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Latest Featured Reports | Thursday, April 26, 2018
Dems' AZ Election Loss, NY Victories Suggest Big GOP Trouble: 'BradCast' 4/25/18
Also: Mulvaney's stunning admission and Mother Jones' Rebecca Leber on Pruitt's new 'secret science' scam at EPA...
Legal Lightning Round!:
GOP Gerrymandering, Trump Travel Ban, Kobach 'Fraud', More!: 'BradCast' 4/24/18
Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern; Also: FCC appointee arrested, Trump VA nom in trouble...
'Green News Report' 4/24/18
  w/ Brad & Desi
Despite denials, Pruitt lobbyist met w/ EPA; Bloomberg donates to cover for Trump's Paris pact failure; Court reinstates automaker fines; PLUS: Hockey Stick graph's 20th anniversary...
Previous GNRs: 4/19/18 - 4/17/18 - Archives...
White Privileged Election Fraud, Mass Shootings, More: 'BradCast' 4/23/18
White Waffle House mass shooter peacefully apprehended, White GOP Judge in TX gets slap on the wrist for election fraud, and other recent tales of gentle accountability...
Sunday 'Consensual Collusion' Toons
Documenting the not-so-strange bedfellows of the week and much more, in PDiddie's latest weekly Sunday toon collection...
Senate GOP Twists Law to Gut Decades-Old Regs (Forever): 'BradCast' 4/20/18
Guest: James Goodwin of CPR: Also: DNC files Trump/Russia suit; Wells Fargo fined $1B; Memos reveal Trump wants to jail journalists...
Senate Confirms Climate Science Denier as NASA Chief: 'BradCast' 4/19/18
...and many more otherworldly reminders of the importance of elections...
'Green News Report' 4/19/18
  w/ Brad & Desi
Puerto Rico power knocked out again; Studies find Gulf Stream slowing down; New climate lawsuits for oil industry, Florida; PLUS: Earth Day 2018 focused on ending plastic pollution...
Previous GNRs: 4/17/18 - 4/12/18 - Archives...
'Dark Lord of Coal Country' Rising, GOP Panicking Before WV U.S. Senate Primary: 'BradCast' 4/18/18
Guest: Bob Kincaid; Also: McConnell says no, Mattis got Trumped, Kobach in contempt...
'Corrupt Intent': 'BradCast' 4/17/18
Guest: Former Asst. US Attorney Randall Eliason on Trump, Cohen, Mueller, indicting a sitting Prez; Also: Tax cut support falls, GOPers keep heading for the exits...
'Green News Report' 4/17/18
Federal watchdogs say EPA violated law for Admin Scott Pruitt; Senate confirms coal industry lobbyist for deputy EPA chief; PLUS: Google and Apple go 100% renewable...
Trump's Unlawful, Evidence-Free 'Mission Accomplished': 'BradCast' 4/16/18
Congress acquiesces after second US attack on Syria; Hannity revealed as secret Cohen client; Callers ring in...
Sunday Toons: 'One Raid Begets Another'
It didn't take long after Donald Trump's friend, business associate and personal lawyer was raided by the FBI for Trump to unleashes the missiles, as the cartoonists observe in PDiddie's latest collection...
As Trump Goes Ugly, How Dems Can 'Fight Dirty' to Win for the Country: 'BradCast' 4/13/18
Guest: Author David Faris on radically reform-ing 'long-term barriers to progressive power'...
Mattis: U.S. Lacks 'Actual Evidence' of Syrian Chemical Attack: 'BradCast' 4/12/18
Also: Clueless Trump to rejoin TPP?; Sinclair's abuse of public airwaves; And, why local news matters...
'Green News Report' 4/12/18
Newly unearthed docs reveal Shell knew about warming since 1950s; Dems want Pruitt to resign; EPA docs under-mine his claims; PLUS: Obama EPA chief speaks out...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

Criminal GOP Voter Registration Fraud Probe Expanding in VA
State investigators widening criminal probe of man arrested destroying registration forms, said now looking at violations of law by Nathan Sproul's RNC-hired firm...

DOJ PROBE SOUGHT AFTER VA ARREST
Arrest of RNC/Sproul man caught destroying registration forms brings official calls for wider criminal probe from compromised VA AG Cuccinelli and U.S. AG Holder...

Arrest in VA: GOP Voter Reg Scandal Widens
'RNC official' charged on 13 counts, for allegely trashing voter registration forms in a dumpster, worked for Romney consultant, 'fired' GOP operative Nathan Sproul...

ALL TOGETHER: ROVE, SPROUL, KOCHS, RNC
His Super-PAC, his voter registration (fraud) firm & their 'Americans for Prosperity' are all based out of same top RNC legal office in Virginia...

LATimes: RNC's 'Fired' Sproul Working for Repubs in 'as Many as 30 States'
So much for the RNC's 'zero tolerance' policy, as discredited Republican registration fraud operative still hiring for dozens of GOP 'Get Out The Vote' campaigns...

'Fired' Sproul Group 'Cloned', Still Working for Republicans in At Least 10 States
The other companies of Romney's GOP operative Nathan Sproul, at center of Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, still at it; Congressional Dems seek answers...

FINALLY: FOX ON GOP REG FRAUD SCANDAL
The belated and begrudging coverage by Fox' Eric Shawn includes two different video reports featuring an interview with The BRAD BLOG's Brad Friedman...

COLORADO FOLLOWS FLORIDA WITH GOP CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Repub Sec. of State Gessler ignores expanding GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, rants about evidence-free 'Dem Voter Fraud' at Tea Party event...

CRIMINAL PROBE LAUNCHED INTO GOP VOTER REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL IN FL
FL Dept. of Law Enforcement confirms 'enough evidence to warrant full-blown investigation'; Election officials told fraudulent forms 'may become evidence in court'...

Brad Breaks PA Photo ID & GOP Registration Fraud Scandal News on Hartmann TV
Another visit on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture with new news on several developing Election Integrity stories...

CAUGHT ON TAPE: COORDINATED NATIONWIDE GOP VOTER REG SCAM
The GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal reveals insidious nationwide registration scheme to keep Obama supporters from even registering to vote...

CRIMINAL ELECTION FRAUD COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST GOP 'FRAUD' FIRM
Scandal spreads to 11 FL counties, other states; RNC, Romney try to contain damage, split from GOP operative...

RICK SCOTT GETS ROLLED IN GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) sends blistering letter to Gov. Rick Scott (R) demanding bi-partisan reg fraud probe in FL; Slams 'shocking and hypocritical' silence, lack of action...

VIDEO: Brad Breaks GOP Reg Fraud Scandal on Hartmann TV
Breaking coverage as the RNC fires their Romney-tied voter registration firm, Strategic Allied Consulting...

RNC FIRES NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION FIRM FOR FRAUD
After FL & NC GOP fire Romney-tied group, RNC does same; Dead people found reg'd as new voters; RNC paid firm over $3m over 2 months in 5 battleground states...

EXCLUSIVE: Intvw w/ FL Official Who First Discovered GOP Reg Fraud
After fraudulent registration forms from Romney-tied GOP firm found in Palm Beach, Election Supe says state's 'fraud'-obsessed top election official failed to return call...

GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD FOUND IN FL
State GOP fires Romney-tied registration firm after fraudulent forms found in Palm Beach; Firm hired 'at request of RNC' in FL, NC, VA, NV & CO...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...


Congress acquiesces after second US attack on war-torn sovereign nation; Also: Hannity revealed as secret Cohen client; Callers ring in...
By Brad Friedman on 4/16/2018 6:23pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Bill Maher quipped Friday night that the U.S. attack, with France and Britain, on Syria was code-named "Operation Desert Stormy", an attempt by Donald Trump to force his legal and ethical nightmares off the front pages. It didn't work. [Audio link to show follows below.]

On Sunday night, fired FBI Director James Comey described Trump as "morally unfit" for the Presidency in a prime-time ABC News interview, and on Monday, just before air today, Sean Hannity of Fox "News" was revealed in federal court to be a secret client of Trump's hush money payoff "fixer" Michael Cohen, and Cohen and Trump's motion to review documents seized in the raid on Cohen's office and residences last week was denied (for now) by the federal judge.

Nonetheless, before it's forgotten entirely in the fog of Trump Scandal, we focus mostly today on the fact that the pre-dawn bombing of Damascus by US and its allies, said to be in response to an alleged chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his own people a week earlier in Douma, was done without any actual hard evidence of a chemical attack or who was actually responsible for it. Trump's Secretary of Defense James Mattis admitted as much during Congressional hearings just one day before more than 100 cruise missiles were unleashed on supposedly chemical weapons-related facilities in Damascus. (No proof was offered to buttress the claim about those facilities either.)

Moreover, there is absolutely no legal authority whatsoever for Trump's attack --- either domestically or internationally --- despite various claims to the contrary. Shamefully, most of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats alike, have so far failed to demand accountability for the unconstitutional use of military force (even after threatening President Obama with impeachment when he wanted to launch a similar attack in response to an alleged Syrian chemical attack in 2013).

For his part, the hapless Trump, who mercilessly derided Obama for calling for Syrian airstrikes in 2013, took to Twitter on Saturday to echo George W. Bush's infamous appearance on a U.S. Aircraft Carrier in 2003 after the ill-fated invasion of Iraq, to declare "Mission Accomplished" in Syria.

Friday's unlawful US attack, as we also discuss today, is believed to have cost some $200 million. That could have paid for the replacement of all of Flint, MI's lead water pipes some four times over, as new studies reveal that reading proficiency levels for third-graders in Flint has plummeted in the wake of the lead drinking water contamination crisis. That continuing crisis came about after MI's Gov. Rick Snyder (R), following his election in 2010, ordered an Emergency Manager takeover of the city and a subsequent change to its water supply.

As one caller observed today, some poisoned children, like those in Syria apparently, seem to be a larger concern for the Trump Administration than others...no matter the evidence or lack thereof...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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Guest: Heather Digby Parton of Salon and Hullabaloo...
By Brad Friedman on 4/10/2018 6:13pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It is "a very dangerous time", as longtime White House reporter and historian Paul Brandus may have understated last night. "Objectively speaking," he observed in a "difficult to write" tweet, he has "never seen, or known of, a President as unhinged and unstable as" Donald Trump appeared during remarks at the White House before his Monday meeting with his military team.

On Monday evening, following FBI raids on the office and residences of his personal attorney Michael Cohen, President Trump lashed out at law enforcement, calling the court-approved searches "disgraceful", "an attack on our country", and falsely claimed that the search warrant approved by a federal judge and the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, amounted to a "break in". Trump's remarks also included musings about the possibility of firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose office is said to have shared information with the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, leading to yesterday's raids.

Trump's friend, attorney and business partner Cohen is currently embroiled in the scandal involving a $130,000 hush money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels, made just days before the 2016 election. The lawful raid, however, which may involve far more serious crimes, comes at a particularly precarious moment.

On Tuesday --- one day after Trump's new and extraordinarily hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton's first day on the job --- longtime White House Homeland Security Advisor, Tom Bossert, was abruptly fired. His dismissal came after Bossert, while making clear that all options were on the table, had argued in favor of Trump's recent position on Syria over the weekend, in opposition to increased U.S. military action in the war-torn nation. But, after a recent chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, Trump has now cancelled a scheduled trip to Latin America and appears to be readying military action against the sovereign nation --- a close ally of both Russia and Iran --- even without authorization from Congress. Such action would likely, at a minimum, mirror the missile attack Trump unleashed on a Syrian airbase last year, which both Congressional Republicans and Democrats lauded at the time, even though Republicans had threatened President Obama with the possibility of impeachment when he considered doing the very same thing during his term in office. This time, however, the action could be much larger, more deadly, and far more dangerous for the region and the U.S.

At the same time, nobody seems to be certain as to exactly why Cohen was raided in the first place. Speculation ranges from the Stormy Daniels affair, to bank and wire fraud, to alleged schemes and payouts from Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, to Cohen's taxi business in New York.

We're joined today by the great HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and Digby's Hullabaloo blog, to try and make sense of all of the above. Wish us luck. "It's like there's this unharmonic convergence happening with all this news," she tells me. "I don't know what it is, but it's not good."

"In this situation, when you've got Syria there and Trump under the gun, feeling Robert Mueller breathing down his neck, this is something that a guy like Bolton --- if he is smart enough to suss that out about Trump, and I have a suspicion that he might be --- he could be feeding that into Trump and we're going to see some kind of --- what do they call it these days? --- 'kinetic violence'. That's another word for war," she says.

We've got a lot to discuss about all of this on today's show with 'Digby', including what is likely to happen if (when) Trump moves to fire Mueller, as well as how this entire long national nightmare may finally end.

Finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, as the scandals involving EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt continue to mount, and with some good news, once again, for pipeline protesters, this time in Canada, but more bad water news for Michigan. Also, we've got a bit some more late-breaking Pruitt/EPA news, as well...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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Guest: Ernest A. Canning; Also: GOP 'Green Party' dirty tricks in MT's U.S. Senate race; And, the movement to repeal the 2nd Amendment...
By Brad Friedman on 4/6/2018 6:24pm PT  

On today's BradCast: GOP dirty tricks in Montana; why an alleged torturer should be imprisoned rather than promoted to CIA chief; and, abolishing the 2nd Amendment all together. [Audio link to show follows below.]

First up: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted this week that stealing a Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court was his crowning achievement after three decades in Congress. But he's not done packing the federal courts just yet for another generation, which underscores his urgency in trying to hang on to the GOP's thin majority in the U.S. Senate this November.

That may also help to explain the bizarre situation in Montana's U.S. Senate race, where the GOP appears to have ginned up a fake Green Party candidate who was previously on the state Republican Party's payroll, in hopes of siphoning votes away from Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in an otherwise very Trumpy state. (But did the Dems do something similar in supporting a Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate back in 2012, the last time Tester was on the ballot?)

Meanwhile, the Senate returns from their recess next week, and will soon begin confirmation hearings for a number of recent high-level Trump cabinet and executive agency nominees. Among them is Gina Haspel, the CIA's Deputy Director who has been tapped to take Mike Pompeo's spot as CIA chief (after Pompeo was nominated to become the new Sec. of State following Trump's firing of Rex Tillerson.)

Haspel, however, was the CIA's chief of a secret U.S. prison in Thailand following the 9/11 attacks, where a number of terror suspects were tortured in 2002, in violation of long-held international treaties, to which the U.S. has been a party, at least, since the days of Ronald Reagan. She also reportedly signed off on the destruction of the video-taped evidence that documented the horrific torture by the U.S. at that prison.

We're joined today by ERNEST A. CANNING, attorney and longtime BRAD BLOG legal analyst, for whom the matter of someone alleged to have overseen torture becoming the next CIA director is very personal.

Canning's father, as he detailed in a recent article, was imprisoned and waterboarded by the Japanese during WWII, before testifying against his torturers during the war crimes trials held by the Allies after the war. We discuss what happened to his father at the hands of the Japanese command of the notorious Bridge House prison, why the U.S. has long held torture to be a violation of international law, and how the Democrats' failure to demand accountability of Bush-era torturers has resulted in Haspel's nomination, rather than imprisonment.

He explains that while the Japanese general in charge of the notorious Shanghai prison "did not personally take part in my father's torture, he was sentenced to a life sentence under a principle called 'command responsibility'. He had command responsibility over the people who were carrying out torture in an agency that he was responsible for. And if you use that same principle of 'command responsibility', which remains viable under intentional law today, Gina Haspel should be in prison. She should not be coming before the Senate to be confirmed as the CIA's next director. And, I think it's a slap in the face of everybody who has ever undergone such horrific treatment that Donald Trump would nominate her."

(Also, just to lighten things up a bit, I also get Ernie's take on Trump's asinine and evidence-free reiteration in West Virginia on Thursday, that millions of fraudulent votes accounted for his 3 million vote loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 popular vote count.)

Finally, a federal judge in Massachusetts on Friday upheld the state's ban on military-style assault weapons. And we share some listener mail in response to retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens' op-ed last week, wherein he suggested that it's time to repeal the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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If Gina Haspel, Trump's nominee to lead CIA, were subjected to the same standards that were applied by the Allies after WWII to those who tortured my father, she would now be languishing in prison...
By Ernest A. Canning on 4/2/2018 12:36pm PT  

Three years ago, in "Torture: A War Crime Then And Now", I described the legal principles that led to a conviction and life sentences of those who were responsible for my father's torture during WWII. I argued that, if applied now, the architects of the Bush/Cheney torture regime would be languishing in prison.

While it is troubling that none of those individuals were prosecuted for war crimes, it is beyond disturbing that President Donald J. Trump has seen fit to nominate Gina Haspel, the current Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to be the CIA's next chief.

Given that Haspel not only oversaw torture at a CIA "black site" in Thailand but was also later involved in the destruction of videotaped evidence of CIA torture, such as the water-boarding of Abu Zubaydah 83 times in a single month, it seems appropriate to revisit several segments of that previous article, which had been initially published in response to a long, very well researched U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on U.S. torture...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Guest: NatSec journalist Marcy Wheeler; Also: Trump signs spending bill, lies about it, calls for unconstitutional line-item veto...
By Brad Friedman on 3/23/2018 6:37pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The Fox "News"-ification of Donald Trump's U.S. Government ramps way up with the terrifying late Thursday appointment of far-right neo-con, controversial former George W. Bush Administration official, and longtime Fox "News" contributor John Bolton as the President's third National Security Advisor. [Audio link to show follows below.]

Last week, national security journalist MARCY WHEELER of Emptywheel joined us to discuss the sudden firing of Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, and the move of wingnut CIA Director Mike Pompeo into Tillerson's role, with Pompeo's Deputy Director, Gina Haspel's nomination to become the next CIA Director. Haspel oversaw torture and the destruction of evidence of it while in charge of a secret overseas U.S. prison in 2002. But, unlike those positions, which require U.S. Senate confirmation, the President's National Security Advisor is a direct appointment, as Wheeler noted at the very end of the show last week, explaining that there would be nothing to prevent Bolton's appointment. If Trump wants Bolton as NSA, she chillingly warned, "he's in charge of nuking North Korea."

Well, sure enough, on Thursday, H.R. McMaster was pushed out as NSA and Bolton was named to replace him. So, Wheeler returns today discuss the many concerns --- from right, left and center --- about the dangerous new appointment of a man who strongly supported the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, arguing at the time that the role of the U.S. there, after removing Saddam's (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, would be "fairly minimal". He is also long and loudly on record calling for similar first-strike U.S. aggression against both Iran and nuclear-armed North Korea.

As Iraq War veteran and chair of VoteVets Jon Solz warned in a statement upon the news: "Let there be no mistake – there is no war for regime change, anywhere, that John Bolton wasn’t for. He sees troops not as human beings, with families, but as expendable resources, in his real-life game of Risk." He added: "To the Trump voters out there we say: You were suckered. John Bolton and Mike Pompeo represent the neocon foreign policy that Donald Trump falsely said he was against."

Bolton, according to one former senior Bush Administration official "was by far the most dangerous man we had," adding that his hiring is "an invitation to war, perhaps nuclear war." Senior Bush Administration diplomat Richard Haass cautions: "This is the most perilous moment in modern American history." They aren't the only ones very panicked about the appointment, charging Bolton's appointment puts us "on the path to war."

Wheeler offers her own additional concerns about Bolton, citing the very curious, potentially "casus belli" timing on Friday morning of Justice Department indictments of nine Iranians said to have been sponsored by their government to hack and steal academic papers (not U.S. Government secrets!) from thousands of university professors around the world.

She also cites the observation of former Bush Administration attorney Matthew Waxman at Lawfare, as "the most frightening thing I've read" about Bolton's appointment.

Waxman, she explains, "worked with Bolton, and he basically says, unlike everybody else who has worked with Trump, Bolton is very, very, very bureaucratically competent, like Dick Cheney. We've been blessed so far --- if we can use that term --- in the Trump Administration, in that he keeps hiring incompetents. Or, even if they're competent, people who don't understand how government bureaucracy works. John Bolton was trained by the master, Dick Cheney. He knows how government bureaucracy works. He's a vindictive man, and he knows how to get the bureaucracy to do what he wants it to do. And that is, I think, the most terrifying part of John Bolton being named National Security Advisor."

We discuss why Defense Secretary James Mattis may now suddenly be the most important man in the world. And, in related Trump Foxification news, Wheeler also offers reason to be dubious about the reports that Fox "News" wingnut contributor Joe diGenova and his Fox "News" wingnut contributor wife, Victoria Toensing, will actually be joining Trump's personal legal team dealing with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Other related stuff covered today: Trump signs the massive $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress to keep the government open as of midnight Friday, after pretending to threaten to veto the 2,200-page bill just hours before signing it as is --- and then lying about it. (He also seems unaware that a Presidential line-item veto he called for today was long ago found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.); A former Fox "News" anchor with no government or foreign policy experience has been quietly promoted to become the 4th highest ranking diplomat at the U.S. State Department; One longtime Fox "News" military analyst finally quits after ten years, charging that Trump's favorite "news" outlet is now "a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration."; And, in case you needed more proof for that charge, we've got an hilarious disturbing compilation of video clips comparing the way the outlet's anchors and contributors (including Bolton!)blasted the nation of Barack Obama meeting Kim Jong Un face-to-face some years ago, versus Trump's plans to actually do so in May...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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CIA nominee oversaw unlawful waterboarding, destruction of evidence at U.S. secret prison; Also: Trump brags about lying to allies; More good 2018 news for Dems; Rep. Louise Slaughter RIP...
By Brad Friedman on 3/16/2018 6:16pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Don't be confused. Donald Trump has vowed "to bring back waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse", and he has now nominated someone to become CIA Director who has actually overseen such torture. [Audio link to show follows below.]

A noteworthy correction published by ProPublica on Thursday night, to an article they published last year, does not change the fact that Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel, Trump's new nominee to become the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, personally oversaw the torture of U.S. held prisoners at a secret prison ("black site") in Thailand in 2002, and then directed the destruction of evidence documenting the torture.

To be clear, ProPublica (and others) are standing by their reporting that Haspel ran the prison in question during the torture of terror suspect Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who the U.S. has admitted to torturing by waterboarding him three times at the secret prison. She also reportedly suggested the method used, an industrial shredder, to permanently destroy the video-taped evidence of both his torture and the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah.

Those acts are impermissible under several different torture conventions to which the U.S. --- under the negotiation and urging of no less than President Ronald Reagan --- is a party, and European prosecutors are now reportedly investigating whether Haspel must be arrested for war crimes if she arrives anywhere on European soil.

All of that, as her nomination has returned U.S. torture to an issue of "debate" under this President, who promised, during his 2016 campaign, to "bring back" torture. Of course, leading the way is Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), daughter of the Vice President who set the standard for blatantly lying about modern day U.S. torture following the 9/11 attacks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), after taking some heat for suggesting she might vote for Haspel's promotion, is now calling for the declassification of documents detailing Haspel's role in these matters, in advance of U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.

Also today, news of Special Counsel Robert Mueller nearing what Trump has described as a 'red line' in his investigation, and growing concerns about what Trump's response to that may soon be. And, a few thoughts on the remarkable matter of the President of the United States bragging to donors this week of how he simply made stuff up while speaking to the Prime Minister of Canada, one of our closest allies and trading partners, about the U.S. trade surplus we have them (which Trump says he described as a "deficit", even though he proudly admits he had no idea.)

Then, very sad news today on the sudden loss of 88-year old progressive Democratic U.S. House "giant" Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York; Some brighter 2018 midterm news for Democrats from the Cook Political Report; and, finally, Republicans are having such a difficult time finding candidates to run for office in Nevada that they are now offering to pay them --- anyone --- to do so...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest: National Security journalist Marcy Wheeler...
By Brad Friedman on 3/13/2018 6:01pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Trump's unending White House chaos appears to have morphed into Trump's White House purge of not-insane top officials, beginning with his Tuesday firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, via Tweet. [Audio link follow below.]

At the same time, Trump named rightwing former Congressman and Fox "News" Tea Party flunky turned CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his nominee to take over the role of the nation's top diplomat and Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel, who oversaw torture at so-called "black site" prisons during the George W. Bush presidency, to take over Pompeo's role as CIA chief.

We're joined today by national security and civil rights journalist MARCY WHEELER of emptywheel.net to discuss all of today's alarming developments. At the center of our conversation, after discussion of why Trump off-loaded Tillerson, is whether Pompeo and Haspel will even be able to make it through the confirmation process in the U.S. Senate at all at this point, and how the entire mess, once again, highlights the shameful failure by Congressional Democrats and former President Barack Obama to demand real accountability for the war criminals at the center of Bush's torture regime.

"When people talk about how we ended up with Donald Trump, this is the problem," Wheeler argues. "We have excused things like torture for so long that it's just created the opportunity for Donald Trump. Yes, those precedents really created the way for him."

Remarkably, as discussed today, even Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein --- who spent years heroically fighting the U.S. Intelligence agencies to expose their horrific torture practices --- seems prepared to approve Haspel, for some reason, as do the former heads of those agencies --- the very same folks who claim to oppose Trump and object to his response to allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

On Haspel, Wheeler warns: "She's terrible for two reasons. One is that she's a torturer, and not just a torturer but a particularly sadistic one. But the second one is that she orchestrated both a personal and agency cover-up. And so we should expect, with her as CIA Director, to have the CIA even less in control than it is now." Yes, Haspel also oversaw the CIA's destruction of their videotapes of torture sessions.

Hard to figure out who's more furious about it all, me or Wheeler, after years of warning about precisely this day.

On Pompeo, Wheeler says: "He is much closer to Trump's views on [Russia, North Korea and Iran]. Very importantly, especially on Iran. So I think if Pompeo is confirmed, I think the chances of us going to war with Iran are significantly higher."

And, just to make my day, she warns that, should National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster be replaced, as rumored, his replacement won't even have to struggle with Senate confirmation (a road, which she predicts, may be difficult for both Haspel and Pompeo, though more so for the latter.) If McMaster is replaced by John Bolton, as some have suggested, "he gets appointed, because it's not Senate confirmed. So If Trump wants him, he's in charge of nuking North Korea."

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for some more thoughts on the removal of Tillerson (ironically enough, even though he previously served as CEO of ExxonMobil, he was decidedly not a climate change denier and actually supported the U.S. staying in the Paris Agreement) and for the latest Green News Report, in which the nation and planet continue to suffer from the perfidy of dishonest Republican climate change denialism...

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Guest: Nuclear policy analyst Stephen Schwartz; Also: Top WH economist quits; Clueless Trump calls for 'paper backup' to protect 2018 elections...
By Brad Friedman on 3/6/2018 6:40pm PT  

On today's BradCast, the Chaos Presidency continues apace, as do the nuclear threats, despite a potential thaw of tensions on the Korean Peninsula today. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

First up, another top White House official, top economic advisor Gary Cohn, has had enough. He announced his resignation late on Tuesday in response to Trump vowing to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum that virtually everyone in the country and world has come out in opposition to.

At the same time, as we also discuss today, Donald Trump makes clear that he has no actual plans to "counteract" interference of the 2018 and 2020 elections, though he managed to say the words "paper backup" out-loud during a press appearance today, as if to indicate he knew anything about how easily computerized election results can be manipulated (presuming he cares).

Meanwhile, after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, officials in South Korea announced plans for face-to-face talks between the leaders of the both countries, along with an easing of tensions and the possibility of direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington D.C. --- unless Trump blows it. The potentially encouraging news on the Korean Peninsula comes just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a number of new, high-tech nuclear weapons which he says his nation has now developed in response to so-called U.S. missile defense systems deployed near Russia's border and Trump's own efforts to greatly expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Longtime nuclear policy analyst STEPHEN SCHWARTZ of Middlebury Institute of International Studies, joins us to help explain what's actually going on, what isn't, and why all of it is happening in the first place in both potential conflicts and/or nuclear standoffs..

“Winston Churchill once said that 'It's better to jaw-jaw than war-war’. And I think that's probably the first takeaway from today's news” out of Korea, says Schwartz, noting “the good news is we are talking about the possibility of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and we're not talking about lobbing nuclear weapons in both directions.” But, while he says he is “cautiously optimistic,” he believes talks between NK and Trump’s Administration are not likely to go anywhere. The former longtime Executive Director and Publisher of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (keepers of the infamous “Doomsday Clock”) reminds us of similar agreements with NK in the past --- and how our previous Republican President, George W. Bush, (No, you don't "look pretty good" now, George) helped to scuttle them.

As to the dizzying array of new high-tech weaponry revealed by Putin in Moscow late last week, Schwartz believes “it’s sort of less than meets the eye,” and argues much of the show “was for domestic political consumption” in advance of Russian’s Presidential election later this month. While the new weapons systems are, ostensibly, said to be a response to the deployment of U.S. defensive missiles, Schwartz contends those systems don’t actually work --- even if Russia believes they do.

The massive new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) revealed by Putin, however, “is for real”, Schwartz says, adding: “It's worth pointing out that the New START agreement just went into effect officially last month. If Donald Trump does not choose to extend it, it will expire in three years, in 2021, and if it does, that means Russia can deploy as many nuclear ICBMs and submarines and bombers, without any constraint whatsoever, and completely overwhelm any missile defense system we have. And then we'd be truly off to the races.” To date, he notes, “Trump has said this is a bad deal and we're not going to do it.”

Finally, as if all of that doesn’t offer enough doom and gloom for ya, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as potential nuclear doomsday scenarios are matched only by our ongoing doomsday climate crisis...

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Guest: Wendy Wheatcroft of Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense...
By Brad Friedman on 2/15/2018 6:10pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Our coverage continues of Wednesday's bloodbath at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 were killed and 13 remain hospitalized today, following the nation's most deadly school shooting since Newton, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We have many more new details today about the alleged shooter, a 19-year old former student who is said to have legally purchased the semi-automatic AR-15 military-style assault weapon and arsenal of ammo and magazines to go with it. (A photo of his collection, reportedly from one of his Instagram pages, is above.) State law enforcement officials reportedly say, late today, that the previously expelled and recently orphaned student, Nikolas Cruz, has now confessed to the mass shooting.

The predictable fight between gun safety proponents and those opposed to any such measures got underway in full today, as Republicans from President Donald Trump to Florida Gov. Rick Scott to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio went out of their way to avoid discussion of guns and deflect from the need to take action on the nation's continuing gun violence epidemic. They chose instead to declare the need for mental health reform as the only way to prevent the "true evil" behind such massacres, while spreading some of the blame to victims who, they claim, failed to alert authorities to earlier concerns about the shooter.

That charge, as we discuss, appears disingenuous at best, even as news breaks today that Cruz appears to have been associated with and/or trained by a white supremacist organization in the Sunshine State. (Over the past year, Trump has both signed legislation to make it easier for the mentally ill to purchase weapons like the one used in Parkland, Florida, and has cut funding to research and combat of domestic white supremacist violence.)

By way of contrast to the uniform GOP denial and misdirection, Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie offered a plea on behalf of Stoneman Douglas High School students who are demanding real action in response to gun violence in the wake of their Valentine's Day nightmare. "I hope we can get it done in this generation," he said at a news conference today, flanked by two of the National Rifle Association's top benefactors in Florida, Gov. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi. "But if we don't, they will," he vowed.

We're joined to discuss all of the above, including the stranglehold that the terror-enabling NRA continues to have over Republicans from D.C. all the way to state and local governments, by WENDY WHEATCROFT, Group Leader of the San Diego Chapter of Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense. Wheatcroft, a former elementary school teacher, explains that she has lived through active shooter lockdowns herself, and charges that "the NRA has been infiltrating local government for years. Not just local government offices, but school boards, water boards, every lower level of government. They have been infiltrating and pushing out these talking points."

She details her own group's efforts to enact common sense gun reform, such as "red flag" laws that were adopted in California, to enable "family members or police to remove weapons from someone they deem to be a threat to themselves or others."

"There is no such thing as 'too soon' to talk about gun violence," Wheatcroft argues. "These shootings are compounding, one upon the other upon the other, so when is the time? It's too late for those families --- it's too late for those moms whose kids did not come home from school on Valentine's Day. Can you imagine?," she asks tearfully.

She also speaks to how gun safety proponents can take on the NRA (who "will say and do anything possible to sell their guns and make money"), and cites removing NRA-supported elected officials from office as the most effective weapon for doing that. "It's just so important for us, in every city, to buckle down locally and to make sure that we are supporting candidates who do not share this narrative and this message."

"Right now, our House is dominated by legislators who have been bought by the NRA," Wheatcroft says. "Gun Sense candidates aren't just Dems. It's not enough to just be a Dem anymore. We need people who are champions for gun violence prevention, and who will outspoken and unafraid to speak out and stand up to the NRA."

"We are not trying to take anyone's guns away. We are not here to ban the 2nd Amendment. We are here to help put in place gun safety measures that enable gun owners to maintain their rights, and to keep their guns, while also keeping people safe from guns."

Finally, we close today with a look back at how U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led the successful 2013 GOP effort to block majority-supported passage of any and all bi-partisan gun safety legislation brought to the Senate floor for a vote, just months after the nation's deadliest school shooting in Newtown, CT...

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Also: Shutdown looms, ObamaCare lives, Medicaid targeted...
By Brad Friedman on 2/8/2018 6:04pm PT  

On today's BradCast: As Congress struggles to pass a spending bill and avoid another government shutdown, the White House was busy on Thursday fending off much-deserved criticism for allowing an alleged wife abuser to serve as a top Oval Office official for the past year, despite failing background and security checks over that time. [Audio link to show posted below.]

White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter finally resigned on Wednesday, but not before Donald Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly fought hard to keep him on board and wildly sang his praises, even after reportedly being told long ago that Porter's two former wives had both accused him of physical and emotional abuse, which they had notified the FBI about as early as January of 2017.

It wasn't until a graphic photo of one of the women with a black eye --- which she says she told the FBI that Porter had caused when he punched her while on a vacation --- was published, that the White House finally got around to backing off the praises they had been singing for him. That, even while Porter had been handling the nation's most classified information along with Kelly, despite being unable to obtain a full security clearance, thanks to his violent and abusive background.

We cover many of the developing details in that grotesque story, including some of the remarkable (and shameful) reaction to it today.

Then, the 2018 Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers are finally in and suggest that Americans, even in states won by Trump in 2016, sure do like ObamaCare!

Nonetheless, the White House and Republican states are still doing all they can to take health coverage away from Americans, particularly those that need it most. Several GOP states have now applied for waivers to allow them to put lifetime limits on the use of Medicaid for the first time in the history of the crucial social safety net program.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, in which Trump's EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt uses your public airwaves to double-down on lies about climate change, Dunkin' Donuts finally ditches foam cups (well, eventually, anyway), and California fends off the Trump Administration's hopes of expanding offshore drilling off the Golden State coast...

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Special coverage with blogger Dave Johnson and podcaster Tara Devlin...
By Brad Friedman on 1/31/2018 5:37pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we try to make sense (wish us luck!) of Donald Trump's first, anything-but-normal State of the Union Address on Tuesday night. [Audio link to show follows below.]

After some quick news headlines --- (on another top Trump official resigning in shame, another senior Republican Congressman announcing he won't run for reelection, a Democratic Senator avoiding a second corruption trial, and a literal GOP train-wreck) --- we dive into our special coverage of what used to be a solemn and largely serious U.S. tradition.

We're joined today for commentary, fact-checking and other post-SOTU analysis by DAVE JOHNSON, longtime blogger, creator of "Seeing the Forest", and former Senior Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, and TARA DEVLIN, comedian, creator of RDTDaily.com and host of the weekly, TaraBuster podcast.

Desi Doyen joins us as well, of course, to help break down and fact-check Trump's misleading claims and outright SOTU lies on the economy, tax cuts, healthcare, immigration, drug prices, dangerous "national security" plans, his deceptive infrastructure proposal, his racist dog-whistles and shameless attempts at fear-mongering the American people during Tuesday night's joint session of Congress.

We also review just some of the things that Trump didn't mention in his speech for some reason (America's deadly gun epidemic and climate change, among others), whether Democrats will be able to counter the coming tsunami of GOP propaganda in advance of the 2018 midterms, and how Rep. Joe Kennedy, III performed in his Democratic Response to Trump's address.

"It's another flim-flam plan from the greatest con-man who ever lived," explains Devlin about at least one of the items mentioned above. "That's going to be one of those things that in a few months Trump is going to deny he said. It ain't gonna happen. The opposite is going to happen," says Johnson about another one of those items. Take your pick. But tune in for our special coverage on a very lively show amid very dark times!...

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Guest: Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch on staving off 'Trump Futility Syndrome'; Also: Debunking Trump lies about the economy (and the environment) in advance of SOTU and the 2018 midterms..
By Brad Friedman on 1/30/2018 5:00pm PT  

Echoing a recent Saturday Night Live sketch on today's BradCast, we ask: "What even matters anymore?" Well, plenty as it turns out, no matter how exhausted, anxious, depressed you (and I) may feel after a full year of the Trump Era. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

First up today, some encouraging numbers on Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") enrollment for 2018, despite the GOP and Trump's best attempts to undermine any way that they could. (Along with a reminder that folks in California and New York still have time to sign up or change their existing plan if they work quickly!).

Then, Donald Trump and his party are already lying about the economy --- from unemployment figures to the stock market to their tax cuts --- under the first year of his watch, which, if demonstrable facts still matter (and they may not) is not as good as it was under Obama's watch.

Nonetheless, the economy is doing well for many and always matters to voters at election time. So, will Trump and Republicans gets more credit than they deserve for the strength of Obama's economic policies in the 2018 midterms? Especially after they are bombarded with non-stop propaganda from Trump and the Republicans about it over the next 10 months? If a majority of Democratic voters now approve of the job George W. Bush did in office, as a stunning new poll suggests, perhaps they may be as brain-addled as Republican voters, at this point, when it comes to keeping track of actual facts and reality. (SNL's Will Ferrell seems to think so, anyway.)

But, with "Trump Fatigue" now setting in for many, as our guest today, WILL BUNCH of Philadelphia Daily News, argues in a recent column, it may be getting more difficult to keep "The Resistance" going amid the barrage of dispiriting news and horrible tweets from Trump and his Administration. That, Bunch argues, makes 2018 incredibly dangerous.

So, how does "The Resistance" avoid stave off the fatigue before (and even after) the 2018 midterm elections, as the darkest of Trump's authoritarian impulses continue to kick in? How different is all of this from similar madness during Dubya's regime (the memories of Democratic voters notwithstanding)? And how much should the media and, yes, Democrats themselves be held to account for the mess we're now in?

"The actuality of Trump --- after just one year, remember --- has not been as bad as the actuality of eight years of George W. Bush," Bunch says. "But I think the potential is just so much worse. I think that causes this anxiety, but also the fact that people feel powerless to change this course. That is the 'Trump Fatigue' that I wrote about."

"It's fatiguing, it's exhausting, and it makes so many people just want to give up, not read the news, not call their Congressmen to protest the latest outrage that's going on. That's the danger. Again, that's the authoritarian playbook, what has happened so many times in so many places around the world. We've never had this experience in the United States, ever, and so we don't really know what to expect," he explains.

We discuss the effectiveness (and/or lack thereof) of public protest during the Trump Era, and how much of the lack of outrage, at least on the streets, can be chalked up to the ineffectiveness, so far, of the Trump Administration itself.

"I keep coming back, again and again, to two things," he says. "The environment and immigration are two areas where we are not waiting for Trump to do something. Those catastrophes are happening right now. The lack of action on climate change, the undoing of regulations to help the worst polluters. That's an abusive catastrophe that's already happened under Trump....The human rights catastrophe of ICE and the Border Patrol, and the way they're carrying out deportations --- they're arresting and targeting activists. These are individuals. They are isolated cases. But you have to do the math, you have to add it up. It's a pattern of human rights abuses. It's horrible."

We discuss all of that and much more in today's conversation.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, with much more on the very real effects of Donald Trump's complete cluelessness about climate science facts and Team Trump's anti-environment, anti-Earth, anti-humanity agenda...

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Guest: Justin George of The Marshall Project; Also: FL initiative to restore former felon voting rights qualifies for November ballot, dirty Trump Family laundry, and 14 years of muck-raking at The BRAD BLOG!...
By Brad Friedman on 1/24/2018 6:19pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we celebrate The BRAD BLOG's 14th anniversary of independent investigative blogging, journalism, broadcasting, trouble-making and muck-raking! Thanks to those who've stopped by BradBlog.com/Donate to help us continue into our 15th year! If you haven't done so yet, what's stopping you? We really need your help! [Audio link to today's show follow below.]

Beyond that, on today's program, we've got some encouraging news on voting rights in the state of Florida, believe it or not. A citizen initiative to allow former felons to vote has officially qualified for the state's November ballot, after an herculean effort to gather more than 800,000 qualified signatures by proponents who hope to help re-enfranchise some 1.7 million Floridians who have completed their sentences, many of them years ago.

While the grassroots effort has already been monumental --- as a segment from Sam Bee's Full Frontal highlighted last year --- the measure must still receive more than 60% approval from voters this November in order to amend the state's constitution. More former felons --- who are disproportionately African-American in FL --- are disqualified from voting in the Sunshine State than any other. Only they, Kentucky, Virginia and Iowa currently ban such citizens from voting for life. "Florida accounts for nearly 25 percent, or 1.6 million, of the people who have lost their right to vote" in the U.S., according to the ACLU. "As a result, one in ten Floridians are shut out of our democracy."

But, if it was up to the Trump Administration, there would be many more such felons in FL and everywhere else. We're joined today by criminal justice journalist JUSTIN GEORGE of The Marshall Project, to discuss his recent article looking at "Trump Justice, Year One: The Demolition Derby", in which he examines "nine ways Trump has transformed the landscape of criminal justice, just one tumultuous year into his presidency."

We discuss the many changes made by Trump's Department of Justice and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as they attempt to "demolish" the legacy of the Obama Administration. From their rhetoric and tone on crime, the "drug war" and immigration, to policy changes on policing, sentencing, mass incarceration, the private prison industry, and in stacking the federal bench with rightwingers, Team Trump is hoping to unwind many of the criminal justice reforms successfully enacted by Obama and his DoJ, particularly in the later years of his Presidency.

But have Trump and Sessions' attempts to rollback Obama's criminal justice legacy, to date, been particularly effective? And, for that matter, why did Obama's efforts at reform come so late in his Presidency?

We cover a lot of ground in my conversation with George today, before somewhat departing from our usual beat to close with a bit of dirty laundry, sleaze, speculation and rumor mongering concerning Donald and Melania Trump --- though we've got a reasonable justification for doing so today...mostly...

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Plus: Our own 'Fake News' awards! And 2017 breaks heat records...
By Brad Friedman on 1/18/2018 5:48pm PT  

On today's BradCast, Republicans have returned to form, via government by hostage taking. Vote our way or the kids get it it! [Audio link to show follows below.]

The chaos in Congress, as Republicans race to come up with a plan to avoid a Government shutdown this weekend, echoes what happened just last week as they they tried to pass a reauthorization and extension of the FISA Amendment Act in the U.S. House. Though GOP leadership and the White House had long lobbied for the reauthorization, Donald Trump unleashed chaos when he tweeted against his own bill. That legislation, which allows for warrantless surveillance of emails and phone calls by all Americans, ultimately passed after Paul Ryan called the President to explain it, and enough Democrats came on board to help them in the House. (It passed today, again with the help of Democrats in the Senate, and now heads to Trump's desk to be signed.)

On Thursday, as Congressional Republicans attempted to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government open --- after a long-term deal was plunged into chaos when Trump refused a deal that included immigrants from "shithole countries" --- Trump did it again. He tweeted against a GOP stopgap plan which includes reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The reauthorization, which both helps sick kids and saves the government billions of dollars, was included by Republicans in hopes of enticing Democrats to help them avoid a full government shutdown as of midnight Friday. Most Dems don't seem to be buying it --- despite Ryan, once again, calling the White House to get Trump back on board --- as they appear unwilling to help Republicans out of this jam without the inclusion of a fix to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Republicans refuse to include a fix to DACA, the Obama-era protection against deportation of some 800,000 children of immigrants, which Trump reversed, in their short-term measure. Dems say they won't support such a bill unless DACA is included. In other words, the children helped by both CHIP and DACA are now being held as hostages by the Republican Party. The measure squeaked by tonight in the U.S. House, but passage in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, is far from certain.

Then, after Donald Trump's fake "Fake News" awards face plant on Wednesday night, we have a few real "Fake News" awards to offer, based on actual facts, as we reach the end of Trump's agonizingly long first year in office this weekend.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, with bad news out of China, good news out of the Detroit Auto Show (and even from McDonald's), and some late breaking news from NOAA and NASA on the record heat of 2017, as man-made global warming continues apace in the new year...

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Guest: Mike Liszewski of Drug Policy Alliance; Also: Goodbye, Chris Christie and other encouraging news from the states...
By Brad Friedman on 1/16/2018 5:39pm PT  

On today's BradCast, the consequences of elections, from D.C. on immigration, to VA and NJ on gun safety legislation, and across both D.C. and dozens of states when it comes to marijuana policy under Trump's Attorney General. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

The White House, lawmakers and corporate media continue to squabble today over Donald Trump's racist and reportedly vulgar slur of black majority nations as either "shitholes" or "shithouses" during a bipartisan meeting on immigration last week, even as his Departments of Justice and Homeland Security issued a new and misleading report on terrorism that downplays the far greater threat of domestic attacks by homegrown white Americans, in favor of a focus on foreign-born terrorists.

In the meantime, as the White House and Congress attempt to strike a government spending deal that includes protections for DACA recipients in time to avoid a government shutdown at the end of this week, a changing of the guards in both New Jersey and Virginia following last November's elections is taking place and already reshuffling public policy.

NJ's wildly unpopular Republican Gov. Chris Christie was finally replaced on Tuesday by the new Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, one day after Christie finally signed a law that will ban deadly bumpstock devices, like those used to kill 58 people and wound hundreds of others in minutes in Las Vegas last year, in the Garden State. (To his discredit, he had little choice, as the legislation passed both state chambers with zero votes opposing it.)

At the same time, in VA, where Republicans managed to barely hang on to majorities in the state legislature, thanks to some gaming of several House races and of legislative district maps across the state (allowing them to retain control despite losing statewide by a 55% to 45% margin), the GOP's majority control in the state Senate resulted in the gutting of most of the gun safety agenda on which that state's new Democratic Governor Ralph Northam ran and won by a landslide.

Then, we head back to D.C., where Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced after the turn of the new year that the DoJ was reversing Obama-era enforcement guidance on federal law, in order to crack down on states where marijuana has been made legal for medicinal and/or recreational use after decades of prohibition.

As Drug Policy Alliance advisor and marijuana legislation lobbyist MIKE LISZEWSKI joins us to explain, the new DoJ guidance, rolling back the so-called "Cole Memo" from the Obama years, has not gone over well, even with a number of Republican lawmakers, particularly those from cannabis-friendly states where they have seen a dramatic rise in tax revenue thanks to new policies adopted by voters and state lawmakers.

"The Cole Memo was just guidance, it was never binding. But by removing it, Sessions has really given the green light to US Attorneys throughout the country to say, if you want to prosecute against state marijuana conduct you have our backing," Liszewski tells me, before arguing that there is no need for such policy, given that state laws, where pot has been legalized, are already very tough. "If someone was using a state marijuana law to shield some sort of bad activity, they're clearly in violation of state law. There's so much oversight, you're likely going to get caught rather quickly. So there's really no need for additional federal prosecution. It's really addressing a concern that doesn't actually exist --- unless you have some hysterical views about marijuana."

Sessions, of course, famously has views. Last year, for example, he famously stated that marijuana was "only slightly less awful" than heroin. Liszewski breaks down the DoJ's announced change in prosecutorial guidance and the effect it is likely to have (if any) in pro-cannabis states where, he says, it has "turned out to be wonderful for generating state tax revenue...in terms of the money it's pulling in, but also the law enforcement resources, the jail resources, the court resources, that don't have to go into prosecuting low-level marijuana cases."

We also discuss how Congress may still be able to move forward on drug policy under an Attorney General who is an avowed enemy of pot users and a President who claims to favor states' rights on the matter. Congress, Liszewski argues, is close to having the votes to end prohibition at the federal level all together, if it doesn't have those votes already. But, he says, thanks to a few "old guard" Committee Chairs in Congress, it may take a full reshuffling of the deck in the 2018 mid-term elections to see it actually happen.

"The 2018 elections are going to be so crucial to the future of marijuana reform," he says. "Because whether it's a shift in which party controls each chamber, or if it's just voting out the old guard and getting some new Republicans in, either way would be helpful towards ending federal marijuana prohibition."

"It would be very, very difficult to get the genie back in the bottle at this point," Liszewski adds, "especially seeing a good number of Republicans as well as states continuing to move forward right after the Sessions announcement. It really shows that Sessions is alone on an island with this and has very few supporters. I think the writing is on the wall."

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