Left, Right & Center is KCRW's weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics and policy. Josh Barro, representing the Center, hosts a discussion of the week's news and issues with thought leaders on the Right and Left, and expert guests. From the news that dominates the headlines to the important topics below the fold, Left, Right & Center busts the opinion bubbles and..
On Thursday, we all finally got to see Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation — or most of it, anyway. Volume I of the report looks at whether there was any conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, related to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections. Volume II of the report looks at President Trump’s efforts to interfere with the investigation itself, identifying ten such episodes, including: Trump asking then-FBI director James Comey to let the investigation of Michael Flynn go, directing White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, and such.
All of this raises the possibility that the president criminally obstructed justice, though Mueller declined to offer a conclusion either way on that question. Ken White joins the LRC panel to discuss the report, what it means, and what should be done next.
Then Igor Volsky talks about his plan for tighter regulation of guns in the United States and how public opinion makes it easier for Democrats to take a more aggressive stance on gun control.
Plus: Bernie Sanders does a town hall on Fox News, and Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are speaking openly about their Christian faith — will it bring some evangelical voters who went for Trump back to the Democrats?
News stories say President Trump is frustrated by his appointees’ failure to stop the surge of families and asylum seekers entering the United States. While the level of total unauthorized border crossings is not unprecedented, the level of crossings by these kinds of people appears to be -- and because of the government’s limited ability to detain, rapidly deport or adjudicate families and asylum seekers, the crisis there continues to escalate.
The power struggle within the Trump administration over immigration also appears to be dialing back up the White House leak wars. The Washington Post reported this week the White House twice proposed to release detainees in small- and mid-size cities with sanctuary city policies, an effort to use human beings to troll the libs. Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute joins the panel to discuss DHS leadership, what's ahead for the agency and immigration policy ideas from a libertarian perspective. Should there be a policy that limits immigration at all? Should visas have a price tag determined by the market?
Then Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution joins to talk about the first tax season under the new tax law. How do Americans think about the new law, and do they still believe paying taxes is their civic duty? And does reforming how we file and pay our taxes have a chance?
Plus: Julian Assange has been arrested. What's next for him, and should his arrest make free speech advocates concerned? And Attorney General Bill Barr said in a Senate hearing this week that the 2016 Trump campaign was spied on by the government. Should the investigators be investigated?
Sportswriter Rick Reilly says to understand President Trump, you need only understand how President Trump plays golf. And, he cheats at golf. A lot. Reilly relates Trump’s golf game and his golf business to the way he boasts, makes deals, and responds to crises.
Supreme Court analyst and biographer Joan Biskupic has a new book out about Chief Justice John Roberts. She tells the panel how Roberts is reshaping the court and how his surprise decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act came about.
Plus: Joe Biden may soon announce he’s running for president, but a number of women say they’ve already had a touch too much of him. Is 2019 the wrong year for Joe Biden to invade America’s personal space? President Trump is heading to Southern California to visit the border and do some fundraising after making threats this week to close the border entirely.
Does President Trump deserve the credit he took for dragging the Republican candidate in that Ohio House race over the finish line? Tuesday was also not a good night for high-profile progressive candidates in Democratic primaries. Is this the revenge of the Democratic establishment? Is ‘socialist’ a dirty word? Republican political strategist Rick Wilson has a new book out called Everything Trump Touches Dies. He joins the panel to talk through Tuesday’s results and what’s dogging the Republican party. Then, it was a scandal-filled week in Washington. Chris Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president, was indicted for insider trading, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross still has shady investments. Linette Lopez of Business Insider breaks down the swampiness. Finally, is Space Force a thing? And what happened between Canada and Saudi Arabia this week? Former assistant secretary of defense Evelyn Farkas joins for a discussion of the craziness, from NATO to new sanctions.
The government has tried to stop an activist from publishing instructions to 3D-print a working gun, but he says it's a free speech issue. Josh Blackman, his lawyer, joins the panel to explain the argument. After 2020, cars won't have to get any more efficient, and California's own rules on auto emissions may be overruled. Will this move hold up in court? President Trump's own EPA administrator is worried about it, and the auto industry is not a fan of uncertainty.
Coral Davenport from the New York Times discusses the internal dispute and how things have changed — and not — at the EPA now that Scott Pruitt is gone. The Trump administration is now going to allow some new lower cost health insurance plans, but there's a catch — actually, a few of them. Aaron Carroll of health policy blog The Incidental Economist and the Indiana University School of Medicine tells us about the plans and the effect they might have on the insurance markets. Finally, the panel takes a step back from the week's headlines to talk with journalist Anna Clark, who's written a book all about the water crisis in Flint. 3D printed gun, "The Liberator." Photo credit: Justin Pickard.
It was the kiss that seemingly averted a Trade War between the United States and the European Union. But how much faith do you have in that picture President Donald Trump tweeted of himself smooching with the President of the European Commission? Will a free trade pact with the European Union follow? And what impact, if any, will the emergency farm aid package have? Then, the midterm elections are about three months away, and they might end up being a clear window into America’s soul.
Astead Herndon of the New York Times talks about what he's seen on the campaign trail, the candidates of color running to represent majority white districts, the Georgia governor's race, and how the #MeToo movement continues to change political careers. The panel takes a look at the latest in Iran after days of fiery tweets and a condemning speech from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, history professor and director of the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 25, 2018. Photo credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.
President Trump says he only sounded like he was throwing the American intelligence community under the bus because he tripped over a double negative. After bipartisan uproar over his bizarre performance in Helsinki, Trump walked back his comments but his subservient tone to Putin remained, culminating in an invitation to the White House.
Max Bergmann of the Center for American Progress outlines how disruptive Trump's performance was to the world order, while Right panelist Daniel McCarthy says continued openness to Russia and Putin is a key part of Trump's foreign policy: a second Cold War would not end as peacefully as the first. New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger joins the show to discuss his timely new book on cyber weapons — why they are so effective and so threatening. Finally, Democratic strategist and pollster Margie Omero explains what the polls show about public perception of the Helsinki summit.
President Trump and Vladimir Putin at joint conference in Helsinki. Photo credit: President of Russia.
President Trump visits England to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and the Queen after a tumultuous meeting with NATO allies in Brussels. He's also creating political headaches for May, attacking the way she's handling Brexit when her prime ministership is under threat. Trump blusters with world leaders and then paints a nice picture at the press conference. What exactly does he think he is trying to achieve in Europe?
Tom Nuttall, columnist at The Economist, says it's more about trade deals than defense spending. Back home, just as Trump meets the Queen, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces new indictments of twelve Russian intelligence officers for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee. Trump is set to meet with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki just days from now. Brett Kavanaugh is the president's nominee to the Supreme Court — a somewhat predictable choice for the president. Nicholas Bagley tells the panel what to make of Judge Kavanaugh's record on legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. Then, the panel considers a universal basic income. Should the government give you about $1000 a month, no questions asked? Annie Lowrey argues in her new book it would decrease poverty and revolutionize work.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk away after holding a joint news conference at Chequers, the official country residence of the Prime Minister, near Aylesbury, Britain. Photo credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters.
After months of scandals, Scott Pruitt finally resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. What was the last straw? And what will a post-Pruitt EPA hold for the environment? Robinson Meyer assesses the agency's future and how much deregulation is ahead. There are reports that President Trump’s shortlist for Supreme Court nominees is down to just three names. Who's on it, and what future would they spell for the bench? Despite the president’s visit to North Korea and assurances the country is no longer a threat, North Korea is reportedly continuing — and expanding — its nuclear missile capabilities. Tom Nichols gives his take on that and the Trump's declaration that Vladimir Putin is "fine." The two leaders have an upcoming summit. South of the border, Mexicans have a new president-elect, a leftist who won in a landslide. What will that mean for US-Mexico relations, Trump's wall and migration? Jose Diaz Briseno fills in the panel. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.
What can we expect out of a court with Chief Justice John Roberts at its ideological center? One of the last decisions Kennedy joined was to uphold President Trump's travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries. Did that decision make sense? Ken White analyzes the future of the court without Justice Kennedy and his last decisions. The panel speaks to a Sofia Martinez Fernandez, an analyst with the International Crisis Group based in Guatemala, about why so many more people are fleeing Central America and seeking refugee status in the United States. The panel discusses Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's upset of one of the top House Democrats in a primary on Tuesday. It was also a big week for foreign policy, with the president setting a meeting with Vladimir Putin, back down from a threat to China, talking down the European Union, the World Trade Organization and NATO. Tony Fratto of Hamilton Place Strategies and a former official in the Bush administration gives his take on that, and on civility — is politics too uncivil right now?
President Donald Trump walks with Justice Anthony Kennedy at the White House. Photo credit: Shealah Craighead/White House.