The Doctor Versus the Denier

Anthony Fauci’s at the pool, but Donald Trump’s in deep.

Never mind Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

You want to see a real can’t-look-away train wreck of a relationship? Look to the nation’s capital, where a messy falling out is chronicled everywhere from the tabloids to a glossy fashion magazine, replete with a photo shoot by a swimming pool.

The saga has enough betrayal, backstabbing, recrimination, indignation and ostracization to impress Edith Wharton.

The press breathlessly covers how much time has passed since the pair last spoke, whether they’re headed for splitsville, and if they can ever agree on what’s best for the children.

It was always bound to be tempestuous because they are the ultimate odd couple, the doctor and the president.

  • One is a champion of truth and facts. The other is a master of deceit and denial.
  • One is highly disciplined, working 18-hour days. The other can’t be bothered to do his homework and golfs instead.
  • One is driven by science and the public good. The other is a public menace, driven by greed and ego.
  • One is a Washington institution. The other was sent here to destroy Washington institutions.
  • One is incorruptible. The other corrupts.
  • One is apolitical. The other politicizes everything he touches — toilets, windows, beans and, most fatally, masks.

After a fractious week, when the former reality-show star in the White House retweeted a former game-show host saying that we shouldn’t trust doctors about Covid-19, Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci are gritting their teeth.

What’s so scary is that the bumpy course of their relationship has life-or-death consequences for Americans.

Who could even dream up a scenario where a president and a White House drop oppo research on the esteemed scientist charged with keeping us safe in a worsening pandemic?

The administration acted like Peter Navarro, Trump’s wacko-bird trade adviser, had gone rogue when he assailed Dr. Fauci for being Dr. Wrong, in a USA Today op-ed. But does anyone believe that? And if he did, would he still have his job?

No doubt it was a case of Trump murmuring: Will no one rid me of this meddlesome infectious disease specialist?

Republicans on Capitol Hill privately confessed they were baffled by the whole thing, saying they couldn’t understand why Trump would undermine Fauci, especially now with the virus resurgent. They think it’s not only hurting Trump’s re-election chances, but theirs, too.

As though it couldn’t get more absurd, Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Friday that she thinks it would help Trump’s poll numbers for him to start giving public briefings on the virus again — even though that exercise went off the rails when the president began suggesting people inject themselves with bleach.

How did we get to a situation in our country where the public health official most known for honesty and hard work is most vilified for it?” marvels Michael Specter, a science writer for The New Yorker who began covering Fauci during the AIDs crisis. “And as Team Trump trashes him, the numbers keep horrifyingly proving him right.”

When Dr. Fauci began treating AIDs patients, nearly every one of them died. “It was the darkest time of my life,” he told Specter. In an open letter, Larry Kramer called Fauci a “murderer.”

Then, as Specter writes, he started listening to activists and made a rare admission: His approach wasn’t working. He threw his caution to the winds and became a public-health activist. Through rigorous research and commitment to clinical studies, the death rate from AIDs has plummeted over the years.

Now Fauci struggles to drive the data bus as the White House throws nails under his tires. It seems emblematic of a deeper, existential problem: America has lost its can-do spirit. We were always Bugs Bunny, faster, smarter, more wily than everybody else. Now we’re Slugs Bunny.

Can our country be any more pathetic than this: The Georgia governor suing the Atlanta mayor and City Council to block their mandate for city residents to wear masks?

Trump promised the A team, but he has surrounded himself with losers and kiss-ups and second-raters. Just your basic Ayn Rand nightmare.

Certainly, Dr. Fauci has had to adjust some of his early positions as he learned about this confounding virus. (“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” John Maynard Keynes wisely observed.)

Medicine is not an exact art,” Jerome Groopman, the best-selling author and professor at Harvard Medical School, put it. “There’s lots of uncertainty, always evolving information, much room for doubt. The most dangerous people are the ones who speak with total authority and no room for error.”

Sound like someone you know?

Medical schools,” Dr. Groopman continued, “have curricula now to teach students the imperative of admitting when something went wrong, taking responsibility, and committing to righting it.”

Some are saying the 79-year-old Dr. Fauci should say to hell with it and quit. But we need his voice of reason in this nuthouse of a White House.

Despite Dr. Fauci’s best efforts to stay apolitical, he has been sucked into the demented political kaleidoscope through which we view everything now. Consider the shoot by his pool, photographed by Frankie Alduino, for a digital cover story by Norah O’Donnell for InStyle magazine.

From the left, the picture represented an unflappable hero, exhausted and desperately in need of some R & R, chilling poolside, not letting the White House’s slime campaign get him down or silence him. And on the right, some saw a liberal media darling, high on his own supply in the midst of a deadly pandemic. “While America burns, Fauci does fashion mag photo shoots,” tweeted Sean Davis, co-founder of the right-wing website The Federalist.

It’s no coincidence that the QAnon-adjacent cultists on the right began circulating a new conspiracy theory in the fever swamps of Facebook that Dr. Fauci’s wife of three and a half decades, a bioethicist, is Ghislane Maxwell’s sister. (Do I need to tell you she isn’t?)

Worryingly, new polls show that the smear from Trumpworld may be starting to stick; fewer Republicans trust the doctor now than in the spring.

Forget Mueller, Sessions, Comey, Canada, his niece, Mika Brzezinski. Of the many quarrels, scrapes and scraps Trump has instigated in his time in office, surely this will be remembered not only as the most needless and perverse, but as the most dangerous.

As Dr. Fauci told The Atlantic, it’s “a bit bizarre.”

More than a bit, actually.

[Trump is] About Undermining A Potential Outside Power Source: The Truth (Andrea Bernstein)

it’s about undermining a
potential source of a potential power
source that he doesn’t control so a
potential power source that he doesn’t
control is the truth so by trying to
define everything as a matter of opinion
he undermines all of journalism and I

Transcript

00:01
thank you thank you so it’s such a
00:08
pleasure to be here with Andrea who is
00:10
my journalism hero and friend and I I’m
00:17
often asked if there’s what journalists
00:20
can do in this situation with this
00:22
administration we’re really I mean no
00:26
matter what we do we lose right it’s
00:28
always it’s always a net loss for
00:29
journalism
00:30
it is always in that loss for journalism
00:32
right weights the loss of access it’s
00:33
the loss of information it’s a loss of
00:35
sort of trust it’s sort of trust and but
00:42
but the one example that I can always
00:44
give of of a journalistic effort that
00:47
that I think is successful and that
00:49
actually finds the right approach to
00:51
this administration is trumping which is
00:55
amazing if you’re not already listening
00:57
to it you have to start now and now
01:03
there’s this book which is which is an
01:07
extraordinary accomplishment and I I
01:09
don’t understand how you did it while
01:10
also doing the podcast I was sort of
01:13
observing the process and then suddenly
01:16
it was done it was amazing for me too
01:21
but to start with I actually want to ask
01:24
you to read I know I know you have a
01:26
good radio voice so could you read from
01:31
the very beginning of the book at the
01:33
section called the wedding from page 7
01:39
absolutely with an wedding has its own
01:42
internal alert the wedding this is the
01:50
wedding with Jared Kushner Nevada Trump
01:51
the wedding had its own alert internal
01:54
allure the world of the Celebrity
01:56
Apprentice was one of famous people who
01:58
had seen better days Dennis Rodman Gary
02:00
Busey Dionne Warwick Joan Rivers there
02:03
were actual movie stars at Jared and
02:05
Ivanka’s wedding Princess Padme Amidala
02:08
of the Star Wars movie franchise Natalie
02:11
Portman and Maximus
02:13
miss Meridius from gladiator Russell
02:15
Crowe among the old dynastic families of
02:18
New York real estate when asked about
02:20
Trump people said and still say Donald
02:23
Trump is not one of us they say they
02:26
never saw Donald Trump at the Real
02:27
Estate Board of New York or at the
02:28
partnership for the New York City or the
02:31
Alliance for a better New York they did
02:33
not see him at civic events they did not
02:34
see him at charity balls or the ballet
02:36
or the Opera with few exceptions for
02:39
example the US Open tennis tournament in
02:41
Queens he stayed in his own homes
02:43
frequented his own clubs and ate in the
02:45
restaurants in his own buildings
02:47
by contrast Ivanka Trump had found
02:49
acceptance in the Manhattan elite she
02:51
went to the Chapin school on the Upper
02:53
East Side and showed Rosemary Hall
02:54
boarding school in Connecticut and she
02:56
said School of American Ballet and
02:59
danced as a child extra in the
03:00
Nutcracker as an adult she was a
03:03
sought-after supporter for causes from
03:05
the World Wildlife Fund to the New York
03:07
City Police Foundation she was welcomed
03:09
to the Met Gala and Vanity Fair parties
03:11
and chatted about Opera with Leonard
03:13
low-paid on the public radio station
03:14
WNYC unlike her father and her husband
03:18
she had no hint of Queens or New Jersey
03:20
in her measured speech somehow through
03:24
her their accents were laundered Ivanka
03:27
and Jared’s wedding was Jewish in a
03:29
trumpian way as women arrived they were
03:35
given elegant shawls to guard against
03:37
the autumnal chill as the Sun slid down
03:39
the sky but also to cover their
03:41
shoulders Ivanka herself were a Vera
03:44
Wang wedding dress shoulders covered by
03:46
white lace sleeves extending down to her
03:49
elbows in some dances women were
03:51
separated from men in the Orthodox
03:53
tradition the food served in a separate
03:56
dinner tent also enormous was kosher a
03:58
rabbi had walked through the tent
04:00
koshering a caters caterers knife by
04:02
dipping it in water
04:04
there was pastrami corned beef turkey
04:07
sushi station and Peking Duck a 13 layer
04:10
cake that was almost as tall as the
04:13
bride and groom which is tall ringed
04:15
with cream-colored lisianthus roses
04:18
peonies lilies-of-the-valley and baby’s
04:20
breaths
04:21
Charles Kushner’s speech was a variant
04:23
of the one he gave at every family event
04:25
every simcha
04:26
Yiddish and Hebrew for joy a metonym for
04:29
joyous occasion about being the son of
04:31
Holocaust survivors about the miracle of
04:33
survival about Jews thriving and
04:35
prevailing about the values of family
04:37
and has said Hebrew for compassion or
04:40
grace and Torah he spoke about evanka
04:43
and how she had worked so hard to become
04:45
Jewish and how the family embraced her
04:47
now Donald Trump had been bewildered by
04:50
his daughter’s conversion but was
04:52
gracious at his daughter’s wedding
04:53
he spoke appreciatively and
04:55
uncharacteristically of his first wife
04:57
Ivana and all the work she’d done to
05:00
raise Ivanka acknowledging he hadn’t
05:02
always been an attentive parent the
05:04
guests who had come to the wedding with
05:05
a mix of curiosity and anticipation and
05:08
obligation and appreciation were greeted
05:11
warmly they felt for a fleeting instance
05:14
perhaps the gravitational pull of Donald
05:16
Trump’s personality that night as guests
05:20
left clutching their give away prayer
05:22
books and a pair of javi Anna flip-flops
05:24
that said jarred on one and Ivanka on
05:27
the other laced through with a string
05:29
calling them a great pair they were
05:32
forced to embrace Trump’s ostentatious
05:34
nests even as they participated in his
05:36
display to pay tribute to this marriage
05:39
of money and power to acknowledge the
05:42
authority of the patriarchs from the
05:44
vantage point of everything they had
05:46
built the families could say we’ve
05:49
arrived you are complicit in our power
05:51
we are a force to be reckoned with pay
05:55
respect to us foolishly the world did
05:59
not
06:02
so as as you can tell this is also
06:10
beautifully written book in addition to
06:12
being an incredibly research book but I
06:16
want to talk about the title for a
06:18
second mm-hmm
06:19
you call them American oligarchs so
06:21
let’s define the terms what’s what’s an
06:23
oligarch so Masha I think I asked you
06:29
that question when I was starting
06:32
writing this book or even before I had
06:35
started writing this book like many
06:38
people after the 2016 election which I
06:40
had covered I didn’t know what to do
06:43
next and I was trying to figure out what
06:45
to do next and we started on this Trump
06:50
business reporting project and I kept
06:51
running into Russian names so I asked
06:55
Masha would she have coffee for me and
06:57
explained what an oligarch was and so
07:04
that was maybe six months before I
07:08
started to write this book proposal and
07:10
I just hit on the title American
07:11
oligarch so what do I mean by American
07:14
oligarch I think what I’m what it is is
07:20
what we see in this Trump world and
07:23
especially in this real estate world of
07:25
New York and New Jersey but all over
07:26
this country we’re incredibly wealthy
07:30
people give the money to get the
07:34
government they want and one of the
07:38
things that I really wrestled with in
07:39
writing the book is that Trump and
07:40
Kushner’s are definitely okay so I don’t
07:43
really know how rich he is because I
07:44
haven’t seen his tax returns
07:46
but I don’t think Donald Trump or the
07:49
Kushner’s are the richest people in
07:50
America by far and they were not sort of
07:54
players in the political scene in the
07:56
way the Koch brothers were or the olan’s
07:59
or the devices or the princes or any of
08:02
those people who just really gave money
08:04
to break the campaign finance system but
08:08
the Trump family and the Kushner family
08:10
but especially the Trump family broken
08:12
in a different way and the way was that
08:15
Donald Trump in his father gave so much
08:18
money to the political bosses and also
08:21
had the system of compromise like they
08:23
would hire the people that would work
08:27
for the party bosses they hired their
08:29
lawyers and they just always figured out
08:31
the way in so they could use their money
08:33
to get the government they wanted along
08:37
with that was making sure that they
08:40
would never suffer legal consequences
08:42
which enabled them to do this and one of
08:45
the things I learned in writing the book
08:46
was that they broke it from within so I
08:50
didn’t really know what an American
08:53
oligarch was when I started writing the
08:54
book even though I had it in the title
08:56
but I think I understand it now and I
08:58
didn’t know everything that was going to
09:00
happen in the two years since I started
09:02
writing the book but what we see is a
09:05
system that where the very wealthy are
09:10
making money faster and faster and
09:13
thanks to the tax cuts and Jobs Act of
09:15
2017 they’re making it even faster and
09:17
then they have more money to give to a
09:18
very transactional president who has
09:21
made it so clear I mean every day people
09:25
just pay this president which is like
09:27
the stunning to me is somebody who
09:28
covered political corruption because it
09:31
didn’t happen that way you know I spent
09:32
so much time looking through campaign
09:34
finance disclosures and lining them up
09:36
and lining up the check numbers and with
09:37
Trump it’s just out there in the open
09:39
people are booking rooms at his hotels
09:41
or golf course memberships are buying
09:43
condos and he is paying close attention
09:46
now I think that American oligarchs are
09:51
not quite what I understand is happening
09:54
in Russia with the oligarchs because
09:57
these are people who
09:58
as I understand it are so beholden to
10:01
Putin and their whole business model
10:03
relies on their sort of supporting his
10:06
government not crossing him and if they
10:09
do they will not make money or be killed
10:11
or sent to jail or exiled or maybe all
10:14
of those things which is something that
10:17
I learned from man without a face which
10:19
is also a book that Masha wrote so I
10:23
we’re not that’s not exactly where we
10:26
are however one of the things that
10:29
happened to me while I was covering Paul
10:30
mana for its trial that really shocked
10:33
me was that during the trial one of the
10:38
political consultants who had worked
10:39
with Paul Manafort said do you know who
10:41
paid you and he said oh yes very rich
10:43
people they call them oligarchs and I
10:45
thought wow that is crazy there was no I
10:49
mean there was no super PACs there was
10:51
no campaign finance system there was
10:53
nothing they just paid for the
10:55
consultant that was going to hire the
10:56
president that they wanted that was
10:58
going to enable them to keep making
10:59
money so we’re not quite there but that
11:05
is the direction we are heading
11:06
unfortunately so you talk about the
11:11
research for this book is starting six
11:14
well right after the election but
11:16
advance right right did the research
11:18
actually begin so I started I started
11:22
covering corruption in well I started
11:25
covering governments in New York in 1994
11:29
which was the year Rudy Giuliani became
11:31
mayor and I covered politics election
11:37
government but really what I wanted to
11:41
do is understand how power worked and so
11:45
that is an endeavor that I’ve been doing
11:49
for 26 years now and one of the things
11:55
about I recently did a story for NPR
11:58
just sort of all this tape of Rudy
12:00
through the ages and NPR was like can
12:03
you do this story can you find the time
12:05
which was you know right around the time
12:07
this book was supposed to be finished
12:09
and they said look once you pulled the
12:12
tape
12:12
together you can use it for his obituary
12:13
and I was like oh my god I’ve been
12:17
covering Rudy Giuliani since he was
12:18
mayor and now apparently I’m going to
12:20
cover him until he dies not that he’s on
12:22
the verge of death but I’ll have the
12:24
tape together but talk a little bit more
12:29
but how I want you to talk about Wayne
12:32
Barrett a little bit yeah so while I so
12:35
I had before I was a journalist I worked
12:38
in New York City government in politics
12:40
and I was sort of a low-level official
12:43
and I read the book City for sale by
12:47
Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett and I
12:51
thought to myself wow this is how power
12:55
works and all of these people that live
12:57
in this world around me that did things
12:59
I had no idea and I thought to myself
13:01
okay I want to be like that and many of
13:04
you know Wayne Barrett he was a
13:06
legendary muckraking reporter a friend
13:10
of mine he really dedicated a large
13:13
portion of his life to investigating
13:15
Donald Trump he was actually the first
13:17
person to think okay Donald Trump is
13:19
somebody worthy of a biography a serious
13:21
biography and he also wrote two
13:23
biographies of Rudy Giuliani Wayne died
13:28
on January 19th 2017 hours before Trump
13:32
was sworn in as president but has been a
13:34
daily source of inspiration to me
13:36
because he was the kind of muckraking
13:40
fact-based journalist who was willing to
13:42
connect the dots that has been a model
13:44
for my career and I actually think for
13:46
many journalists who are working today I
13:50
remember we met up I think in early 2017
13:55
and and you sort of gestured around to
14:01
to lower Manhattan where we were and
14:04
said I think real estate holds the key
14:07
yeah I think we just look at real estate
14:08
we’re going to figure it all out what
14:11
made you think that well so real estate
14:15
in New York we don’t necessarily think
14:17
of it this way but it’s like it’s like
14:19
an energy or a mineral resource it is a
14:22
limited resource that is controlled by
14:25
the government and it is also thanks to
14:31
laws that began that Thomas Jefferson
14:35
encouraged of all people there began
14:38
this tradition in this country of
14:39
keeping very detailed land records so
14:41
even though Donald Trump has figured out
14:45
every way to not tell us things about
14:47
his holdings real estate records are
14:52
extremely detailed and you can find all
14:54
kinds of things about them one of the
14:57
first stories that we did was about Paul
15:00
man affords real estate deals and what
15:03
we had started doing is really okay
15:04
we’re going to look at Trump Tower and
15:05
figure out all the people that live
15:07
there
15:08
mostly with shell companies we tried to
15:10
figure out who the shell companies were
15:11
we got up to apartment 43 G and that was
15:14
Paul manna forts apartment and it was
15:16
such a strange financing pattern we
15:20
tried to sort it out and we wouldn’t we
15:22
asked a bunch of excerpts experts who
15:24
would finance their apartment in this
15:26
way and they said oh that looks like
15:27
money laundering so we wrote that story
15:30
it was money laundering and as a matter
15:34
of fact it was money laundered from the
15:37
oligarch couldn’t Ukraine that I
15:38
mentioned and Paul Manafort serving
15:41
prison time for it which is one of the
15:45
reasons that Donald Trump and Giuliani
15:47
went to Ukraine in the first place
15:48
because they wanted to undermine the
15:52
basis of that conviction even though it
15:54
was tested in two federal jurisdictions
15:57
they believe that if they could cast
15:59
doubt on Paul metaphores kindig
16:00
conviction then they would cast doubt on
16:03
the whole Muller report so shifting
16:09
gears a little bit
16:10
most of the protagonists of this book
16:13
are not people that you had access to
16:16
for various reasons some are dead hmm
16:21
and some wouldn’t talk to you yeah and
16:24
some I understand receives scores of
16:26
questions from you I mean let me just
16:30
sidebar this so many of you know that
16:34
masha after the 2016 election wrote i’ll
16:39
talk
16:39
rules for survival and one of the things
16:41
she said is expect there to be less and
16:44
less press access fewer and fewer press
16:48
briefings and for people who try to
16:51
report in the administration to be
16:52
retaliate in a way that makes it
16:54
impossible to do their job that was a
16:58
fairly benign description of our current
17:01
situation we not only have we not seen
17:05
the president’s tax returns or know who
17:07
his business partners are or who to whom
17:10
he owes money there are no visitor
17:13
records at mar-a-lago or at the White
17:15
House there it’s much harder to get
17:18
disclosures they simply do not give us
17:20
information I mean I think we see in
17:22
this impeachment trial the way they have
17:23
stonewalled Congress but that is also
17:25
what it’s like to be a journalist we
17:26
just get nothing and so I think that
17:33
covering this administration has really
17:37
I mean and the other thing also of
17:40
course is that Donald Trump just you
17:41
know bullies people especially
17:43
journalists he calls journalists the
17:45
enemies of the people the enemy of the
17:47
people which is as you know not an
17:50
accident it’s about undermining a
17:52
potential source of a potential power
17:56
source that he doesn’t control so a
potential power source that he doesn’t
control is the truth so by trying to
define everything as a matter of opinion
he undermines all of journalism and I
think that that is one of the things
that I both tried to do in the book and
try to do in the in the trumping podcast
is to sort of by doing it say yes
actually there is truth there is an
alternate power center to the answer of
access I mean one of the things that
turns out to be incredibly interesting
18:32
is that um a lot of people in New York
18:37
City and New Jersey know a trump or a
18:40
Kushner it’s amazing to me particularly
18:42
and if anybody hears from Livingston New
18:45
Jersey but at almost every event that
18:47
I’ve been to including on the west coast
18:48
somebody has come to me and said I’m
18:50
from Livingston New Jersey which is
18:51
where the Kushner family is from
18:53
population 28,000 right so it has been
18:57
you know I feel that I am blessed by the
19:00
generosity of my sources who have spoken
19:03
to me under you know a conditions of a
19:06
lot of fear and many of them have
19:07
already suffered repercussions and other
19:09
ones were afraid that they would I sent
19:13
separate questions to Jared Kushner
19:16
Ivanka Trump Charles Kushner and Donald
19:19
Trump the Trump’s just ignored me the
19:22
Kushner’s basically ignored all of my
19:23
questions and there did answer a few
19:28
fact-checking confirm or correct type of
19:31
questions so I had a little bit of that
19:35
but that’s all that I got from them so
19:39
two follow-ups to that first of all did
19:40
they answer those truthfully well so far
19:48
as I could tell yes but one of the
19:52
questions to Jared Kushner was you
19:54
graduated from Harvard and the class of
19:57
2003 correct and he and the answer was
20:03
with honors so it’s like okay I’m gonna
20:06
put that in the book because I was sort
20:07
of tough on Jared Kushner and he got
20:10
into Harvard after his father gave a
20:12
huge contribution his father did not go
20:13
to Harvard but them shout out to my
20:18
excellent fact-checker Fergus McIntosh
20:19
she found out that 91 percent of the
20:21
people in the class of 2003 had
20:23
graduated with honors so I didn’t put it
20:25
in the book so it’s true right but but
20:32
did you feel like it was and I’m and I’m
20:35
asking this actually because i i’ve
20:37
written some about people that i also
20:39
didn’t have access to and sometimes it
20:41
feels like an advantage because you’re
20:42
not beholden to somebody yeah I mean I I
20:47
think that it is harder when I mean it’s
20:51
hard when somebody gives you a lot of
20:53
access because I mean I feel an
20:55
incredible sense of responsibility to to
20:58
everybody that’s in the book to all the
21:00
people that spoke to me and to everybody
21:02
that’s in it to really really try and
21:05
get it
21:07
but I think that knowing how these
21:11
families work the people that work with
21:13
them they give up so much of themselves
21:16
and it’s one of the major themes of the
21:18
book is everybody gets close to them
21:21
compromises themselves in some way and
21:23
then can’t go back not a journalist but
21:26
an example of this is Michael Cohen who
21:30
talks in some testimony that I have in
21:33
the book about how Trump kept asking him
21:35
to cross lines and every time he crossed
21:36
a line he would ask them to cross
21:38
another line and then he was so far over
21:40
he could never go back and then when
21:42
Michael Cohen testified to Congress and
21:44
they were attacking him and defending
21:46
Trump he said I was you don’t do what I
21:48
did because then you will find yourself
21:50
in the position that I’m in which is
21:53
serving three years in prison right now
21:56
right so you’re saying that’s the
21:59
advantage is that you saying that right
22:01
I mean with with especially with Donald
22:03
Trump like the whole history of his
22:05
relationship with journalists is that he
22:10
beguiles journalists and there’s a lot
22:12
of examples in the story about how he
22:13
like gave sports tickets to people and
22:15
then they couldn’t cover him anymore and
22:17
he would do things to bring people close
22:19
to him I mean he can treat journalists
22:21
any differently from the way he did
22:23
anybody else and then if people if he
22:25
didn’t like the stories he would
22:27
threaten to sue them and this goes back
22:28
forever and did sue them so I want to
22:35
talk about trumping for a minute because
22:37
what I what I most appreciate about it
22:40
is that it has I mean first of all it’s
22:42
an open-ended you call yourself an open
22:44
and an investigation which i think is
22:47
brilliant and your project is very
22:49
clearly to describe trumpism as a system
22:51
yeah and I just want to make it clear
22:55
just how different it is from the normal
22:57
of journalistic project how did you I
23:00
mean how different is it and and how did
23:02
you come up with this idea so we came up
23:08
with the idea so this is something so
23:09
right after Trump was elected it became
23:12
very clear that we were gonna have to
23:14
work with a lot of other journalists
23:15
because the
23:18
system was so complicated and there was
23:21
how I mean you could spend a year
23:23
investigating one shell company that
23:26
gave to the Trump inaugural so it became
23:28
clear that we were gonna have to
23:29
cooperate in a way that we were not used
23:32
to cooperating I mean we didn’t have to
23:34
but it would be better to do that
23:35
because there was so much material to go
23:37
through we would just be wasting our
23:38
time if we would be competing with each
23:40
other over diving into these business
23:42
records so we started to reach out to a
23:46
lot of journalists and we created this
23:49
partnership with ProPublica and we did
23:51
some stories about one of the first
23:53
stories we did was how Don Junior Ivanka
23:56
and Donald Trump was still on the Trump
23:57
Soho liquor license while they were in
23:59
the White House which meant if a high
24:01
school student bought a drink at the bar
24:03
that Trump Soho the president the United
24:05
States would be liable for that so but
24:09
we started to do a number of stories
24:11
with them and then we did this story
24:14
about the Trump Soho this was another
24:17
meeting that I had with mascha because I
24:19
wanted to know how to pronounce all the
24:20
Russian names and I wanted to understand
24:23
why the emigrates who lived in Brighton
24:25
Beach we’re doing business back when
24:27
Russia and the story ended up being
24:31
nothing to do with that and totally in
24:34
my old haunting grounds which was the
24:35
New York City Board of Elections records
24:37
because what had happened is that the
24:41
Trump there were there was an email
24:43
chain showing that the Trump adult
24:45
children had lied about the number of
24:46
units sold at the Trump Soho and did it
24:51
knowingly and which is a violation of
24:54
various laws in New York felony laws so
24:56
they were being investigated by the
24:57
Manhattan da and Trump’s white-collar
25:00
team well-connected I should add one of
25:02
them was the brother-in-law of the
25:05
former DEA and one was a law partner of
25:07
the DEA our former law partner of the
25:11
DEA but they couldn’t make the case go
25:12
away so they brought in Trump’s personal
25:14
attorney mark Kazu ‘its who up and also
25:17
happened to be one of the largest donors
25:19
to the Manhattan da and the case was
25:24
closed over the objection
25:27
the prosecutors so we did this story
25:31
with ProPublica in The New Yorker and
25:33
then afterwards we sat down and we
25:34
thought okay we should follow up so we
25:35
put on a big whiteboard all of these
25:37
questions and we were looking like what
25:39
are we gonna do we want to understand
25:40
this deal we want to understand that
25:41
deal we won’t understand India and then
25:44
we realized actually the question is the
25:46
story and that is what Trump Inc came
25:49
out of it’s a set it’s an open
25:51
investigation which has turned out to be
25:53
I mean people love the idea of an
25:56
investigation one of the stories that we
25:58
have not yet solved
26:00
partly because Trump has sued to block
26:03
the subpoenas that might have shed light
26:04
is what was happening with his
26:07
connections with Deutsche Bank in the
26:09
period prior to the election and we did
26:13
an episode saying well we don’t know
26:15
what happened literally we don’t know
26:18
what happened we don’t know if there was
26:19
money laundering but we are gonna tell
26:21
you all of the strange things that have
26:23
happened with Deutsche Bank they were at
26:25
the time that they were doing business
26:27
with Trump
26:28
they were sanctioned by New York
26:29
regulators for doing hundreds of
26:31
millions for laundering hundreds of
26:32
millions of dollars from Moscow to
26:34
London in New York so all of this was
26:37
going on at the same time they had no
26:38
money laundering controls and when we
26:42
when I started the Edit the episode and
26:45
we have a very intensive editing process
26:47
and one of the editors said I think you
26:49
need to tell people that you don’t know
26:51
what the end of the story is so that is
26:54
sort of thematically what Trump is is we
26:56
don’t know what the end is but we are
26:58
involved in this process of unravelling
27:02
and documenting and bringing people in
27:05
to help us solve it many people that
27:08
have we have reported on have been
27:11
indicted or gone to prison after we
27:14
wrote about them sometimes it seems to
27:16
be happening so fast that we can’t keep
27:20
up so I mean we wrote about live par na
27:23
San Diego Fuhrman and then the next
27:24
thing we know they were indicted in the
27:25
Southern District of New York I want to
27:31
ask you to read somewhere yes so this
27:35
section is called dirt
27:37
and it’s the end of the section story I
27:39
feel like I need to explain something
27:42
before I read this so Jerrod kutner’s
27:48
grandmother was a survivor of the
27:50
Holocaust and she lived in a town called
27:54
novogrudok in Northeast Poland where she
27:57
had been middle to upper-middle class
28:00
and there was a pretty thriving Jewish
28:01
community there and her family was
28:07
subject to all kinds of brutality mass
28:10
murders shootings there were tens of
28:14
thousands of Jews in the area by the
28:15
summer of 1943 there were hundreds and
28:19
one of the things that I found
28:22
remarkable from reading Jared Kushner’s
28:24
grandmother’s testimony because she had
28:25
left this testimony as part of this
28:28
movement where people felt we need to
28:29
document what happened in the Holocaust
28:33
so that it wouldn’t happen again
28:35
and one of the things that I found so
28:39
striking was how she kept talking about
28:42
whatever happened they were like this is
28:45
the worst thing that can happen so the
28:47
worst thing that could happen is that
28:49
the Soviet Union could take over and
28:51
then the next worst thing that could
28:52
happen was the Nazis could take over and
28:54
make them wear yellow stars and walk in
28:57
the middle of the street but surely it
28:59
couldn’t get worse than that and it just
29:02
kept getting worse and worse and worse
29:04
so from tens of thousands of Jews to
29:06
three hundred Jews they finally came to
29:08
the realization that they were going to
29:10
die that they had not been chosen by God
29:12
to live the Nazis were going to kill
29:16
them as soon as they were done with them
29:17
so they dug a tunnel they used spoons or
29:23
whatever they could find Forks and they
29:25
dug out bags of dirt and they hid it in
29:28
the wall so the Nazis would know that
29:30
they were building the tunnel and one
29:34
night on the eve of the Jewish High
29:36
Holidays they all crawled out to
29:39
foot-wide tunnel and they crawled out
29:43
maybe the length of three football
29:44
fields which is there probably a good
29:47
metaphor for tonight and they got under
29:50
the barbed wire and everybody
29:51
got out you know some of the people
29:52
including Jared Kushner’s grandmother’s
29:54
brother ran in the wrong direction
29:58
and were killed by the Nazis so all of
30:00
that is important for you to know before
30:02
I read this part this part is about
30:05
Jared Kushner right after the election
30:09
at this time it wasn’t even clear to
30:12
many Americans that Jared Kushner would
30:14
be joining the administration but the
30:15
Russians had figured out that Jared had
30:17
rare influence over his father-in-law
30:19
Putin kept opening fronts and his
30:22
maneuvers to reach Jared in addition to
30:24
oven and Dimitri owed to oligarchs he
30:26
sent his ambassador Sergei kiss-kiss
30:29
black know now Masha is making me say
30:33
all the Russian names out loud kiss lack
30:35
to create a third channel Kirchner
30:38
agreed to meet even though after the
30:40
election he said he couldn’t remember a
30:41
kiss Lex name Kushner has offered this
30:44
as evidence he couldn’t have colluded
30:45
with Russia during the campaign on
30:47
November 30th kiss lack Kushner and
30:50
Michael Flynn the incoming National
30:51
Security Advisor met at Trump Tower
30:53
Flynn it later had merged had secretly
30:56
accepted $600,000 from a firm linked to
30:58
the Turkish government for lobbying work
31:00
that coincided with the campaign
31:02
I asked ambassador kis lack if he would
31:04
identify the best person whether the
31:06
Ambassador or someone else with wimped
31:09
with whom to have direct discussions and
31:11
who had contact with his president
31:12
Kushner later said this luck did have
31:15
someone he wanted to speak with Kushner
31:17
his generals he asked Kushner if there
31:19
was a secure communications line they
31:21
could use Kushner came up with a
31:22
suggestion how about if they use the
31:24
communications equipment at the Russian
31:26
embassy this was a shocking suggestion
31:29
shocking suggestion to kiss lack that
31:31
the incoming American administration
31:33
albiet a friendly one could get access
31:35
to Russia’s most secret methods of
31:37
communications its inner sanctum
31:39
alarmed he said no he transmitted his
31:41
alarm to Moscow these communications
31:44
were monitored and recorded by US
31:46
intelligence agencies that’s how they
31:48
found out the president-elect son in
31:50
law’s talks with the Russian ambassador
31:53
kiss lack pursue Jared for yet another
31:56
meeting Jared was by now impatient he
31:58
decided that kiss lack didn’t really
32:00
have enough juice with Moscow but kiss
32:02
lack was persistent and set up a meeting
32:04
with Jared’s assist
32:05
at that meeting kiss left asked for yet
32:07
another appointment with Jared this time
32:10
is Kushner put it with a person named
32:11
Sergei Gorka who said he was a banker
32:14
the head of Venetian home bank or VEB
32:16
the Russian state-owned Development Bank
32:18
Gourcuff Kushner was told had a direct
32:21
line to the Russian president who could
32:23
give insight into how Putin was voting
32:25
the new administration and best ways to
32:27
work together so they met I agreed to
32:31
meet mr. Gourcuff Jared later wrote
32:33
because the Ambassador had been so
32:35
insistent said he had a direct
32:36
relationship with the president and
32:38
because mr. cork Cove was only in New
32:40
York for a couple days
32:41
I made ruin my schedule for the meeting
32:43
that occurred the next day on December
32:45
13th Kushner saw no conflict for the
32:48
son-in-law of the incoming American
32:49
president a real estate developer with a
32:51
billion dollar debt coming due to meet
32:54
with a banker for the Russian state to
32:56
talk about foreign policy the meeting
32:59
took place not in Trump Tower
33:00
but at Tom barracks colony capital
33:03
building in Manhattan at the time of the
33:05
meeting the EB was and remained the
33:07
subject of US sanctions imposed in the
33:09
wake of the Crimea invasion Gourcuff
33:12
told Kushner a little about his bank in
33:14
the Russian economy he said it was
33:16
friendly with President Putin Kushner
33:18
said an expressed disappointment with US
33:20
Russia relationships under President
33:22
Obama and hopes for a better
33:23
relationship in the future there were no
33:25
discussions about sanctions Kushner said
33:27
or about my company’s business
33:29
transactions real estate projects loans
33:31
banking arrangements or any private
33:32
businesses of any kind VB disputed this
33:36
characterization telling The Washington
33:38
Post that the session was held as a part
33:41
of a new business strategy and was
33:43
conducted with Kushner and his role as
33:44
the head of his family’s real estate
33:46
business when questioned by Muller’s
33:49
investigators Jared Kushner wanted to
33:52
make sure they understood how little he
33:54
thought of this meeting to advance his
33:55
argument that he couldn’t have been
33:57
conspiring with Russian state actors he
33:59
said he did not engage in any
34:00
preparation for the meeting and that no
34:02
one on the transition team even did a
34:05
Google search for Gore Cobbs name but
34:09
Gourcuff another of putin’s wealthy and
34:12
powerful emissaries had done his
34:14
research Gourcuff carried with him two
34:17
gifts
34:18
gifts that showed a careful and
34:20
deliberate investigation into the person
34:23
he was meeting with one was a piece of
34:26
art from novogrudok the village where my
34:27
grandparents were from in Belarus and
34:30
the other was a bag of dirt from that
34:33
same village as Jared Kushner later
34:35
explained during the campaign dirt on
34:39
Hillary Clinton had when the currency
34:41
Russians had tried to trade now the
34:44
Russians were giving Jared Kushner a
34:46
literal bag of dirt reminiscent of the
34:49
bags of dirt that Rhea Kushner and her
34:51
family had dug from the earth and hidden
34:53
in the walls of the novogrudok ghetto so
34:55
the Nazis wouldn’t know they had dug a
34:57
tunnel to safety had it not been for
35:00
those bags of dirt Ray would have never
35:02
made it out of the ghetto to the forest
35:04
to the refugee camp or to New York where
35:07
she had four children including one
35:09
named after her brother who died during
35:11
the escape and whose own son Jared Corey
35:15
Kushner was now one of the most powerful
35:17
people in a new and uncertain world
35:20
slinking again towards darkness
35:32
so like I said it’s it’s an incredibly
35:35
written book and you know it’s such an
35:39
interesting thing to bring that kind of
35:41
melancholy writing to an investigative
35:44
project but I wonder what it felt like
35:47
to research and write
35:49
yeah what’s really hard I mean it was
35:52
really hard
35:53
the hardwood there were a couple of
35:55
things that were really hard one of the
35:57
really hardest parts was I didn’t really
36:01
know that much about the Holocaust in
36:03
Poland and I had known about Jared
36:07
Kushner his grandmother’s testimony and
36:08
I was speaking to a friend of mine who
36:10
knows more about Holocaust Studies than
36:12
I do and he said well is it true and I
36:14
said wait what it wouldn’t be true and
36:16
he said no and I realized okay I have to
36:19
I have to report this the way I would
36:21
report anything else so I did I listened
36:28
to her sisters testimony I went to the
36:30
Holocaust Research Center I asked them
36:32
for every testimony from everybody else
36:34
who had survived and gotten out through
36:36
the tunnel and I read all the
36:37
testimonies largely I mean the stories
36:44
matched up and Jared Krishna’s
36:46
grandmother story largely was true there
36:48
was a places where people sort of
36:49
disagreed about numbers but I mean who
36:50
could know did something happen to 20
36:52
people did something happen to 50 people
36:54
the essential facts everybody told the
36:57
same story so I said okay that is that
36:59
is true but it was hard hard to listen
37:03
to that and especially Rhea Kushner
37:08
describing her growing dread for example
37:11
she talked about how when she was a
37:13
teenager they heard stories about
37:15
Germans coming into southern Poland and
37:18
killing Jews and their response was that
37:20
can’t be happening
37:22
who would do that so it was hard really
37:26
getting deep into the details of this
37:28
and watching what is going on now which
37:32
is not the Holocaust I want to be clear
37:34
but many of the initial conditions for
37:39
the Holocaust to happen like the assault
37:41
on truth like an assent
37:43
sort of set of or a sense of moral
37:47
relativism that there’s no right there’s
37:49
no wrong that anything goes so long as
37:51
you have the majority of people saying
37:52
that it goes sir seeing that on two
37:55
tracks was was difficult it’s I mean now
38:00
that the book is out in public and every
38:01
and I have been able to share the story
38:02
it’s it feels easier and easier to tell
38:05
it because it was much harder to sort of
38:08
be alone in that world of listening to
38:10
all of those testimonies and so so deep
38:12
in and it never it never got easier this
38:17
month we did an episode of our podcast
38:20
Trump Inc in which we had tape from
38:23
Jared Kushner as grandmothers various
38:25
testimonies and I had to stop in the
38:30
middle of tracking and go outside and
38:32
take a walk because it was so intense
38:33
and difficult to listen to the story of
38:35
what happened to them so that’s I mean
38:40
that’s a that’s a really difficult
38:43
challenge for a writer to you know to
38:46
and to inhabit that world right of
38:49
tragedy and then there’s a different
38:52
challenge which is to inhabit the world
38:54
of extremely unlikable people yeah but
38:57
like these extremely likeable people
38:59
have this tragic backstory yeah and I
39:02
don’t even understand how you wrap your
39:04
mind I mean I think so
39:09
American oligarchs is a story in five
39:12
acts and I think that one of the things
39:16
I’ve learned from other stories that are
39:19
in five acts is that people are
39:20
incredibly complicated and there’s no
39:24
simple sense of somebody is sort of good
39:26
forever and their ancestors are good
39:28
forever or because this horrible thing
39:29
happened to somebody they are a good
39:31
person
39:32
and I wanted to tell all of the moral
39:37
complexities in this story and I mean
39:40
you know standard journalistic practice
39:43
of wanting to know what is what is the
39:45
good in these people and in their
39:48
background so
39:53
and then I also think I mean the other
39:55
thing is is that it’s a story about
39:56
democracy which i think is so important
40:00
because it’s a story about the decisions
40:02
that have been made as a country by a
40:04
bipartisan group of elected officials
40:06
that have eroded our system and eroded
40:09
our system and each time there was a
40:10
body blow to the system I mean you know
40:14
when I started covering campaign finance
40:16
and corruption was so easy because you
40:17
would go and you’d look up a campaign
40:19
contribution and then you’d look what
40:21
happened to you know what could that
40:22
have possibly 75 thousand dollar
40:24
contribution but and then you would find
40:26
something like oh yes it was the scoping
40:31
study for the east side access project
40:33
for the MTA and there’s always some it
40:35
wasn’t hard it was like shooting fish in
40:36
a barrel once you sort of figured out
40:37
the system it is so hard now because the
40:40
systems have been so broken down and
40:43
each time the systems have been broken
40:44
down people have said on a bipartisan
40:47
level okay we’ll figure out a way to
40:49
weather this but no I mean I think that
40:53
the answer is you know this is the 10th
40:55
anniversary of Citizens United decision
40:56
and our democracy really has not
40:59
weathered that decision so it’s not like
41:03
it’s a story with a happy ending
41:06
but it’s a story that I felt compelled
41:09
to tell the other thing was is I got
41:10
sort of obsessed with the Broadway show
41:12
Hades town which is a story where you
41:17
know you know basically from the first
41:18
minute that it’s gonna have a terrible
41:19
outcome and you read it believing that
41:22
actually Morpheus is not going to look
41:26
back and it’s all gonna be good and
41:28
they’re gonna get out and then he
41:30
doesn’t because that’s the Greek myth
41:32
it’s not really a spoiler alert then
41:34
they tell it again and I felt like
41:36
that’s the sort of place that I felt
41:38
like I just have to tell this story
41:40
because what else can I do
41:42
and one of the many things I appreciate
41:44
about the book is that you keep
41:48
reminding the reader that you actually
41:50
have to think about you know how we
41:52
think about democracy how we think about
41:54
taxes how we think about wealth how we
41:56
think about social equality and that and
41:58
the Trump is not in that sense
42:00
an aberration totally not we’ve been on
42:03
this road for a long time
42:06
what I know a lot of questions remain
42:09
open for you at the end of the book but
42:11
give us a couple that you really want to
42:13
get answers to well I would like to see
42:22
Trump’s tax returns and I would really
42:24
really like to understand his business
42:27
[Applause]
42:30
you know there are so many I mean one of
42:36
the things and I understand this is a
42:37
very very emotional week for for a lot
42:41
of people I mean it’s one thing to know
42:42
that this Senate is going to acquit the
42:45
president it’s another to see them doing
42:47
it and and have that actually experience
42:50
but this is not we’re not yet at the end
42:55
of the of consequences but we’re sort of
42:58
hanging you know it’s kind of like one
43:00
of those movies where somebody is like
43:02
hanging over a cliff and somebody’s
43:03
holding on to them by one arm and that
43:05
they’re about to fall out like that’s
43:06
sort of where we are because three cases
43:09
are going to the Supreme Court including
43:11
the one where Trump’s lawyer is arguing
43:14
that he can shoot somebody on Fifth
43:16
Avenue and not even be investigated so
43:19
long as he’s president I was in the
43:20
courtroom when Trump’s lawyer said that
43:22
and I went and I wrote a story and I
43:25
went on the radio and I was like Trump’s
43:27
lawyer said he could shoot somebody on
43:29
Fifth Avenue and not be investigated and
43:31
then I got off the air and I was like
43:32
could what I have said to six million
43:35
people
43:35
be true can that be right is that what
43:38
they said so I had to go back and like
43:39
listen to the whole thing to make sure I
43:41
hadn’t gotten wrong no I hadn’t gotten
43:42
it wrong so Trump lost that case the
43:46
Second Circuit ruled no that is not the
43:48
case that is you know it is repugnant to
43:51
our constitutional system and you know
43:54
there was another decision another case
43:55
where a judge said the president is not
43:57
King so these were not ambiguous lower
43:59
court decisions federal court decisions
44:02
Circuit Court decisions and the Supreme
44:05
Court took them anyway so they’re
44:08
hearing them on March 20th they’ll rule
44:11
at the end of this term and for me I
44:15
think like that is the biggest remaining
44:17
question is what happens because
44:21
if the Supreme Court rules that the
44:25
president cannot even be investigated
44:27
I just don’t know I mean I think the
44:30
judicial bans has been really good there
44:33
have been a lot of really good lower
44:34
court decisions that have helped us get
44:36
out information and release facts but if
44:39
the Supreme Court rules that I think we
44:40
will be in even worse trouble than we’re
44:43
in now and I have a scarier question for
44:48
you before before we go to audience
44:53
questions one last one so couldn’t be
44:57
scary to you mosh how you wrote a story
44:58
book about totalitarian totalitarian
45:02
totalitarianism reclaiming Russia it’s
45:04
certainly well actually it’s awesome a
45:07
great book
45:09
I mean you decided to look at this and
45:15
the coming together of the Kushner’s and
45:17
the trumps mm-hmm which is not actually
45:19
what produced our current president yeah
45:22
and I have to ask I mean are you
45:26
thinking that that’s the future I yeah
45:31
but just to sort of walk through the
45:34
logic I mean I will say this I don’t so
45:36
I got out of the prediction game
45:38
November 9th 2016 and I covered you know
45:42
six national presidential elections so
45:44
going back to the 90s and so many other
45:46
elections and when you carve our
45:48
elections the basic thing that people
45:49
want you to know want to know is who’s
45:51
gonna win so every story you do has to
45:54
sort of somehow feel like people are
45:57
getting an answer to that question and
45:58
that is what happens in campaign
46:00
coverage I don’t know who’s gonna win
46:04
but I do think that Trump has taken over
46:10
the Republican Party has commandeered
46:13
mechanisms of democracy with help from a
46:17
lot of you know wealthy people who
46:18
believe in gerrymandering and who you
46:23
know believe in voter suppression etc
46:26
etc so I think we’re I mean I think that
46:31
the answer to all the darkies always
46:32
more
46:33
see so I think that you know I don’t
46:36
feel hopeless about that but I think
46:40
people should take it very very
46:41
seriously
46:42
I also think that since implied in your
46:45
question is what about Ivanka Trump I as
46:49
I mean I read all of Monica Trump’s
46:53
social media feeds and watched someone
46:56
how to watched so many episodes of The
47:00
Apprentice so many and one of the things
47:07
that I’ve noticed about Ivanka Trump is
47:09
you know she speaks like someone who
47:11
believes like she could run for office
47:12
someday and she’s very careful in what
47:15
she says you will notice that Ivanka
47:17
Trump almost she’s not like Don junior
47:20
who by the way Don junior okay just have
47:23
to say Don jr. had $94,000 bulk-buy from
47:27
the RNC of his book so he would be a
47:29
best-seller which is like the most
47:31
trumpian story ever because it’s like
47:33
manufactured success being presented as
47:37
actual success which is supposed to
47:39
generate more success so I only have you
47:43
all not 94 thousand dollars from the RNC
47:45
so please buy a lot of books tonight and
47:47
buy if you have one buy one for your
47:49
friends okay so that’s the end of the
47:50
commercial but Don jr. is a very when he
47:53
speaks he’s very dark very very dark
47:56
Ivanka Trump is not Ivanka Trump talks
47:59
in this upbeat way about the economy is
48:01
going great the Trump tax cuts have been
48:04
great for working-class people she talks
48:07
it in in an empathic way there was a
48:10
study about people who had a four
48:12
hundred dollar bill it would destroy
48:14
them economically but she presents as if
48:18
the Trump economic plans were somehow a
48:23
solution to these problems and she talks
48:26
about I mean she went to Africa and she
48:29
poses with children and she went to
48:34
India and talked about all that her
48:35
administration had done for women in
48:37
minorities and so she acts like somebody
48:41
who is preserving her options
48:46
that I can say okay so we have audience
48:51
questions one is do you have any insight
48:53
into why so many Americans being hurt by
48:56
Trump budget continue to support him
48:59
yeah I mean I think it’s really
49:03
complicated because I mean I think a
49:05
whole huge big theme of this book is
49:08
immigration and refugees and I think
49:13
what has happened is that there’s a
49:15
transferring of blame which is so people
49:19
think if there’s something is going
49:21
badly it’s because of immigrants and
49:22
refugees and if something is going well
49:25
it’s because of Trump and then I also
49:27
think it’s because of you know this
49:28
constant stream of spin about how much
49:33
better things are so I think that people
49:36
have a sense of hanging on to something
49:40
which is which is not their experience
49:43
but wanting so badly to believe it
49:45
because Trump hasn’t done such a good
49:46
job of selling that he is the person who
49:50
is their Savior
49:53
what is the role of privatization and
49:56
deregulation in trumpism yeah well I
49:59
mean I do think that is everything to do
50:01
with oligarchy and oh by the way I feel
50:04
like I need to say the last word of my
50:07
book is hope and it’s not I mean I I
50:12
really tried to make that hope earned
50:15
like I didn’t just say okay here’s 400
50:18
pages of darkness and now have hope so
50:23
so you’ll have to read to the end of the
50:25
book to find out how I I get to that
50:27
argument I’m sorry what was the question
50:32
right so I know why I thought about that
50:35
because in my epilogue I talked a lot
50:37
about sort of oligarchy and sort of
50:41
nativism being two heads of a Hydra and
50:46
what is going on with from with the
50:50
destruction of government is that he is
50:53
increasingly turning over the power and
50:56
the money which for him are so
50:58
intertwined
50:59
to a group of private businessman so the
51:03
insiders can stay on the inside and
51:05
everybody else is on the outside and
51:07
that is the model of the Trump
51:10
presidency so everything that he does to
51:13
privatize to deregulate is all about
51:17
giving the favors to the very very
51:19
wealthy who are then in turn going to
51:21
come back and do things for him and I
51:24
mean I think we already see this we see
51:27
this with some of the people who control
51:28
the biggest companies in America
51:30
Facebook Apple they are not confronting
51:34
Trump Google there they’re just not and
51:38
as and that is sort of how we are seeing
51:42
the system play out the privatization
51:44
deregulation they can roll up their
51:46
wealth even faster and faster and it’s
51:50
totally related to the destruction of
51:52
government because the tax bill dropped
51:55
the tax cuts and job act of 2017 has is
51:58
going to create a trillion dollar
52:00
deficit this year and so there is sort
52:03
of no money to run the government and
52:05
then everything becomes you know in the
52:08
hands of private business people who do
52:12
you think funded and inserted para nós
52:15
and Thurman into Trump’s orders and why
52:17
uh so we have I don’t know the answer
52:20
but we have an episode of our podcast
52:22
called The Diplomat the mockers and the
52:25
oligarchs which shows yeah it’s good it
52:31
has it has even a song from Fiddler on
52:35
the Roof in it you’ll see and you I mean
52:41
almost certainly there are I mean we
52:43
know that there are financial interests
52:44
involved now from what para nós has said
52:46
from the deals that he was doing and we
52:48
heard him talk to the president about it
52:50
I don’t know how many people listen to
52:52
that tape but it was extraordinary
52:54
so Trump is at a super PAC which he’s
52:57
not actually supposed to be really
52:58
coordinating with but all these rich
53:00
people come and they’re like we want
53:01
this we want that in part us was talking
53:03
about I want to do these energy deals in
53:05
Ukraine so we already know that there
53:07
were financial interests we know that
53:10
Parnassus was working for ukrainian
53:12
oligarch name
53:13
Demitri fear Tash who has been indicted
53:15
in the United States for violating the
53:18
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and has
53:20
been fighting extradition extradition
53:22
since 2015 in Vienna and who seizes his
53:26
personal enemy Joe Biden because he
53:28
believes that Joe Biden is responsible
53:31
for his prosecution so there’s at the
53:35
very least a coincidence of interests
53:38
between fear Tash Parnassus Rudy
53:41
Giuliani and Donald Trump last audience
53:46
question can you talk about trust and
53:48
who these two families tend to trust
53:52
often to their own and our detriment
53:56
well I mean Trump trusts himself first
54:02
he trusts his family trusts you know his
54:05
son-in-law I mean I think one of the
54:06
reasons that Jared Kushner is sort of
54:08
this enormous ly powerful person is
54:10
because he comes from a family where
54:13
loyalty is valued and he that and he is
54:18
extremely faithful to his father-in-law
54:22
also one of the things that we’ve
54:25
learned disturbingly is that a lot of
54:29
the information and the narrative that
54:30
Trump is discussing about Ukraine he got
54:32
directly from Putin or Viktor Orban we
54:36
just that is actually fact now which is
54:39
kind of startling and and he told people
54:41
in his government where’d you learn this
54:43
oh I learned it from Viktor Orban or I
54:45
learned it from Vladimir Putin so I
54:47
think that you’ve read any of Marcia’s
54:50
books I think you’ll know that Vladimir
54:52
Putin is not a trust trustworthy source
54:54
and yet that does seem to be who is
54:57
informing our president at this moment
54:59
and disturbingly I mean one of the
55:03
things that’s very disturbing about this
55:05
impeachment trial so I mean it was sort
55:06
of a fascinating and disturbing thing
55:08
because there was all of this testimony
55:10
from all of these US government
55:11
officials and I’ve never seen anything
55:12
like it I’d never really understood how
55:14
the mechanisms of government worked and
55:17
how diplomacy was done and Fiona Hill
55:22
John Bolton’s chief of staff which is
55:24
like such historically so hard for me to
55:26
get my head around
55:27
but she said this is Russian propaganda
55:29
don’t believe it and people just simply
55:34
rejected that they were sort of like I
55:36
don’t want to hear anyone here and that
55:37
was sort of the way that Congress has
55:40
reacted so I think it is a really good
55:44
question to ask where President Trump
55:45
gets his information and I think it is
55:47
why it is so important to and I don’t
55:52
think I’m alone in this I think there’s
55:53
a lot of journalists that are trying to
55:55
document what’s going on but the Fourth
55:57
Estate is in the Constitution and I
55:59
think that you know I feel an obligation
56:02
to keep doing the kinds of things that I
56:05
do because it creates the possibility of
56:10
a future where truth will be embraced
56:13
once again
56:17
[Applause]

Queue

The Most Interesting Take On Socrates? (Agnes Callard)

A short clip of Agnes Callard discussing her take on Socrates from an interview by “Into The Coast” which can be found here: https://www.intothecoast.com/agnes-callard.

William James framed 2 problems:
Believing the Truth
Avoiding error

Socrates’ method allows for the achievement of both by assigning roles to two different people

In the Transgender Debate, Conservatives Can’t Compromise the Truth

Over on the home page, J.J. McCullough has penned a piece urging a “compromise on transgenderism,” but as I read it, this proposed compromise looks a lot like capitulation. While J.J. rightly notes that the Left has overreached in its “effort to strong-arm sweeping social change as a flex of their power,” he asks conservatives to essentially abandon their central argument and accept the radical left’s premise that a man can be a woman or a woman can be a man. This paragraph stands out:

Though transgenderism is a far rarer phenomenon than homosexuality, I think most adults could admit it does seem like a rather persistent aspect of humanity. Most can probably recall a transgender person making at least some minor appearance in their life. If we concede that transgenderism is not going away, and is not something anyone intends to exert effort toward ending, then Americans, especially conservative ones, should reflect on our culture’s honest and fair attitude toward homosexuality and acknowledge that the most sensible path out of the present acrimony will probably require similar compromise. Some degree of cultural ceasefire and consensus seems the only path for both sides to maintain a degree of pride while avoiding a more radical, disruptive societal transformation. (Emphasis added.)

I can acknowledge that gender dysphoria is a “persistent aspect of humanity,” but I will not concede that gender dysphoria trumps biology, and I don’t think our culture should cease efforts towards “ending” the dangerous notion that men or women should amputate healthy organs in the quest to sculpt their bodies to become something they’re not. Gender dysphoria may not “go away,” but transgenderism is something else entirely. Our culture is in the midst of a live and important dispute over the very nature of biological reality — and over the psychological and spiritual health of hundreds of thousands of precious souls — and now is not the time to abandon the field.

J.J. says that “part one of the compromise will be borne by cultural conservatives and traditionalists.” And what does this compromise require?

It asks for broad tolerance for the reality that transgender men and women exist, and are entitled to basic human dignity, just like everyone else. This does not mean having to morally endorse behavior many may believe runs contrary to God’s plan for a just and healthy society, but it does imply that acts like ostentatiously calling people by pronouns they don’t want, or belittling their personal struggle, are boorish and petty. It means acknowledging that arbitrary discrimination against transgender people is a cruel bigotry like any other.

Wait just a moment. While I’m utterly opposed to boorish behavior, the use of a pronoun isn’t a matter of mere manners. It’s a declaration of a fact. I won’t call Chelsea Manning “she” for a very simple reason. He’s a man. If a person legally changes his name, I’ll use his legal name. But I will not use my words to endorse a falsehood. I simply won’t. We’re on a dangerous road if we imply that treating a person with “basic human dignity” requires acquiescing to claims we know to be false.

I don’t know any serious social conservative who doesn’t believe that a transgender man or woman is entitled to “basic human dignity.” No one is claiming that they should be excluded from the blessings of American liberty or deprived of a single privilege or immunity of citizenship. Any effort to strip a transgender person of their constitutional liberty should be met with the utmost resistance. But that’s not the contemporary legal controversy. Current legal battles revolve around the state’s effort to force private and public entities to recognize and accommodate transgender identities. The justification for this coercive effort is often the state’s alleged interest in preventing so-called “dignitary” harm. Thus, men are granted rights to enter a woman’s restroom, even when gender-neutral options are available. Thus, private citizens are forced to use false pronouns. Girls are forced to allow a boy to stay in their room on an overnight school trip, or they’re forced to compete against boys in athletic competition.

But once you grant the premise that a man is, in fact, a woman, don’t all these consequences flow directly from that concession? After all, existing nondiscrimination statutes are quite clear in their scope. And judicial precedents are increasingly aligning with this new fiction. To “compromise” on identity (including on pronouns) is to end the dispute.

In his own response to J.J.’s piece, Michael Brendan Dougherty asks a key question, “[A]re we allowed to tell the truth?” Increasingly, the answer is no. J.J. compares the modern dispute over transgenderism to current and recent fights over homosexuality. The comparison is instructive, but not in the way that he hopes. There has been no “compromise” over homosexuality. Instead, we’re locked in brutal legal fights over whether Christian bakers and florists can be compelled to use their artistic talents to celebrate gay weddings. Christian colleges have had to fend off challenges to their accreditation and funding (and the Obama administration raised the possibility of challenging their tax exemptions) for simply upholding basic standards of Christian sexual morality. And in California, the new sexual orthodoxy now threatens even the sale of books that deliver a disfavored message not just on sexual orientation but also on sexual conduct.

I understand the desire for social peace. Truly I do. The culture wars are exhausting and divisive. But treating every single human being with dignity and respect means not just defending their constitutional liberties and showing them basic human kindness, it also means telling the truth — even when the truth is hard. Any compromise that requires conservatives to grant the other side’s false and harmful premise is no compromise at all.

Five Lies Our Culture Tells

The cultural roots of our political problems.

It’s become clear in the interim that things are not in good shape, that our problems are societal. The whole country is going through some sort of spiritual and emotional crisis.

College mental health facilities are swamped, suicide rates are spiking, the president’s repulsive behavior is tolerated or even celebrated by tens of millions of Americans. At the root of it all is the following problem: We’ve created a culture based on lies.

Here are some of them:

Career success is fulfilling. This is the lie we foist on the young. In their tender years we put the most privileged of them inside a college admissions process that puts achievement and status anxiety at the center of their lives. That begins advertising’s lifelong mantra — if you make it, life will be good.

Everybody who has actually tasted success can tell you that’s not true. I remember when the editor of my first book called to tell me it had made the best-seller list. It felt like … nothing. It was external to me.

The truth is, success spares you from the shame you might experience if you feel yourself a failure, but career success alone does not provide positive peace or fulfillment. If you build your life around it, your ambitions will always race out in front of what you’ve achieved, leaving you anxious and dissatisfied.

I can make myself happy. This is the lie of self-sufficiency. This is the lie that happiness is an individual accomplishment. If I can have just one more victory, lose 15 pounds or get better at meditation, then I will be happy.

But people looking back on their lives from their deathbeds tell us that happiness is found amid thick and loving relationships. It is found by defeating self-sufficiency for a state of mutual dependence. It is found in the giving and receiving of care.

It’s easy to say you live for relationships, but it’s very hard to do. It’s hard to see other people in all their complexity. It’s hard to communicate from your depths, not your shallows. It’s hard to stop performing! No one teaches us these skills.

Life is an individual journey. This is the lie books like Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” tell. In adulthood, each person goes on a personal trip and racks up a bunch of experiences, and whoever has the most experiences wins. This lie encourages people to believe freedom is the absence of restraint. Be unattached. Stay on the move. Keep your options open.

In reality, the people who live best tie themselves down. They don’t ask: What cool thing can I do next? They ask: What is my responsibility here? They respond to some problem or get called out of themselves by a deep love.

By planting themselves in one neighborhood, one organization or one mission, they earn trust. They have the freedom to make a lasting difference. It’s the chains we choose that set us free.

You have to find your own truth. This is the privatization of meaning. It’s not up to the schools to teach a coherent set of moral values, or a society. Everybody chooses his or her own values. Come up with your own answers to life’s ultimate questions! You do you!

The problem is that unless your name is Aristotle, you probably can’t do it. Most of us wind up with a few vague moral feelings but no moral clarity or sense of purpose.

The reality is that values are created and passed down by strong, self-confident communities and institutions. People absorb their values by submitting to communities and institutions and taking part in the conversations that take place within them. It’s a group process.

Time for G.O.P. to Threaten to Fire Trump

Republican leaders need to mount an intervention.

Up to now I have not favored removing President Trump from office. I felt strongly that it would be best for the country that he leave the way he came in, through the ballot box. But last week was a watershed moment for me, and I think for many Americans, including some Republicans.

It was the moment when you had to ask whether we really can survive two more years of Trump as president, whether this man and his demented behavior — which will get only worse as the Mueller investigation concludes — are going to destabilize our country, our markets, our key institutions and, by extension, the world. And therefore his removal from office now has to be on the table.

I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party’s leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.

It has to start with Republicans, given both the numbers needed in the Senate and political reality. Removing this president has to be an act of national unity as much as possibleotherwise it will tear the country apart even more. I know that such an action is very difficult for today’s G.O.P., but the time is long past for it to rise to confront this crisis of American leadership.

Trump’s behavior has become so erratic, his lying so persistent, his willingness to fulfill the basic functions of the presidency — like

  • reading briefing books,
  • consulting government experts before making major changes and
  • appointing a competent staff — so absent,

his readiness to accommodate Russia and spurn allies so disturbing and his obsession with himself and his ego over all other considerations so consistent, two more years of him in office could pose a real threat to our nation. Vice President Mike Pence could not possibly be worse.

The damage an out-of-control Trump can do goes well beyond our borders. America is the keystone of global stability. Our world is the way it is today — a place that, despite all its problems, still enjoys more peace and prosperity than at any time in history — because America is the way it is (or at least was). And that is a nation that at its best has always stood up for the universal values of freedom and human rights, has always paid extra to stabilize the global system from which we were the biggest beneficiary and has always nurtured and protected alliances with like-minded nations.

Donald Trump has proved time and again that he knows nothing of the history or importance of this America. That was made starkly clear in Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s resignation letter.

Trump is in the grip of a mad notion that the entire web of global institutions and alliances built after World War II — which, with all their imperfections, have provided the connective tissues that have created this unprecedented era of peace and prosperity — threatens American sovereignty and prosperity and that we are better off without them.

So Trump gloats at the troubles facing the European Union, urges Britain to exit and leaks that he’d consider quitting NATO. These are institutions that all need to be improved, but not scrapped. If America becomes a predator on all the treaties, multilateral institutions and alliances holding the world together; if America goes from being the world’s anchor of stability to an engine of instability; if America goes from a democracy built on the twin pillars of truth and trust to a country where it is acceptable for the president to attack truth and trust on a daily basis, watch out: Your kids won’t just grow up in a different America. They will grow up in a different world.

The last time America disengaged from the world remotely in this manner was in the 1930s, and you remember what followed: World War II.

You have no idea how quickly institutions like NATO and the E.U. and the World Trade Organization and just basic global norms — like thou shalt not kill and dismember a journalist in your own consulate — can unravel when America goes AWOL or haywire under a shameless isolated president.

But this is not just about the world, it’s about the minimum decorum and stability we expect from our president. If the C.E.O. of any public company in America behaved like Trump has over the past two years —

  • constantly lying,
  • tossing out aides like they were Kleenex,
  • tweeting endlessly like a teenager,
  • ignoring the advice of experts —

he or she would have been fired by the board of directors long ago. Should we expect less for our president?

That’s what the financial markets are now asking. For the first two years of the Trump presidency the markets treated his dishonesty and craziness as background noise to all the soaring corporate profits and stocks. But that is no longer the case. Trump has markets worried.

.. The instability Trump is generating — including his attacks on the chairman of the Federal Reserve — is causing investors to wonder where the economic and geopolitical management will come from as the economy slows down.

  • What if we’re plunged into an economic crisis and we have a president whose first instinct is always to blame others and
  • who’s already purged from his side the most sober adults willing to tell him that his vaunted “gut instincts” have no grounding in economics or in law or in common sense. Mattis was the last one.

We are now left with the B team — all the people who were ready to take the jobs that Trump’s first team either resigned from — because they could not countenance his lying, chaos and ignorance — or were fired from for the same reasons.

I seriously doubt that any of these B-players would have been hired by any other administration. Not only do they not inspire confidence in a crisis, but they are all walking around knowing that Trump would stab every one of them in the back with his Twitter knife, at any moment, if it served him. This makes them even less effective.

Indeed, Trump’s biggest disruption has been to undermine the norms and values we associate with a U.S. president and U.S. leadership. And now that Trump has freed himself of all restraints from within his White House staff, his cabinet and his party — so that “Trump can be Trump,” we are told — he is freer than ever to remake America in his image.

And what is that image? According to The Washington Post’s latest tally, Trump has made 7,546 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day, through Dec. 20, the 700th day of his term in office. And all that was supposedly before “we let Trump be Trump.”

If America starts to behave as a selfish, shameless, lying grifter like Trump, you simply cannot imagine how unstable — how disruptive —world markets and geopolitics may become.

We cannot afford to find out.

We were Brett Kavanaugh’s drinking buddies. We don’t think he should be confirmed.

We were college classmates and drinking buddies with Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. In the past week, all three of us decided separately to respond to questions from the media regarding Brett’s honesty, or lack thereof. In each of our cases, it was his public statements during a Fox News TV interview and his sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that prompted us to speak out.

We each asserted that Brett lied to the Senate by stating, under oath, that he never drank to the point of forgetting what he was doing. We said, unequivocally, that each of us, on numerous occasions, had seen Brett stumbling drunk to the point that it would be impossible for him to state with any degree of certainty that he remembered everything that he did when drunk.

.. none of us condemned Brett for his frequent drunkenness. We drank too much in college as well. It is true that Brett acknowledged he sometimes drank “too many beers.” But he also stated that he never drank to the point of blacking out.

.. we felt it our civic duty to speak the truth and say that Brett lied under oath while seeking to become a Supreme Court justice. That is our one and only message, but it is a significant one.

.. No one should be able to lie their way onto the Supreme Court. Honesty is the glue that holds together a society of laws. Lies are the solvent that dissolves those bonds.

.. All of us went to Yale, whose motto is “Lux et Veritas” (Light and Truth). Brett also belonged to a Yale senior secret society called Truth and Courage. We believe that Brett neither tells the former nor embodies the latter. For this reason, we believe that Brett Kavanaugh should not sit on the nation’s highest court.