EPISODE 5: ALLEY MULRAIN PART 1
Compiled & Synthesized by David Sokol
Edited by Samia Mounts
00:10:44 Have the majority of the terrorist attacks that happened this century been executed by US citizens?
Yes. Around 80%, actually. (See page 24.)
00:11:11 Show me the articles you promised about how right-wing terrorism is as big of a problem as terrorism perpetrated by foreigners.
00:12:14 What does Samia mean when she says the courts “stayed” the travel ban? And what’s happened with Trump’s travel ban since?
On January 27, 2017, Trump signed an executive order barring refugees and immigrants from 7 predominantly Muslim countries (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen) from entering the US for 120 days and 90 days, respectively. It also put an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees resettling in the US.
The idea was that the temporary ban would give the new administration time to establish new “extreme vetting procedures” that would be put into place by the time the ban was lifted. What’s bizarre is that, if the order had been put into effect and not stayed by the courts, it would have expired by now - and yet the administration has put no new “extreme vetting procedures” in place.
On January 28 and 29, 2017, federal judges in New York and Massachusetts temporarily blocked and issued a restraining order against the ban.
On February 3, 2017, a US District Court Judge blocked the ban nationwide.
The original executive order gave preference to Christians over people of other religions, which was part of why so many federal courts stayed the order. Singling out people of a particular religious group is unconstitutional.
In early March 2017, Trump signed a new version of the ban that removed Iraq (our ally) from the list of countries and removed language that prioritized admittance of Christans over Muslims. That ban was also blocked for the same reasons the first one was - on the ground that it was unconstitutional.
Since this interview took place, the Supreme Court has ruled that parts of the travel ban could now go into effect. The Supreme Court ruling allows the ban to take effect on anyone from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Men who do not have a “bone fide relationship within the United States,” like if they have family, school, or employment here.
The “bona fide relationship” exception applies to refugees, as well. However, it is estimated that 40% of the refugees that come to the United States have no family ties here.
Green card holders, those with dual citizenship, and diplomats are not banned.
The Supreme Court will review this case again in the fall.
00:13:04 What is the vetting process for refugees entering the United States and how intense is it?
It’s one of the most extreme and time-consuming vetting processes in the world. Here’s a detailed rundown of the current refugee vetting process in the United States.
For a more personal take on this, here’s a personal essay from a young man who actually went through the process himself in trying to escape with his family from the brutal Assad regime in Syria.
And for a personal take on the other side of the current vetting process, read this personal essay from a former US immigration officer.
00:14:50 What is Trump’s stance on Israel and Palestine? Has he abandoned the long-held US policy of a two-state solution being the best path to peace in that region?
He reportedly backed away from giving full US support to the two-state solution, but it’s worth noting that he also made the following statements:
“I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like theHe reportedly backed away from the two-state solution one that both parties like.”
"If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best."
"It is the parties themselves that must directly negotiate. Both sides will have to make compromises.” Then, directly to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, he said, “You know that, right?”
So it’s unclear to me whether he has any position on this at all, and I’m not the only one confused by his statements on this issue. If you look into all the information we have on the subject, it just seems like Trump is trying to make everyone happy at once, without taking a solid stance himself.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that just before the Obama administration ended, then Secretary of State John Kerry gave an impassioned speech (for him) on this issue, pleading with Israel and the international community to support a two-state solution, saying that “the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. It is the only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people, and it is an important way of advancing United States interests in the region.” You can watch the full speech here.
00:16:37 Did they ever actually prosecute Hillary for her private email server and deleted emails? Is there still an active investigation?
The House Benghazi Report - the result of a two-year-long, $7 million investigation - concluded that Hillary Clinton had done nothing wrong. The Benghazi investigation is what led to the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In July 2016, the FBI concluded that were no grounds for prosecuting Hillary Clinton, based on her use of a private email server. The investigation was briefly (and infamously) re-visited in October 2016, when potentially new emails were discovered thanks to an unrelated investigation concerning Anthony Weiner’s weiner. (Sorry, I can’t help myself.) But the FBI said soon after that no new information had been found, and there was still no grounds for prosecution.
00:17:00 Was any confidential information found in the emails on Hillary Clinton’s private server?
Technically, yes, but there are lots of caveats. First of all, out of about 30,000 emails that were sifted through by the FBI, only two were actually marked as “classified” when they were originally sent, and only 110 were classified but not marked as such. Secondly, there’s a lot of bureaucratic craziness surrounding what should be marked classified and what shouldn’t, and there’s a general consensus that the government tends to over-classify information. Lastly, there are email chains within the leaked emails that show the Clinton State Department team saying explicitly that something they were discussing needed to be moved to a more secure channel.
00:18:08 Did Hillary Clinton’s staff let her down by not advising her that it was not appropriate to use a private server?
Yes. It was a failure on the part of the people who should have been making sure everything was done correctly - Hillary Clinton’s top aides and staff.
According to this great Vox article that explains the entire email situation, with helpful cartoon visuals, “The FBI concluded that Clinton and her staff were not fully aware of the threat they exposed themselves to. It points to a larger problem with government, where public servants outside the intelligence agencies often treat cybersecurity as an afterthought.”
This deep, comprehensive analysis from Politico explains that, when you dissect and synthesize the information and interviews from the FBI’s investigation, this doesn’t seem like a sinister plan to hide information at all. Rather, the whole scandal was the the result of a very busy top executive (Clinton) with barely a rudimentary understanding of technology, and a staff that was equally deficient in knowing how to navigate secure communications in the digital age. From the article: “Reading the FBI’s interviews, Clinton’s team hardly seems organized enough to mount any sort of sinister cover-up. There’s scant oversight of the way Clinton communicated, and little thought given to how her files might be preserved for posterity—MacBook laptops with outdated archives are FedExed across the country, cutting-edge iPads are discarded quickly and BlackBerry devices are rejected for being ‘too heavy’ as staff scrambled to cater to Clinton’s whims.”
They didn’t realize they were exposing themselves to cybersecurity threats, and no one in government stepped in to correct them. Her staff should have been on top of this, but they were disorganized and lacked the most basic understanding of what a private email server meant for cybersecurity.
00:18:25 Did Colin Powell advise Hillary Clinton that it was okay to use a private email server for her work emails?
Colin Powell didn’t use a private email server himself, but he did use a personal device to send his work-related emails as secretary of state.
Hillary Clinton emailed him asking how he got away with using a personal device to send emails when he was in office. He responded with a lengthy email basically telling her to just do it, be careful, and don’t say anything about it. (If you scroll to the bottom of his email, you can see the one Clinton sent him asking for advice.)
His email betrays the fact that he didn’t understand cybersecurity threats either, most likely because when he was serving as secretary of state, the world hadn’t become as digitized as it is now. Hacking was a pretty new concept for most people. He just didn’t take the threats that seriously - and neither did Clinton, it seems.
00:19:25 What is Hillary Clinton’s background, and what has her career been like as a whole?
Politifact rated a claim from Hillary Clinton in 2008 that she had 35 years of experience in politics and advocacy work as Mostly True, and goes in-depth on her record of public service.
She’s worked on many programs for the children, women, and the poor, and she used her time as First Lady to try to introduce a universal health care system to the United States. It failed, but she tried.
I also really love this viral video, called Hillary: Rebel Girl.
Lastly, I know this is so silly, but her cameo on Broad City made my feminist heart rejoice. (This clip has French subtitles, but I chose it because it doesn’t have an annoying ad that you’re forced to watch first. See, I look out for you guys.)
00:21:24 Does Donald Trump have a history of treating the media and reporters poorly?
Here’s a video he tweeted showing him beating up a guy with the CNN logo digitally pasted over his head, which seems to promote violence against reporters and the media. This could be interpreted as funny, if it weren’t for all the times that Trump has verbally encouraged violence at his campaign rallies.
Business Insider put together a compilation of Trump’s most heated exchanges with reporters.
And most recently, on June 29, 2017, Trump took to Twitter to say terrible things about Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Here are the tweets themselves:
00:21:37 Is it true that even Republicans accuse Trump of not acting “presidential”?
Yes, all the freaking time, throughout the campaign and still to this day.
His Twitter attack on the Morning Joe hosts earned him lots of criticism from Republican lawmakers.
Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, roundly condemned his comments on the leaked Access Hollywood video. The backlash from the GOP was so bad that 27 Republicans called for Trump to drop out of the Presidential race.
Republicans were also vocal after Trump went on record attacking a federal judge, saying he couldn’t be impartial in the Trump University fraud lawsuit because he was Hispanic.
And of course, his firing of FBI Director James Comey - a move that looks a lot like obstruction of justice, considering that Comes was investigating whether Trump associates may have colluded with Russia in their interference in our election in 2016 - made lots of Republican lawmakers very uncomfortable with the idea of being linked to him in any way.
There are too many other examples to provide an exhaustive list, but basically, every time Trump does or says something truly outrageous, GOP lawmakers make sure the world knows that they aren’t on board with his crazy.
00:22:10 Are leaks coming from the White House that paint Trump as irrational, reactionary, and childish?
00:22:40 Did Donald Trump continually brag about his Electoral College victory long after the election?
Over and over and over and over again. But of course, it wasn’t the “massive landslide victory” he claims it to be.
00:23:24 Was Trump’s campaign racist and sexist?
Well, this is kind of a matter of opinion, but in the opinion of most liberals, he ran an extremely racist, sexist campaign. From “bad hombres” to calling for a “Muslim ban” to his sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton, his campaign virtually dripped with racism and sexism.
And a study from the University of Massachusetts found that it helped him win the election.
00:23:31 Is there really a video a of Donald Trump asking a crowd if Man of the Year sounds better than Person of the Year?
00:23:56 Did Donald Trump parade Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado around at a gym in front of the press?
00:24:05 Have many women have come forward saying that Trump groped or kissed them without permission?
00:25:28 Did Donald Trump ask a male contestant in front of a female contestant on The Apprentice if he would “fuck her”?
There is only anecdotal evidence of this. According to the Associated Press, Trump made lewd comments about women’s bodies and how they might perform in bed while on set for The Apprentice, sometimes behind their backs and sometimes to their faces. Here’s a quote from the AP article:
“If there was a break in the conversation, he would then look at one of the female cast members, saying ‘you’re looking kind of hot today, I love that dress on you,’ then he would turn to one of the male cast members and say ‘wouldn’t you sleep with her?’ and then everyone would laugh,” said a former crew member who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a non-disclosure agreement. “There would be about 10 or 12 cameras rolling and getting that footage, which is why everybody was like, this guy just doesn’t care.”
00:25:45 Did Ivana Trump accuse Donald Trump of rape?
Yes, Ivana Trump accused Donald Trump of rape in her divorce deposition. She goes into gruesome detail about the attack, saying how he ripped out chunks of her hair and forced himself on her. She said she spent the night crying in the bathroom, and when she emerged the next morning, he sneered at her and asked, “Does it hurt?” According to her, he was furious because a plastic surgeon she had recommended did a shoddy job on his scalp reduction surgery, which was supposed to remove a bald spot.
She later claimed the story was “without merit.” She got $14,000,000 in the divorce settlement.
00:27:14 Did Donald Trump walk in on teenage pageant contestants while they were naked?
Five contestants in the Teen Miss USA pageant told Buzzfeed that Trump walked into their dressing rooms while they were changing. Other contestants in the pageant dismissed these claims, saying that security was too tight to have allowed him to do that. But that being said, he owned the pageant. Read the linked article for all the details.
00:27:51 Did Madonna make a speech at the Women’s March in which she said that she wanted to burn down the White House?
Her exact words were, “I’ve thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.” She claims that she was speaking in metaphor and that the entire speech needs to be heard, not just this one piece taken wildly out of context. So here is the entire speech she gave at the Women’s March.
00:28:26 How many people are estimated to have attended the Women’s March? Did the unexpectedly large crowd lead to spontaneous marches erupting throughout the city center?
There were estimated to be about 470,000 people in Washington D.C. for the Women’s March. There were so many people that the route had to be changed, and the march was almost canceled altogether.
Samia was at the Women’s March and personally witnessed the many smaller marches that resulted from nobody knowing what the new march route was supposed to be. There were just too many people there to accommodate the original plan.
00:28:48 Was Donald Trump’s personal treatment of women the primary motivation for the Women’s March?
Without a doubt, it was. Here is the mission statement of the Women's March.
00:29:01 Did a White House staffer tweet that Donald Trump said he doesn’t care about abortion because it doesn’t affect him?
Here is the Twitter account in question, but I can’t find a single tweet about Trump commenting on abortion. It’s also not verified whether this account is legit or not, so this claim by Samia is totally unsubstantiated.
00:29:17 Are Republicans trying to defund Planned Parenthood?
Yes. The Senate health care bill, released to the public in June 2017, defunds Planned Parenthood for at least one year.
Planned Parenthood has been receiving federal funding since 1970, when Richard Nixon signed the Family Services and Population Research Act into law. It was an amendment to the Public Health Service Act. Title X of the law provides funding for family planning services, such as contraception and reproductive health care. At the time, the law was supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Nixon himself said, “No American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.”
Anti-abortion activists argue that allocating money to Planned Parenthood allows those funds to be re-allocated for abortions. This is not the case. It’s illegal to use taxpayer money to pay for abortions.
Furthermore, there is a vast misunderstanding about how Planned Parenthood gets its federal funding. It’s not like the government just sends them a check. They receive funding through Medicaid reimbursements and through Title X. The federal money cannot legally be used for abortions, so defunding Planned Parenthood just takes away the most easily accessible option for low-income women to get their reproductive health care needs met.
In 2014, publicly funded family planning centers helped women avoid 2 million unintended pregnancies, of which 700,000 would have resulted in abortion. Family planning services lower abortion rates.
It sure seems to me that by defunding Planned Parenthood, the number of abortions performed each year will rise. If a woman can’t afford a legal, safe abortion, she may attempt to obtain an unsafe abortion, risking injury and death.
There will be a lot more info on all this in next week’s episode notes (Episode 6), as that interview is intensely focused on abortion.
00:29:24 What is the Heartbeat Bill?
A fetal heartbeat bill makes abortion illegal as soon as a fetus’s heartbeat can be detected. This is based on the concept that a fetus is a person as soon as it has a heartbeat.
In January 2017, some Republican congressmen introduced the Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017, which is unlikely to pass in the House, since it’s, oh, you know, unconstitutional.
00:32:09 Did Barack Obama deport 400,000 illegal immigrants during his time in office, and was that more than George W. Bush? What systems do we have in place to decrease illegal immigration and deport violent criminals?
The Obama administration actually deported 2.5 million illegal immigrants between 2009-2015. Technically, that means more people were deported during the Obama administration than that of any other president.
However, this spike in deportation numbers was less due to Obama being hard on illegal immigrants, and more because of a change in how deportations are defined.. The Los Angeles Times noted that if it were not for the change in definition, the numbers would not have been record-setting in the LA area.
The increase mostly comes from the U.S.-Mexico border. Until the definition change, most people caught illegally crossing the southern border were bused back into Mexico. In the 1990s, those numbers reached more than 1 million per year. None of these were counted in the original statistics. Now, those that illegally cross the border are fingerprinted and formally deported, so they have a formal charge on their record.
Obama’s administration focused largely on recent immigrants or those that have committed a crime. He directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus on criminals, and not families that were working to provide for themselves.
00:32:54 What did Donald Trump say about returning law and order?
Trump gave a speech in West Bend, Wisconsin, stating that “law and order will be restored.” His speech was in response to the shooting of Sylville K. Smith in Milwaukee. He literally said, “I am the law and order candidate.”
00:33:32 Did Obama kill Osama Bin Laden?
Not with his bare hands, of course. Osama bin Laden was indeed captured and killed during Obama's first term as president, in large part due to his administration’s efforts. However, some credit should be given to the Bush administration, as well, because of their intelligence gathering. The operation could not have been carried out with only a couple of years’ worth of information.
00:33:38 Did Obama cut the unemployment rate in half and bring the economy out of the Great Recession?
One of the key pieces of legislation that Obama introduced as President was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was designed specifically to get our country out of the Great Recession of 2008, and prevent big banks from creating the conditions that led to the financial crisis again. Essentially, it increased the amount of the regulation the Federal government requires of banks, especially the largest banks. The new regulations included requiring banks to have more money in reserve and more easily-liquidated assets, in order to allow them to better weather another crisis like the Great Recession. It also requires the largest banks to undergo annual stress tests, to see if they could survive another major crisis. And it established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is charged with protecting people from abusive or unfair financial practices, like the shady mortgage deals that led to the housing crisis and the Great Recession.
Different analyses will tell you Dodd-Frank wildly succeeded or spectacularly failed, but I like this more balanced one from the Guardian.
And here are some numbers showing what happened in our country during Obama’s presidency. The unemployment rate did get cut in half. However, some of that dip in the unemployment rate was due to Baby Boomers retiring and some people just giving up on trying to find work.
00:34:33 Is Donald Trump a “wonderful businessman”? Or was he born into his fortune?
Whether he is a wonderful businessman is really a matter of opinion, but he has definitely been extremely fortunate. His father was a millionaire real estate mogul, and however many times Trump claims to have started out with only a “small loan” from Daddy Trump, that’s been proven to be untrue. He had a lot of early business failures, but he was able to keep striving thanks to bail-outs from his father.
As far as achieving his own successes in business, market conditions and timing appear to have had a lot to do with it.
He was basically wiped out in the early 1990s, thanks in large part to a series of bad business decisions in the 1980s. Also, his mortgage company failed with the financial crisis of 2008. He is not known for making smart business decisions, as much as he just has enough money to do whatever he wants and ride out the market waves.
00:34:55 Has Donald Trump been “plagued by lawsuits” from contractors he refused to pay?
00:35:03 What went down with Trump University?
Trump University was a for-profit, non-accredited, college-ish organization that offered courses in real estate, asset management, and wealth creation. It was founded by Donald Trump and two of his associates. It offered no college credit and no degrees. The organization was operational from 2005-2010, when it became defunct after a flurry of lawsuits claiming fraud, racketeering, and illegal business and marketing practices.
In 2005, the New York State Department of Education sent the three founders a letter explaining that they were violating state law by using the word “university,” when the organization was not chartered as one, nor did it have the required license to offer live instruction. In 2010, after continuing to instruct students, another letter was sent by the Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education, again explaining the illegality of using the word “university,” according to New York Education law. Shortly thereafter, they changed the name to “The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative."
On May 27, 2016, the judge that heard an earlier case against Trump for fraud involving Trump University, Gonzalo P. Curiel, granted a request by the Washington Post for public release of certain documents that had been filed in the case. Curiel said they were routine and many were publicly available already. This is the same federal judge who, before the release of the documents, Trump repeatedly called a “hater," among other insults, at a rally in San Diego.
As usual, the New Yorker says it best - Trump University: It’s Worse Than You Think.
Eventually, Trump chose to settle the class action lawsuit against him - which he swore up and down he would never do - for $25 million dollars.
00:36:11 Was Hillary Clinton the daughter of a small business owner?
According to his Wikipedia page (the most that I could really find about him, which is all sourced from Hillary’s 2003 memoir), he was a successful textile wholesaler.
00:37:36 Did intelligence agencies come to a consensus that Russia actively interfered with the election to help Donald Trump win?
They did. They determined that only the most senior officials in Russia could have authorized recent hacks into the DNC during the election. On October 7, 2016, a joint statement from 17 intelligence agencies said that the Russian government directed the election interference. Even John McCain said that there is no national security “more vital to the U.S. than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference,” and that “every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation.”
00:37:47 What is the deal with the 35-page dossier published by Buzzfeed? Who is Christopher Steele? What was his role in the dossier? What even is a dossier?
We’ll start with the simple stuff. A dossier is simply a collection of documents about a particular person, event, or subject.
Christopher Steele is a former British intelligence agent and founding director of Orbis Business Intelligence. He is extremely well-regarded in the intelligence and has a reputation for gathering solid intelligence. He is also the author of the 35-page dossier that Samia is referencing.
Here is the now-infamous dossier as posted by Buzzfeed on January 10, 2017. They admit the allegations are unverified and the report contains some errors, but the dossier claims that Russia has been “cultivating, supporting, and assisting” Trump for years. It alleges unverified claims of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives. Buzzfeed said it decided to publish the full document so that Americans could make up their own minds about the allegations against the President-elect that have circulated through the highest levels of the U.S. government.
The dossier also alleges that Russia has an extremely salacious video of Trump cavorting with prostitutes that could potentially be used to blackmail him. Golden showers are involved. This has sparked some really great pee-pee party jokes. Ah, silver linings…
Since the release of the dossier, parts of it have now been verified.
00:38:29 Did Mike Flynn have to resign from office for discussing the removal of sanctions against Russia with the Russian Ambassador?
Yup. There were reports that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador as a civilian prior to Trump taking office. He said that he had mislead Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations by giving “incomplete information” about his telephone call with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak on December 29, 2016. That call happened one day after Obama announced that the US would be taking measures against Russia, including sanctions, in retaliation to their interference in our election.
00:39:53 What New York Times report is Samia referring to from February regarding Russia and the Trump campaign?
On February 14, 2017, the New York Times reported that there were repeated contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials.
Then, on June 8, 2017, the NY Times reported that former FBI Director James Comey disputed the veracity of the article during a testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Comey never specified what was incorrect in the article, other than to say that most of it was inaccurate, but there are are a couple of theories. One is that the Russians that were in contact with Trump’s advisers didn’t meet the FBI’s definition of who is considered to be an intelligence official. Other American intelligence agencies have a broader definition of that when it comes to Russia.
Putin uses an extensive network of government officials and private citizens with links to Russian spy services to supplement the information being reported to the Kremlin.
In their June 8 article, the New York Times stands by their original reporting, and cites their sources as credible.
00:40:25 Did we wiretap Russian intelligence officials?
Yes, and those intercepted communications are being used in the investigation into whether Trump’s associates colluded with Russia in the election interference.
00:40:50 Did Christopher Steele actually disappear himself and his whole family after the dossier was released by Buzzfeed?
Christopher Steele and his family quickly left their home on January 11, 2017, the day after the dossier was published online, and went into hiding. A British newspaper, The Telegraph, reported, “he had become terrified for his and his family’s safety.”
He resurfaced in the beginning of March, thanked people for their support, and said he was returning to work. Friends of Mr. Steele’s said he had not, in fact, been in hiding, but was just trying to avoid the paparazzi camped outside his family’s home.
00:41:17 Did two Russian intelligence agents get disappeared by the Russian government?
A senior Russian intelligence officer and a cybersecurity investigator were arrested in December of 2016 on suspicion of treason. The Russian Newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that, during a meeting, officers came into the room, put a bag over his head, and took him away. They were allegedly spies for the U.S., but it’s hard to confirm or verify any of this information. The Russian government prefers secrecy to transparency.
00:41:39 Does Russia only have one independently owned newspaper? Do Russian reporters really get murdered a lot?
Russia is not a good country for freedom of the press. The Kremlin has essentially destroyed Russia’s independent media, leaving Novaya Gazeta as one of the only independent mainstream news outlets left in the country, although it’s not the only one, as Samia said. Six of their reporters have been murdered since 2001 (the year after Putin took office) in connection with their investigations.
00:42:05 Has Putin set up Russia so that no one can even win an election against him?
The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled that the 2011 Russian Parliamentary elections were unfair and compromised. A seven-judge panel, which included a judge from Russia, unanimously ruled that there was a violation in the right to free elections. There were high numbers of votes for United Russia (Putin’s political party) in precincts where voter turnout was above the national average. The Wall Street Journal said, “That dynamic suggests broad ballot-stuffing,” adding that approximately 14 million of the 65.7 million votes cast were questionable.
The 2012 Russian presidential election was also highly suspicious, in that Putin was given a much larger presence in the media than his competitors. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe assessed voting on election day positively, but “the process deteriorated during the vote count which was assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed due to procedural irregularities.” There were allegations that Putin supporters had been driving around in coaches, so they could vote for him in multiple constituencies, which was apparently documented by video monitoring in the voting stations. Claims of up to 10% inflation of Putin’s votes were also reported, but were dismissed by Putin, who said irregularities could only account for a 1% influence.
00:42:23 What did Russia do in Ukraine?
They rolled up with their military and annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and now they refuse to leave. The international community is pissed about it. It’s considered an international crime.
00:42:24 What did Russia do in Syria?
Syria has been in the midst of an awful, bloody civil war since the Arab Spring in 2011. A thirteen-year-old who sprayed anti-government graffiti was tortured and killed, which led to peaceful protests being held. President Bashar al-Assad responded to the protests by killing hundreds of protestors and throwing a bunch of others in prison. That sparked the creation of the Free Syrian Army by some military defectors, and boom - civil war.
Russia has backed the al-Assad regime, and given al-Assad much more firepower than he would have had - against his own people - tipping the scales in his favor.
00:42:38 Does Russia’s version of democracy enslave their people and enfeeble their economy?
This article from Time concisely explains the issues surrounding why the Russian economy is so bad, as does this article from the New York Times and this one from Bloomberg. Essentially, a focus on centralizing power within the government and feeding the people a daily diet of pro-government propaganda are major factors that are stifling the Russian economy. Russian wealth is centralized, and corruption is a major reason for it.
00:42:47 Does Putin steal from his people? What is Vladimir Putin worth?
There have indeed been reports that Putin has consistently stolen from the Russian people, amassing great secret wealth in the process. He denies all such claims.
This article lays out some other examples of where Putin’s wealth may be coming from. Again, he denies all allegations of corruption.
While publicly he discloses his income at around USD$110,000 per year and claims to have only two apartments and a share in a car parking garage, some exiled Kremlin insiders tell a different story. One former Kremlin official said he worked on a program to collect money from the super-wealthy for healthcare - but that the funds were instead used to help purchase a $1 billion palace for Putin on the coast of the Black Sea.
That's just one example. There are a million others - search “Putin corruption” and you’ll find plenty.
There are Russians who are speaking up and fighting back, chiefly Alexei Navalny, Putin’s main political opponent.
00:43:09 Did Exxon Mobil broker an oil deal in Russia that got stymied by US sanctions?
Yes, but Samia got some of the details here wrong.
In 2011, Rex Tillerson, then the CEO of Exxon Mobil, brokered a deal with Russian oil company Rosneft to allow Exxon access to the vast oil reserves in the Siberian Arctic and give Rosneft access to Exxon’s crazy good oil-drilling technology. But the deal was stymied by American sanctions against Russia in response to their invasion of Ukraine. Bummer for Exxon. Yay for human rights!
The invasion of Ukraine also seems to have been motivated by oil, although not because the Exxon deal required a pipeline to be built there. Samia got that whole part of the story wrong. Forgive her, she was tired. However, annexing Crimea gave Russia control over vast oil reserves in the waters just off the coast. The Kremlin denies that oil was a factor in its decision to annex Crimea, but they sure did jump on taking over the Crimean arm of the Ukrainian national gas company.
Now, Tillerson is Secretary of State, and as recently as June 2017, he’s asked that the Senate have “flexibility” with new Russian sanctions in response to their meddling in our election. Putin could not be more excited.
For the record, the Trump administration has said they would not be taking sanctions off of Russia. But then, the White House took steps to weaken the new Senate sanctions. So…there’s that.
00:45:06 Show me some of Rachel Maddow’s reporting on Trump and Russia.
This is just a sampler platter - she's been reporting extensively on this for months.
Rex Tillerson's successor at Exxon asks State Department for waiver from Russia sanctions
00:46:56 Is it the liberal way or the highway?
This essay from a liberal sums up the concept of liberal arrogance and intolerance in a brutally honest way.
This opinion piece from the Chicago Tribune gives the conservative perspective on how uncompromising and intolerant liberals can be.
I will let these three links speak for themselves, but I would like to throw my opinion into this mix as well. I identify as a hyper-liberal, feminist, homosexual male, and I live in the most densely populated urban environment in the United States. Until I quit my job a few months ago, I lived on a legitimate middle class salary and now am living off my 401k for a short period against the advice of everyone (sorry Mom and Suze). With that in mind, I’m sure you would expect to read next about how I also hate the far right and the new conservative view in politics. Maybe I did before, but no longer. I truly do believe that many of us on the liberal front need to learn to stop, listen, PROCESS, and attempt to compromise. I am possibly more guilty than anyone for hearing someone say something as simple as, “I think we have too many regulations…” and I start spouting how stupid and blind conservatives are. I have always been extremely uncompromising (we won’t go into how it’s definitely affected my past relationships). It was my way or no way. Finally, at the age of 35 - as of two days ago, yaaaas! - I have realized that it was my complete inability to compromise that has driven the course of much of my life. Did it help me sometimes? Yeah. Do I regret being uncompromising? Absolutely! Democratic government thrives when the parties involved speak for their constituents and find compromise and common ground. Obviously, some levels of politics and government are not built for all types of compromise, but at the VERY least we could stop and listen to one another without name calling or the “tit for tat” attitude that I think will truly be our downfall. We’re deep into it, but it’s not too late to turn it around.
Note from Samia: I love what David wrote here. I’ve also been guilty of being prejudiced against conservatives, which is why I started this podcast. The ire that’s going both ways across the political spectrum is hurting all of us, and helping no one. As liberals, we can’t ask conservatives to hear us out if we’re not willing to do the same for them. We can’t ask them not to bully us online if we insist on bullying them. We want equality, right? Then let’s dole out equality - instead of condescension and insults.
00:47:14 Are there any accounts on the public record of former Trump employees having wonderful things to say about him as a person?
I was able to find one story where a former employee of Trump’s said nice things about him. It was Trump’s butler of sixteen years, Anthony P. Senecal. While he doesn’t necessarily say it was all rainbows and puppies, I certainly did not get the impression that he didn’t like working for him either.
00:47:43 What reports about Trump’s character as a boss and colleague is Samia talking about?
The guy who ghost-wrote The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, decided to break his silence about Trump to Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. The interview goes into detail about how Schwartz helped Trump craft a public image that he feels is completely at odds with the reality of the man. He's pretty harsh on Trump, saying, "“I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” Whoooooa. He also did an interview with Frontline.
This article from Politico paints a much more complicated portrait of an executive with unpredictable moods and perhaps a bit more sentimentality than he is usually credited with.
And The Guardian’s report on what it’s like to work for Trump depicts him as an egomaniacal micro-manager who only cares about winning.
00:48:30 Show me Kellyanne Conway getting made fun of on SNL.
00:48:58 How does Kellyanne Conway spin everything Trump says into a good light?
This Washington Post video shows exactly how Kellyanne Conway operates as Trump’s spin-master.
00:49:08 What exactly are “alternative facts”?
The phrase “alternative facts” was used by Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017. You can see the video here. When Chuck Todd asked her to explain why Sean Spicer “uttered a provable falsehood,” Conway said that Spicer was giving “alternative facts.” She later defended the term, defining them as “additional facts and alternative information.” This drew lots of comparisons to the dystopian society of George Orwell’s 1984 - and sales of the book skyrocketed.
00:50:32 Where can I watch this interview that Rachel Maddow did with Kellyanne Conway?
Here is a link to a website that has the full episode broken up into three parts. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page for the videos.
00:51:52 Why doesn’t anyone want to be Ivanka Trump’s clothing brand anymore?
It all began with Ivanka Trump products being dropped by Nordstrom's, and then by Neiman Marcus. Shortly thereafter, other stores began to drop the brand as well. This has been part of the liberal resistance to the Trump administration - a way to use their dollars to make a political statement.
00:52:05 Is there a boycott against Under Armour, Uber, and Nike? Is that the Injustice Boycott?
Alley is actually reference the #GrabYourWallet boycott campaign. You can see their full list of companies to boycott here. None of the three companies Alley mentioned are currently on the list.
The Injustice Boycott is an organized resistance against racial prejudice and police brutality in America. Samia got the two confused.
00:53:19 Do protests really work?
I think it’s clear that organized protests are one of the main instruments in bringing about social change. This Harvard study claims to identify the reason that protests work, but it’s not in the way that most people assume. It’s a wonderful article that states that the big crowds at protests don’t work by sending a signal to policy-makers, but because they get people politically activated.
Vice published an article called Why Protests Work, and they link to a book called Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism, by the journalist L.A. Kauffman. Vice interviews Kauffman in the article, and it’s a great look into the U.S.’s history of activism and how it’s created positive social change.
00:53:54 What is the Standing Rock protest and the Dakota Access Pipeline?
First of all, it was North Dakota, not South.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a controversial crude oil transportation pipeline that spans over 1,000 miles from North Dakota to Illinois at a cost of $3.78 billion.
Protests delayed the final portion of the pipeline that now stretches under the Missouri River - not the Mississippi River, as Samia said. Protestors literally camped out at the site for months, through a harsh North Dakota winter when temperatures were regularly below freezing. Over 700 people were arrested from August 2016 to February 2017.
Why were they protesting? Well if that pipeline ever leaks, it could eliminate the main source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribes. The tribes are still fighting the pipeline in court, after a long, hard battle in which it looked like they had won - only to be thwarted by an executive order signed by Trump.
Protesters physically blocked the construction of the final portion of the pipeline from August 2016 until February 22, 2017, the date that North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum set as a deadline for the remaining protestors to evacuate the campsite.
One of the things that made this protest especially terrible was the violent clashing between the protesters and North Dakota law enforcement. There’s a particularly horrifying video of the police using water cannons on the protesters in below freezing temperatures. Seventeen people had to be taken to the hospital after that incident.
00:54:39 Why do pipelines leak and cause spills even with today’s technology?
This is an interesting look at how and why oil pipelines corrode, as well as why small leaks become big leaks quickly. And of course, the major reason that we can’t make the pipelines out of a non-corrosive material? Cost.
00:55:10 What oil spill caused an entire town in Canada to lose their drinking water?
The oil spill Samia is talking about happened in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan in January 2017. It leaked 200,000 liters of oil into land occupied by an aboriginal community.
Also, in July 2016, the Husky Energy oil spill dumped about 66,000 gallons of heavy oil and natural gas into the North Saskatchewan River. The town of North Battleford had to shut off its river intake and switch to groundwater, and the city of Prince Albert that had to shut its water treatment plant down. Prince Albert only has enough water stored to last 48 hours, so residents were urged to limit water usage until a backup system could get put into place.
00:55:37 Did the phone calls to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers actually stop the construction of the Dakota access pipeline?
Whether it was calls or protests that did it, or a combination of the two, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did temporarily block the project from moving forward so that they could do more extensive studies of the environmental impact the Dakota Access Pipeline could have on the region.
00:55:58 How are the Injustice Boycott and the Standing Rock protests related?
The Standing Rock protests and the Injustice Boycott were not actually run by the same people, as Samia said. The Injustice Boycott did take action to support the protestors at Standing Rock. The Standing Rock protests were organized by the Native American tribes themselves.
00:56:51 What regulations did Obama put on the big banks to stop them from creating another Great Recession?
Obama’s response to the Great Recession included the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the auto industry bailout, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (which, among other things, established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
00:56:59 Is Trump taking away all of the regulations put in place by Obama?
00:57:11 Do Republicans favor less regulation while Democrats favor the opposite?
It is one of the fundamental differences between the two parties. This article goes into some fascinating detail in regards to the Republican obsession with deregulation. Basically, Republicans argue that removing regulations promotes prosperity for businesses, which would eventually benefit everyone.
Democrats, or progressives, I should probably say, argue that allowing corporations to go unregulated hurts people and the environment.
00:58:55 Do Republicans want to regulate people while they deregulate corporations and banks?
The social policy positions of the current Republican Party definitely swing in that direction. They also favor “laissez-faire” economics, which basically says that businesses prosper when there is no government interference. Judging by those two political stances alone, it shows a clear desire for regulation of what people can and can’t do with their bodies, and deregulation of what large corporations can do.
01:00:49 Has the Republican agenda ever worked for “the little guy?”
The economic policies of Ronald Reagan, also called “Reaganomics” or supply-side economics, were thought to potentially work by giving tax cuts and benefits to businesses and high-income earners by assuming that these investors and company owners drive growth. It assumed that the extra money in savings would be used to drive production of more goods at a lower cost. Then, consumers would buy more, increasing demand, and therefore creating jobs.
These policies do work to end an economic recession and get things moving again. However, between 1979 and 2005, these same polices led to income inequality getting worse. After-tax household income rose 6% for the bottom fifth earners, and the top 1% saw their income increase by 80%. So the whole idea of trickle-down economics does work - for the top 1%.
This clearly does not help the little guy at all. While it may get us out of a recession a little faster, the only people who experience long-term benefits are the very wealthy. Their money will keep them rich through investments, while the economy will eventually take a turn for the worse again since these policies create greater and greater income inequality.
01:01:01 Did Trump really hire six former and current Goldman-Sachs executives to fill out his top advisory positions?
01:01:08 Is this the wealthiest presidential cabinet of all time?