of money. Keep reminding people of that. Stay grounded in the facts.
What Steven Miller, Trump and Ann Coulter, what they essentially want to do is put up a long row of giant burning crosses on the border. That’s all this is, and do not let people lose sight of the fact that were not going to waste several billion dollars on something as useless as a giant row of KKK burning crosses. We’re not going to do that.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah.
Andrea Chalupa: That’s not in anyone’s interest. And I want to say also, we have to, all of us as Americans, especially those who are suffering greatly right now and probably having nightmares—I mean, if I’m having nightmares, I can’t even imagine what the people living through this are going through, and their families—and so all of us need to remember that what Trump, what the Trump family and Putin’s Kremlin and the NRA, that whole coalition, Eric Prince and Betsy Devos, that whole coalition of corruption, but namely of course the NRA, the Trump family and the Kremlin, what they did to us in 2016, that was a terrorist attack. That was a terrorist attack.
We have been suffering as a nation ever since. There’s a very long list of casualties that have come up because of this administration, and psychologically as a people right now, this is very traumatic, what we’re all undergoing. So don’t lose sight of that as well.
And I think one way we all have to think about our roles now, living through this shutdown with no end in sight, is those who are directly affected by it, those of us who are like me, we have to think of it almost as the American generation of World War II, when we were all of a sudden buying U.S. bonds and making all kinds of sacrifices, and sadly, those inside of the federal government, please continue showing up to work for the greater good. And the rest of us need to donate what we can, everything we can, to help support you, to, you know, to credible GoFundMe sites. We need to amplify those. We need to amplify the unions that are working very hard to protect their members.
So all of us as a nation right now need to really stay united and make these sacrifices, and be very organized, and try desperately to bring relief to those who are suffering the most throughout this. It’s almost like our patriotic duty to survive this and get through it, because we’re dealing with a White House that is working directly against our interests and our national security, and we cannot allow them to defeat us. We cannot allow them to win. We cannot allow them to destroy this country, and the way we’re gonna get through it is by supporting each other as much as we can, through GoFundMes that are verified, through amplifying important voices that are fighting to protect the workers and just supporting each other community to community. And that’s how we’re gonna get through it, and that’s how I really see this. It’s like, up there, but this time it’s like World War II, like I said, how America really came together through that, the most, the greatest generation. But this time the fascism is coming from inside the house.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, no, I agree with that completely, and that’s what’s, you know, that’s what’s terrifying about it, is we haven’t had this kind of threat. You know, you and I lived through 9/11, our grandparents lived through World War II, our parents lived through, you know, the turmoil of the 1960s. We haven’t had a president whose greatest loyalty is to a hostile foreign state, who openly commits crimes, who’s surrounded by enablers who commit crimes. You know, we, during Watergate you had a president who was a crook, and you also had a government that was willing to hold him accountable. And you had a media willing to really dig deep and cover it. And of course you also did not have the element of treason, which is an entirely new thing to deal with, and it’s been a very hard thing, I think for people to even comprehend psychologically, in part because it’s been planned for a long time. This didn’t come out of the blue.
You know, when you said before that this is basically like a terrorist act, you know, you can’t negotiate with terrorists. You know, all you can do is remove them, and you certainly want to remove them from power, which is why I think we need to push still, even now, for impeachment, and of course we still need to push for indictment, and I don’t think of this as a partisan move. You know, I live in a red state. I live in Missouri, and I live near people who work for the federal government, or who are on EBT, who get food stamps. Some of them are Democrats, some are Republicans, you know, conservatives and liberals. Everybody is suffering because of this. We have a government that’s looking out for no one. It’s not looking out for people who voted for Trump. It’s not looking out for anybody but the tiny group of kleptocrats and plutocrats and corporate raiders and people from states that actively hate our country—they are benefitting from this.
So yeah, we need to see the process of impeachment take place in a neutral light, in an objective way which is not about partisanship, it’s not about revenge, it’s about the presentation of evidence in the public domain, evidence that the public has long had a right to know. And in the past, hearings the subject of Trump and corruption and Russia have been effective. You know, for all our criticism—rightful criticism—of James Comey, the Comey hearings have been a blockbuster, and many people were aware for the first time of the severity of the charges that are looming against Trump. And so it’s important to have for the public to make up its own mind; it’s important for this to be stripped away from any attempt of the media to twist and turn it. This is a long-term process. It’s not something that, you know, often when people talk about impeachment, they give this myth of, “Oh, you only have one shot. Oh, you have to wait for Mueller. Oh, you have to, you can’t do it now. There’s a timeline for this.”
You know, as I said before, time is the enemy, and we don’t have just one shot. There are a lot of things that Trump can be impeached for. You know, articles of impeachment have been filed, basically from the moment he took office, on obstruction of justice, on emoluments, on crimes and misdemeanors, on unlawful imprisonment. And, you know, the time to prosecute, and the time to at least discuss this, is now. And does this mean that Trump will actually be impeached? It’s very unlikely, because if it passes the House, the Senate is not going to convict him, and if the Senate does convict him, Trump’s not gonna leave. He’s just gonna sit there forever. I think the only way that he would ever actually leave the White House is either in handcuffs, kicking and screaming, or with Ivanka or Jared installed as President behind him so he can keep this kleptocratic money train going.
This doesn’t have to do with partisanship. This is a safety matter, and this is something that the House should pursue now for the integrity of the nation. There is a reason that the impeachment process was created, and we’re seeing that reason every day that goes by with Trump in power.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. It’s almost like the foot-dragging for impeachment is a horrible indication that normalization has set it, that we’re so used to these investigations and all of these crimes being exposed that we’re almost numb to it. And so everybody’s waiting, it’s almost like a weird adrenaline addiction where you’re binge-watching a Netflix series that is your own government.
The normalization setting in, we’re numb to Trump’s crimes, it’s like we’re binge-watching a Netflix series that is our own government, and everybody’s waiting for the next bombshell to drop instead of looking back on all the bombshells that have been happening and building that strong case for impeachment based on what we already know. We don’t need any more at this point; we can work with what we have. It’s important, as Sarah has listed, that we get impeachment started. It’s going to be a long process. It’s not gonna be done overnight, and I know the arguments against this, which include we have to wait for the Mueller report, as Sarah mentioned. People have to prepare themselves, especially if you have William Barr coming in as Attorney General. We might not see the Mueller report, and even then we don’t know whose hands are gonna get on it and water it down, or it just might be a disappointment. We cannot put all our eggs in that basket, and furthermore, this Trump crime is so far-reaching, what they did in 2016 and what they continue to do, that it’s a trauma on the level of the JFK assassination, like we’re gonna have historians and journalists picking away at this thing for many, many, many years to come.
Future historians are going to be fixated on this, and in all the various complicit roles in it. So there is no closure to any of Trump's crimes and we have to stop waiting for some big Netflix season finale. It's not coming, and for the sake of our country, we have to start in earnest impeachment process now. And Representative Brad Sherman is absolutely correct, and he's always been a very solid representative inside Congress. He's not flashy. He's quite boring and serious, and it's time that we followed his lead and begin impeachment hearings. And I know another argument against impeachment, of course, is that Mueller's office is going to become overwhelmed with phone calls from the press and what have you. We know that Mueller is very quiet when it comes to any press comment, with the very rare exception, as we just saw with BuzzFeed. But it's, Mueller's office can batten down the hatches as it needs to when impeachment hearings start, and let the Democratic offices and the Republican offices, let them speak to the press and show what the paper trail, whatever they're allowed to show, and let the press dig through that. And so it's just at this point, we're not only fighting the Trump regime, but we're fighting against normalization.
So speaking of BuzzFeed, we had a really interesting discussion in the media over whether or not BuzzFeed's reporting is credible that the President of the United States directed his lawyer to lie to Congress about the whole Russia investigation. Now the two reporters in question, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, they have been excellent. They have been reliable. They have been producing a lot of big bombshells that require a lot of vetting and working sources and convincing people to trust you and in the case of their big story they broke right around the time of the December holidays. That was a damning report on treason inside the Treasury, which a whistleblower alert went through the system to alert authorities to and ended up in jail, reminding us again that the extreme risks that whistleblowers take to inform the Free Press. Anthony and Jason are, have proven themselves to be excellent reporters and important ones in this ongoing, very weedy Trump-Russia investigation. What happened here was spokesperson Peter Carr, for, did speak out in a statement that was worded in such a way that it became a Rorschach test of what it meant in the statement released by Carr. He, it was a rare dispute by Mueller's office, casting doubt on this BuzzFeed report. The reason why people were so excited about this report is that the Nixon impeachment got started based on Nixon directing people to lie. Obstruction of justice. So people saw history repeating and that here was yet another smoking gun to further build the case for impeachment, even though how many smoking guns, smoking cannons do you need at this point? Another criticism against the BuzzFeed investigation was an email that was released showing how the journalists didn't explicitly state in their email to the FBI what the report was essentially gonna be built on. That they should have been more explicit, clear in their language. So it was more just, did Cohen direct anyone to lie? Just the e-mailing was sort of not above reproach, people were pointing out. Regardless of all that, Ben Smith, the editor of BuzzFeed, stands by his reporters. They checked again with their sources for their story,, who are telling them to hold firm and what's happening now is just a wait and see. And it's been very ugly discussion in the media, because what you saw was a very strange piece in CNN digging up all this dirt on Jason Leopold that Jason Leopold himself revealed about himself in a memoir about his struggles with addiction. And yes, like anybody that's been in journalism for a very long time, he's made some mistakes in the past that he's of course gone to atone for, but it was a weird hit piece by CNN that came out right on the heels of the BuzzFeed story, so the timing was very odd. It was almost like CNN had been gunning for Jason Leopold. They came right on the heels of BuzzFeed releasing that big smoking gun piece, so all of us are really weirded out by that, created a huge backlash against CNN. And I think the important thing to keep in mind is journalists, even Woodward and Bernstein, did things like this when they were uncovering Watergate. These are very big stories. All journalists, every single journalist, gets things wrong. I've gotten things wrong. Sarah's gotten things wrong. As soon as you know, you correct them. You address them, if you were indeed wrong. You know, typos happen all the time. When you're digging into research, when you're digging and pulling the facts together for a story, you know maybe you speak in some shorthand that's not precise enough. It happens, and you address it with your audience when it's flagged for you, when you can catch it. And unfortunately today we're we're operating in a world without fact-checking departments. I started in journalism with a fact-checking department. My articles were scrutinized. If you wrote in an article it was raining that day, they would really be like, they would double check that it was indeed raining that day, and we don't have that anymore. Fact-checkers and copy editors, those departments are disappearing, and we're paying the price for it. So you know, so journalists, especially freelance journalists, we all have to triple check our facts, and we all have to be quick to issue corrections and what have you. In BuzzFeed's case though, they are more established. They they just won a big legal battle where they're sued for the Steele dossier, which they were very brave to publish. Many credible media outlets passed on publishing the Steele dossier or even taking Christopher Steele seriously during the 2016 campaign. And BuzzFeed did something very heroic where they said, where they just published it flat out because they felt like the people had a right to know. They won their case. It was a defamation case brought by a Russian named in the Steele dossier, and it was a victory for the freedom of the press.
And so Buzzfeed, Ben Smith, having gone through that trauma, could, you know, you never know if you're gonna win or not. It was not inevitable that BuzzFeed was going to win this. But Ben Smith, editor at BuzzFeed, having gone through that trauma of that big lawsuit for publishing the Steele dossier, you think that he would be extra cautious every hit he took after that, every big story they released after that, like this big, latest BuzzFeed exposé on Trump directing Cohen to lie, according to sources that would have knowledge of this. This is some serious vetting and questioning that had to have gone on before they took this hit, and they would, they certainly wouldn't want to be dragged into court again for a story like this. They know how big the chances are they're taking, and they know that they're flying very close to the sun. I mean, that's what good investigative journalists do, and it's, and it can be of course very dangerous. There are many stories of that, and we're living in a time what's never been more dangerous for journalists, even here now in the U.S. And so I think this is just a matter of letting it play out, and just see what else is revealed over time. And I think nothing is normal anymore. So for Mueller's office to speak out, especially when you have William Barr coming in as attorney general, I think that has to be taken into account when you have an FBI that is releasing a statement as of today that they are suffering because of the government shutdown and therefore they're incredibly limited and strained in fighting crime, in holding people accountable, in issuing grand jury subpoenas, all of it. So our FBI itself just released a 72 page report about the shutdown and how it's impacting them. So you are dealing with an FBI that is in crisis. So it's a cauldron right now. It's a cauldron of a very tense situation of the time when this story's coming out, so you don't know what factors are playing into this yet, none of us do. And I know there's some criticism on the sourcing of this, and I've read it all, I've seen the discussions going back and forth, I've talked to people that know Ben Smith well, and defend him and provide theories for what this could be.
But I think for all of us, no one knows anything and that we just have to wait and see. In the meantime, let's just build a case for impeachment based on what we already know. It's quite simple.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, no, I agree. You know, and I'm glad you brought up those previous BuzzFeed stories, because it really was remarkable to watch. Like in basically a 12-hour period, both the media and politicians go from, you know, "Here's the damning proof we need. Let's begin impeachment hearings," which, you know, as you noted, it's ridiculous because we can begin impeachment hearings now. Because he's committed such an incredible array of crimes that you don't need this particular smoking gun. Like, he has a smoking gun that he shoots people with constantly, so you can really just pick and choose what you want to impeach on. But the other thing about BuzzFeed is that there's kind of a commonality to some of their reporting. They have been taking on, you know, through very in-depth investigations, investigations that go on sometimes for a year or more, subjects that other outlets have been hesitant to touch, because they're dangerous. You know, for example, they did a whole series about Russians who are linked to the Trump team who were either murdered or died under mysterious circumstances. They did that bombshell story on Russian infiltration of the Treasury, which we talked about in our episode Cabinet of Horrors, which I still can't believe is getting so little attention, because it really showed depth to this plot and a level of complicity that wasn't really described, and of course the Steele dossier. You know, these are all things that a lot of outlets have backed away from, and Buzzfeed has been willing to confront. And you know, there are a lot of reasons that Mueller's team might have spoken out on this story, even though they've never done that before. And you have to remember that, you know, from the start, from the beginning of Mueller's appointment, he's been smeared by the right wing press, you know, as this evil person, as this person who needs to be fired. He's been the target of gossip and innuendo from the rest of the press. They're always trying to guess, you know, "What does he really mean? When is the investigation going to be done?" All this stuff. They've never felt compelled to speak out until now. And so I don't exactly know what the reason is. As you said, we need to let it play out. It could just be they're frustrated by the fact that this could be considered a leak, and they have run a leak-free investigation. That's a more understandable scenario.
But you know, I have to say there is something that kind of makes me pause, which is that, you know, all these stories that BuzzFeed has been doing show a level of institutional failure. And you know basically show that criminal conspiracies, you know, transnational crime was carried out with the complicity of both government and non-state actors for a long time without any of our law enforcement or intelligence agencies doing what they're supposed to do, you know, which is stop the perpetrators, especially before those perpetrators get executive power. So in some sense, you know, these stories are damning of Mueller. Like if you look at the Steele dossier, you know one of the things it says is that the FBI has been looking into Trump since 2011. Notably, that's the same year that Mueller made his Iron Triangle speech, which we've referred to, where he talks about this nexus of organized crime, corporate corruption and government infiltration. This does seem to have been on Mueller's radar, but you know, the FBI was not successful, either under Mueller and especially under Comey at stopping any of this. So it's inconvenient for them, to some extent, to have BuzzFeed printing out all these stories. And I think, you know, obviously the best thing to do is for the Mueller investigation to continue. If they, you know, did not adequately do their job in the past, there's no reason they can't adequately do it in the future except for the fact, of course, that we have an autocrat who's trying to consolidate power, purge the agencies and fire Mueller. That's a bit of a problem, but just why time is of the essence. But yeah, some of that gave me pause and made me wonder, "What do they not want to come out?" Not because they're complicit actors, but because it's embarrassing. You know, it's a sign that so many people failed. You know, and I'm not just like trashing Mueller or anything. Like, it took a village, as Hillary would say, for this massive failure of, you know, agencies and various administrative groups that are supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening to not be able to do so.
Andrea Chalupa: And I think an important lesson for Ben Smith to learn from all this, because I know he himself has been under attack for this latest BuzzFeed story, and his reporter Jason Leopold was viciously attacked in that CNN hit piece. That was such a deliberate hit piece. I think the one big takeaway from this experience that Ben Smith must come away with is that he needs to be a stronger editor in not allowing anyone in BuzzFeed, whether BuzzFeed U.S. or BuzzFeed UK, to issue any kind of hit piece against any journalist who is doing incredibly brave work for the public good, like BuzzFeed UK did against Carole Cadwalladr, who is a independent British journalist who is essentially the Robert Mueller for the U.K. right now. And she was called a conspiracy theorist for pointing out and digging into all these nefarious connections between Brexit and the Mercers, and looking at Cambridge Analytica and all of it. And then she goes on to win the Orwell Prize, because it turns out she was right, and she's relentless in her reporting. And she's, again, the closest thing the British have to a Robert Mueller, and that's really sad, because Brexit, like Trump, did the same crime. They both came to be because of Russian-aided corruption. And unfortunately Ben Smith's BuzzFeed over in the U.K. wrote some really strangled hit piece on her just like CNN wrote that hit piece on Jason Leopold, and that hit piece against Carole was called out in the media by women, by women because it's only other women that tend to see women. You know, a lot more people spoke out in defense of Jason Leopold, but, you know, but Carol being a woman, she's mostly just got other women coming to her defense. So I hope Ben Smith understands now what that feels like and how wrong it is, and how you're doing it a great disservice to journalism by attacking fearless investigative journalists whose countries literally depend on them for their brave work.
Sarah Kendzior: Amen. I mean, hopefully they'll take that to heart, because that's the thing, is, you know, there's all this petty bullshit and rivalries within journalism. And then there's, you know, criticism of the media, which I think is necessary. It's necessary for any industry to critique itself. But that's different than these very personal, very malicious kind of hit pieces that come out against various reporters right at the moment that they break a story that's both very important, but that also sort of strains credulity because what it tends to reveal, you know, is a level of deception, a level of criminality, of negligence that people are reluctant to confront, somewhat understandably, because it's truly horrifying. But you know, in both these cases, you know, in the case of Leopold and Cormey and of course Carol, you know, their work has been going on for years, and they've largely been proven right. And so yeah, I hope that, you know, Ben Smith and others take this to heart because, you know, the government is not doing its job, because it's been infiltrated by Trump and basically a criminal syndicate. We don't have the sort of people in play that would normally be able to, you know, lend kind of a statement of credibility as to what's going on. We have a lot of confusion. We have a government that lies constantly, and so unfortunately that role has fallen on journalists at a time when the President is constantly shouting that everything is fake news. You know, and also of course as you mentioned threatening journalists, and, you know, murdering journalists in some cases. And so there's enough pressure and enough problems for us to deal with without this petty shit.
Andrea Chalupa: I want to talk about sanctions, because I'm pretty furious about sanctions at the moment, and that takes us to Oleg Deripaska, the man of the hour. As we know if you have been following the whole Trump-Russia coalition of corruption, at the heart of that was of course sanctions. Putin wouldn't go to all that trouble to help Trump coming to power without expecting something in return, and as we know from that big quid pro quo meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 where Don, Jr. and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with representatives of the Kremlin and it was sort of understood if you want campaign help, you've got to do something about these sanctions that are crippling Russia's economy. And there's a big series of stories that came out about that. Again, we've got grounds for impeachment. That's all there. It's all been laid out over years of bombshells by this point. I want to zero in on Oleg Deripaska, who he is, and the wonderful deal that he just got from Steve Mnuchin's treasury. And I want to make clear: this isn't a quid pro quo deal. This wasn't Trump rewarding Deripaska for any sort of campaign help, or any sort of assistance like that. This isn't that at all, and it shouldn't be interpreted that way. This is just, the Deripaska sanction story is very much a terrible, infuriating case study of how kleptocracy works and how the mega-rich escape justice. That's all it is. It just good old-fashioned corruption, the kind that's been plaguing us forever. And of course, corruption has a very reliable ally in the Republican Party, and that's probably why they were targeted in 2016 to join this coalition and get their candidate elected President. Easy targets. So who is Oleg Deripaska? He's a billionaire oligarch close to Putin with suspected ties to organized crime. He built his empire on aluminum which, right after communism fell, and former Soviet State assets were up for grabs during the car bomb '90s in Russia, there was a bloodbath for control over Russia's aluminum, the so-called Aluminum Wars. Deripaska won. He's long been blacklisted in the U.S., but in London his dirty money is welcomed with open arms. They call London Londongrad for a reason. It was British lobbyists and PR firms, largely, along with others in Washington, of course, that worked for years to mainstream Deripaska. Just to get these sanctions against his companies dropped, Deripaska spent millions on lobbying and PR firms in D.C. and London. And according to recent reports, he's very satisfied with the result. Good for him. So basically, what happened was back in April, Mnuchin released a series of sanctions for Russia's aggression around the world, including of course Crimea, and Deripaska himself was personally caught in that net, as well as his aluminum empire Rusal, and the companies that have ownership in it. So there's three companies total that were targeted. His company Rusal, the second largest aluminum producer in the world, immediately lost half its value on the markets when this news hit. A big flock of highly paid consultants Deripaska had on his payroll to mainstream him fled, because he suddenly became dirtier than a herpe. No one wanted to be around him. That's the power of sanctions. It was a very strong show by Mnuchin. Some people said it was done a bit too clumsily. It was kind of rushed through without a lot of thought. Aluminum markets overall were shaken by it. Yeah, that's what happened. I mean, the whole strategy of sanctions is not to disrupt global markets. You want to do them strategically so it lessens the impact for Western countries that shouldn't be punished, but what sanctions essentially do, especially the case of Russia is they're a strong statement saying, "We are going to choose human life above profits, and we're going to, you know, put all these sanctions on Russia's oil industry," which is, Russia being the second largest exporter of oil in the world, you know, right behind Saudi Arabia, that's a very big deal. So Russia can't buy all this new, fancy Western equipment it needs to expand its drilling and expand its oil industry. That was a very big deal. They wanted a partner with Exxon on the Arctic. There was an unimaginable amount of money at stake if they could just do this, and that's why you have Christopher Steele in one of his investigations saying how Putin had a hand in choosing the Secretary of State, and Rex Tillerson fit right in his plan, because if you have a guy like Tillirson in, remember, you remember Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. He was a guy that said the U.S. no longer stands for human rights.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. The recipient of the Order of Friendship medal from Putin, who curiously many did not seem to want to link to Putin. But anyway go on.
Andrea Chalupa: Exactly. So there's this whole strategy in place with sanctions not to hurt the global economy, but of course, those people who just love blood money like Exxon, like Tillirson, they have a bit of a problem with sanctions. They'd rather choose profits over human life. That was pretty much a policy of Tillerson State Department. Explicit policy. So Deripaska is also notorious for being the oligarch caught on a yacht with his escort, a self-described sex trainer who goes by the name of Nastya Rybka. She claims she has tapes proving Russia-Trump collusion. She already posted a video to Instagram on board a yacht with Deripaska and Russia's deputy prime minister showing them both discussing U.S.-Russia relations. Very curious indeed. Rybka was arrested in Thailand while giving sex workshops with her crew of sex trainers. She spent nine months in a Thai prison and was sent back to her native Belarus, but was kidnapped by Russian authorities during her layover in Moscow and thrown into jail. So today in Russia, a judge released her. What's really funny about Deripaska, I just want to say as a side note, he's been trying, the poor little guy, he's been trying so hard to be mainstream but he keeps getting exposed. He's like the Jan Brady to Roman Abramovich's Marcia. Like, Abramovich owns Chelsea Football Club. He's like, you know wining and dining in London society. You know, I think that Deripaska could make all his problems go away if he just buys the Mets and makes them win a World Series, and then all be forgiven because that's how the world works. Anyway, moving on. So we also know Deripaska as the Russian oligarch close to Putin, who back in 2006 had Manafort on a 10-million-dollar-a-year contract to advance the interests of Putin's government and Western businesses and media. 2006, of course, being that year Manafort bought an apartment in Trump Tower. You know, when the money's coming in you might as well buy an apartment in Trump Tower. Manafort eventually went on to become 10 million dollars in debt to Deripaska. 10 million dollars. He agreed to work for free for Trump's campaign, and immediately after joining Trump's campaign, he emailed his right hand man, Konstantin Kilimnik, a former GRU officer with suspected ties to Russian intelligence, asking if Deripaska's operation had seen all the great media coverage, and asking, "How do we get whole with them?" So now, let's go back to the 10 million dollars in debt that Manafort owed Deripaska. I asked a friend of mine who is sanctioned by Russia in retaliation for the Western sanctions against Russia whether it's safe for me to go to Ukraine. This is back in 2016 when my sister was being harassed for investigating Paul Manafort and working to expose him. Her car was broken into and trashed inside twice. There was an attempted break in on her house in the middle of the night. There were death threats being sent to her. Her phone and laptop were hacked, and so on, and she's was doing all of this to alert her country of Russia's presence in the 2016 election. And that was the price she paid. So my friend at the time told me that I was safe to go to Ukraine because they only kill you if you mess with their money. Well, Manafort messed with Deripaska's money and got to live. Why? Because for one thing, while it's hard for us Patreon-dependent podcasters to understand this, but ten million dollars is not a lot of money for someone like Deripaska, owner of the second largest aluminum producer in the world, and two, Manafort was more valuable to him alive than dead. The Kremlin plays the long game and develops assets over time, and they needed Manafort to pollinate their interests in the West, which of course he did by leading Trump's campaign, advising the transition team on everything from cabinet picks to hit pieces against people like my sister, Christopher Steele, the FBI, to try to deflect from the Russia investigation. Manafort may not have been working under direct orders, but he is an old time operative. He knows where his easy money comes from. He knows how to please his clients. By securing their interest, he's ultimately securing his own. Now let's look at Rusal itself, Deripaska's aluminum empire. He owned a 70 percent stake, he did, when the sanctions first hit his company. But what's important to remember is that Deripaska is Rusal. It's impossible to separate him from this empire. This is where I get pretty, like I'm trying to control my anger here. So in the millions of dollars that Deripaska pumped to this lobbying effort, Steve Mnuchin's treasury did all that it could to control the optics on this thing. And you had policy wonks inside the Beltway who were writing these think pieces defending the treasury, and saying that, "Look, they're following procedure. Look, this is all by the book." As long as Deripaska agreed to lower his stake in the company under 50 percent, which is a policy that OFAC of course offers, that it's all done by the book. So what is the problem? This is all legal that they're doing. Well, you know Standing Rock, the Standing Rock pipeline, all of that was legal as well. You know, the military industrial complex, all that is legal. It doesn't make it right. So that's what the big policy wonks who keep hammering in that there's nothing to see here, they're revealing themselves as having lost touch with their humanity. For one thing, Russia recently attacked Ukraine openly in international waters, and took hostage dozens of Ukrainian sailors which they're still holding on to today. And nobody did anything. Nobody did anything. There were no sanctions passed in immediate response to that open aggression. You have Crimea, which Russia is still occupying, running out of water, which means that Russia might have to push up deeper into Ukraine to get access for water for Crimea. You also have Russian ground forces and weaponry amassing on the Ukrainian border. And the rhetoric against Ukraine is turning, it's escalating. So it's incredibly ominous what's been going on. So we should expect a very bad year for Ukraine, as far as an escalation of Russia's invasion, especially when you have nobody minding the house in the White House currently. Sanctions have contained Putin, and we know this for a variety of reasons. We've seen initially when he started invading Ukraine, he promised the Russian people Novorossiya. He was gonna bite off a huge chunk of Ukraine. Well he got stopped. He got limited. He couldn't give them New Russia, Novorossiya as it was called, you know, taking back a big portion that Catherine the Great stole during that time. And plus you're seeing so much capital flight, especially when these sanctions against Rusal and Deripaska were first enacted back in April. Putin is having a hard time, a harder time controlling his oligarchs, because they're moving their money. Nearly 800 billion has left Russia in the last decade or so. And just like I think the latest numbers like nearly 80 billion just for 2018 alone. And so the Russian oligarchs are spooked because the U.S. has taken bold measures by sanctioning Deripaska and sanctioning his aluminum empire. It works. It scares them, and we know from the Steele dossier one thing that Putin was really concerned about was tracking his oligarchs and spying on them and keeping tabs on these guys when they're abroad. He likes to control them back at home, but when they're living the life in New York, L.A. and London, he wants to make sure that he still has them on leashes and see what they're doing and all of that to protect his his control over his empire. So sanctions do work. They are scared of them, or else they wouldn't have installed a complete idiot to try to remove them. And so far that idiot has been letting them down, which means the Russians are gonna be coming back in 2020 to try to, like, keep the idiot in place, or get a new one in place who will finally make a big move on these sanctions. And furthermore, the Russians again were just caught hacking the DNC. So we need to do these big bold moves like not only sanctioning Deripaska, but keeping the sanctions on his companies. And I've read all the wonky reports by, from the Inside the Beltway crowd. I've read their limited thinking that's completely left out the human side of it. I get it. But what I'm telling you is, you're leaving out the cost of human life, the far greater risk if we don't do these big, bold moves. And this applies to major industries and markets across the board. If we don't do something drastic about global warming, even if it hits profits in the short term, we will be paying for it in the long term. All of us will. It will come for all of us, and so forth. All I'm saying is, is that this story of Deripaska, it's a classic case of the mega-rich buying their way out of justice. And do you want to know what kind of deal he got done? Well, let me just tell you. This is what the U.S. Treasury gave him, essentially. I'll tell it to you in a metaphor: me, Andrea, I get sanctioned, right? And so I need to reduce my share. I right now own 70 percent of my company, and I need to go below 50 percent to show I no longer have the majority of my company. So what do I do? I need to start removing some of my shares, so I give a big chunk of my shares to my dear friend Sarah Kendzior, because I trust her and I know that she's you know a reliable ally of mine and that we see the world the same way, and if I need to I could kill her. You know what I mean? That's how this podcast works.
Sarah Kendzior: That's the basis of every beautiful and healthy friendship.
Andrea Chalupa: Exactly.
Sarah Kendzior: Go on. [laughter]
Andrea Chalupa: And so I give a big chunk of my shares to Sarah, right? Then I take the other chunk of my shares and I put them into my podcast, Gaslit Nation, Inc. And so those shares are in that podcast. And then the rest go to my ex-husband--I don't have an ex-husband, but in this case, Deripaska's ex-wife, you know, she's keeping her shares. So long story short, Deripaska got to about 45 percent ownership of his aluminum empire.
But guess who he gave his shares away to? Reliable allies that he essentially controls, including his own charity which he founded. Okay? So he just moved it around. There's just smoke and mirrors. This was obvious. I mean, this guy won the Aluminum Wars of the 1990s. People died. It was an actual war over who, which mafia, which Russian mafia was going to control the highly lucrative aluminum of Russia. And guess who won? Deripaska. Do you think this is a guy that you can safely negotiate with, who isn't going to try something? Well he did. It was just reported on Monday that a confidential document showed that not only do Deripaska and his allies control Rusal, but in this deal he was able to write off a massive amount of debt at favorable rates to a bank that's sanctioned by Russia. And it gets even worse. As part of this deal, yeah it gets even worse, because this is the Trump regime we're talking about. It always gets even worse. And as part of this deal, there was even this French guy who's a well-known Kremlin propagandist, who is on this whole crusade to convince the West that it needs to legalize, you know, recognize Crimea. So he was put in charge of this board. So his name's Jean-Pierre Thomas. He's the new chairman of Rusal's board. He previously advised the former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. If you've been following Sarkozy, he's, Sarkozy is as corrupt as they come. And more recently, this guy has been all over Russian state TV pushing conspiracy theories about chemical weapons in Syria, asserting that the Russian government couldn't have been involved in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, all of it. Like, he's like a Kremlin wet dream of a Western useful idiot pushing their agenda. And as part of this deal with the U.S. Treasury, he is now the new chairman of the board. Of course he is. So to all of you Inside the Beltway policy wonks who are defending this deal, go look yourselves in the mirror and have a conversation with yourself about how you feel about human rights, and be honest with yourself, because from your very limited analysis it's very clear how you feel about human rights. And that's part of the problem of where the world is today.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, I think people often, they don't see the big picture, and it's ironic, because for the last decade, basically since the global financial collapse, you know, we've been having all these discussions in the U.S. about the 1 percent, about the dangers of plutocracy, about how we're not able to effectively function as a democracy when there's endless dark money put into politics, that people have been denied opportunities, that, you know, opportunities are hoarded by the wealthy. There's incredible corruption, et cetera et cetera. And people like Deripaska absolutely embody this trend. You know, this is the Russian equivalent of any loathed, you know, American corollary, like the Koch Brothers, or you know whoever your preferred enemy is. Yet there's this, like a hesitation to fully realize that this translates into actual consequences for everyday human beings. This isn't just about, like, he's the enemy and we need to target him, or U.S. versus Russia, or, you know, Trump and his friends. Like this has consequences for people living there, and living here because he has massive influence on our government as well, as well as, you know, as you mentioned on the UK. But that's why it's really disconcerting to see the votes recently in the Senate on Russian sanctions. You know, in 2017 the U.S. at least felt an obligation to keep up the pretense of condemning, you know, the interference of Russia in our election system, as well as broader, you know, assaults on human rights, like the invasion of Crimea for example. In 2017 under Trump, one of the rare motions in the Senate that went 98 to 2 was, you know, approval of Russian sanctions. The only senators who did not want Russian sanctions were Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders. Now the Republicans are openly on board with Russia. All of them. Alright, I think 11 of them broke ranks and voted with the Democrats. The rest of the Republicans voted to end debate on Russian sanctions. The ultimate vote was 57 to 42. No Democrats voted against sanctions, but you know they don't have control of the Senate, and so that's very disconcerting.
You know, as you were saying before, they find people who they can effectively own. You know, this is not a minor player anywhere he goes. They live way, way above the law, but it's frightening to see our own lawmakers so cowed, so afraid and with such little regard to their own constituency, and so much regard for this one individual who has led a life of corruption. So yeah, it's not good.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, and I want to say it's important for us to, especially this week, we just had MLK Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, honoring all the important moral leadership that he showed us. He had that famous quote: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," MLK said to us. "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly." And that has always been a guiding force for me because whatever happens over there, whether it's the refugee crisis or the Kremlin's war in Ukraine, it eventually comes to us, and we've seen that. And so I want people on the left especially, especially those that believe in economic justice especially those that are terrified of the global crisis of income inequality, which is only going to get worse as automation increases, as retail companies disappear and so forth. The revolution is international. That revolution is all of us investigative journalists here on the ground in Ukraine, investigative journalists on the ground in Uganda and in Moscow. Everywhere. Everywhere. It's, we're all connected in this fight, in the struggle against corruption, because the rich are getting obscenely richer and the poor are getting poorer. This is a crisis on par with global warming. These are two massive crises that are both being driven by greed. The engine is greed, and the engine is also a lack of leadership, a lack of moral leadership, including by people like Steve Mnuchin and the Treasury and the inside the Beltway policy wonks that back him up and supported them through their very clever analysis playing both sides. And what it is essentially doing is saying that we always value profits over the planet. We'll always value profits over human life. This is a global struggle we're all up against that we have to stay engaged in or else it's never going to go away and it's going to destroy us. And so that is why it is imperative for left leaders to unite us all in this, and unite our comrades in other countries who are facing these same struggles only worse, because they're getting killed in car bombs their friends are getting killed. Podcasts just like us are taking much greater risks the in developing countries. And so that's why I find it very heartbreaking when Bernie Sanders missed the vote against Deripaska sanctions in the Senate, which was, you know, maybe didn't stand a chance, but it was a hugely symbolic vote that Bernie Sanders needed to stand for and needed to help that margin get even closer, so Lisa just rub it in the Republican's face about how demented they become by greed. How self-destructive they become by greed. I think it adds insult to injury that Bernie Sanders essentially hid behind the excuse that he had to meet with the women that brought the sexual harassment case against his campaign. That's an incredibly important meeting that he needed to have, and he should continue meeting with those women. That should be an ongoing priority ongoing conversation. But for him to miss such an important vote, an important vote against income inequality--Deripaska is just another face of income inequality. For him to miss such an important vote and essentially put it on these women who are brave in stepping forward and saying, "Look, if you're going to run again or be part of any campaign, you need to clean up your house and not allow sexual harassers and address all these issues have been hurting women that have been fighting for you," don't put it on those women for you missing that vote. That was wrong. That was very wrong, and you should have been there for that vote, especially because you voted the wrong way on the Magnitsky Act, as history has proven.
Sarah Kendzior: I was just going to bring that up. This is the third vote with Bernie Sanders, you know not wanting to sanction oligarchs. He missed the Magnitsky Act. He voted against sanctions in 2017. He said it was because of Iran. And then, you know, we have him, you know, absent yet again. And you know, that's strange for somebody whose entire policy platform is about income inequality, about the dangers of plutocracy. You know this is a great opportunity to condemn that kind of practice. And it's interesting that he would miss it, you know every single time that it would come up.
Andrea Chalupa: And understand that sanctions are a peaceful alternative to war. It's a banks not tanks strategy. No one wants to go to war. Russia doesn't even want to go to war. They claimed, they do all these big nuclear war drills and they do all this nuclear war saber rattling. Russia will not do anything against us. Why? Because they hide their money in the West. That would be like them nuking Scrooge McDuck's coin vault. You don't do that. And so we're pretty much safe when it comes to any military excursions between us and Russia.
I think the important thing is to remember is don't be afraid of the Kremlin's warmongering and how it tries to project its warmongering onto those who stand up against aggression by demanding the peaceful alternative of sanctions. Sanctions absolutely do work. They have been taking a very serious toll on the Kremlin. As I mentioned earlier, just in 2018 alone, 67.5 billion dollars fled Russia in capital flight, that's according to Interfax, since the last eleven years. So there's been a 750 billion in capital flight.
Russia's economy is failing. It's not a good situation there. Putin is in trouble. And even the social safety nets so he's trying to chip away at, you know, the Russian people have been risking their freedom gathering in the streets against his corruption for a reason.
Things are very, very, very bad over there. We have to always keep that in mind. The Russian people are being held hostage by kleptocracy just like we feel the walls of kleptocracy closing in here, here at home it's all the same war.
If you are terrified by income inequality, it's all the same war. Never lose sight of that.
Andrea Chalupa: Gaslit Nation is produced by Andrea Chalupa and Sarah Kendzior. If you like what we do, leave us a review on iTunes. It helps us reach more listeners. And check out our Patreon. It helps keep us going. Our editor for this was Karlyn Daigle. Original music in Gaslit Nation is produced by David Whitehead, Martin Visenberg, Nick Farr, Damian Arriaga and Karlyn Daigle. Our phenomenal logo was designed by the genius that is Hamish Smith at the New York-based design firm Order. Thank you so much Hamish. Gaslit Nation like to thank our supporters at the producer level and Patreon: Paige Harrington, A.W. Nicholson, David Porter, Dominique de Graaf, Georgia Rand Collette, Jared Lombardo, Jason Bainbridge, Jody Dewitt, Joanna Markson, John Ripley, Kate cotton Kevin Garnett Lorraine Todd Terry Brady Andrea Tina Vai Angelique coastline Ann Marshall, Michael Balan, Catherine Anderson Carina, Kathy Cavanaugh, Irina Guardia, Ethan Mann, Janet Cox, Chase Greta, Jennifer Slavic, John Dan Brown, John Keane, Joy Kristine, Kevin Christy, Kim Melon, Laurence Graham, Luke Scranton, Lynn Sanchez, Margaret Moe, Matthew Copeland, Mike Tripico, Rhonda White, Rich Craw, Sonya Donovan, Stephanie Roscitt-Fulps. Thank you all so much. We could not make the show without you.