As Senator Warren’s presidential candidacy gathers momentum, the Democratic establishment is nervously reckoning with the leftward drift of the party. Warren has a reputation for progressive policy ideas, but she is distancing herself from Bernie Sanders-style democratic socialism. Instead, she is casting herself as a pragmatist who has reasonable plans to reform education, health care, and a financial system that advantages the very rich. Sheelah Kolhatkar joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Warren's critique of 21st-century capitalism, and voters' concerns about whether she could beat Donald Trump.
Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (which owns Google), and Facebook—known in the tech world as the Big Four—are among the largest and most profitable companies in the world, and they’ve been accustomed to the laxest of oversight from Washington. But the climate may have shifted in a significant way. The Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and the House Judiciary Committee are all investigating different aspects of the Big Four; Elizabeth Warren has made breaking up these companies a cornerstone of her Presidential campaign. Sue Halpern, a New Yorker contributor, sounds a cautious note about these developments. Current antitrust law doesn’t well fit the nature of these businesses, and breaking up the companies will not necessarily solve underlying issues, like the lack of privacy law. In a twist, Halpern says, the Big Four and now asking the federal government for more regulation—because, she explains to David Remnick, the companies’ lobbyists can sway Washington more easily than they can influence state governments like California, which just passed a rigorous data-privacy law similar to the European Union’s. “They’re being called to account, they have to do something,” she notes, “but they want to direct the conversation so that, ultimately, they still win.”
Can the Democrats Design a Pragmatic Climate Change Policy?
Climate change is the most pressing issue in the world, and the twenty-three Democratic candidates for President have ideas about how to address it. For decades, economists have argued for a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax as the cheapest and most efficient way to reduce CO2 emissions. Now progressives and climate activists are advocating a different approach, focusing on renewable energy and creating jobs. Their efforts have resulted in the Green New Deal resolutions before Congress. What do the various proposals entail--and would any of them work?
Evgeny Shtorn and Alexander Kondakov were living together in St. Petersburg when Vladimir Putin began his crackdown on the L.G.B.T.Q. movement in Russia, passing laws that prevented gay “propaganda.” Kondakov is a scholar of the movement, and Shtorn has studied the sociology of hate crimes against gay men. The couple also worked for an N.G.O. that received foreign funding, which made them appear particularly suspicious to Russian authorities. After Shtorn’s citizenship was rescinded, he became vulnerable to pressure from the F.S.B., the Russian security agency, which tried to make him an informant. Finally Shtorn decided to flee, seeking refuge as a stateless person in Ireland, where Masha Gessen spoke with him. Gessen says that Putin’s recent targeting of L.G.B.T. people is perfectly in line with his methods. “[We] make the perfect scapegoat, because we stand in for everything,” she says. “We stand in for the West. We stand in all the things that have changed in the last quarter century that make you uncomfortable. And, of course, no Russian thinks they’ve ever met a gay person in person—so that makes it really easy to create that image of ‘the villainous queer people.’ ”
Tuesday marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when China’s People’s Liberation Army opened fire on pro-democracy activists, killing between a few hundred and a few thousand civilians. That the death toll remains unknown is a symptom of the Chinese government’s thirty-year project to scrub Tiananmen Square from the Chinese cultural memory. The event has never been publicly reckoned with by the government, and conversation about the massacre is considered taboo in Chinese culture. Jiayang Fan joins the guest host Eric Lach to discuss the legacy of Tiananmen Square, and how the Chinese government’s unwillingness to address the trauma has had lingering effects on Chinese culture.
Ava DuVernay on “When They See Us,” About the Boys Who Became the Central Park Five
Ava DuVernay doesn’t like using the term Central Park Five—a moniker created by the press in the aftermath of the notorious and brutal assault of a twenty-eight-year-old woman, Trisha Meili. “They’re not the Central Park Five,” she tells the New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb. “They’re Korey, Yusef, Antron, Kevin, and Raymond.” They were five teens who were coerced into confessing to a terrible crime by police determined to find a culprit. It was a time when “the police, the district attorney, the prosecutors [wanted] to get a ‘win’ on the board,” DuVernay thinks, “because there were so many losses, so much going wrong.” Cobb wrote in The New Yorker that “The reaction to Meili’s assault came as the nadir of a two-decade-long spiral of racial animosity driven by a fear of crime,” noting that, in that same week, brutal attacks on women of color failed to generate any headlines or perceptible outrage. The story has returned to public consciousness in recent years because of its role in launching Donald Trump’s political career. One of Trump’s first political acts, in 1989, was to take out a newspaper ad calling for the execution of the boys, and he stuck by his view even after they were exonerated. DuVernay’s goal was to tell the story of those five boys and the men they became.
“When They See Us” was released on Netflix on May 31st.
Beto O’Rourke Struggles to Find His Place in the Democratic Presidential Field
Beto O’Rourke did not defeat Ted Cruz in the 2018 Texas race for the Senate, but his campaign made him a political celebrity. In March, when O’Rourke announced his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination, he raised more than six million dollars in a single day. In recent weeks, he has dropped precipitately in the polls, and he has not yet found a platform that connects with voters. William Finnegan joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what’s gone wrong, and what it means for a party desperately seeking a candidate who can topple Donald Trump in 2020.
Ta-Nehisi Coates Revisits the Case for Reparations
When Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations” for The Atlantic, in 2014, he didn’t expect the government to make reparations anytime soon. He told David Remnick that he had a more modest goal. “My notion,” Coates says, “was you could get people to stop laughing.” For Coates, to treat reparations as a punch line is to misunderstand their purpose. He argues that reparations weren’t only meant to atone for the horror of chattel slavery but to address racial inequities and the economic impact that has persisted since emancipation, more than a century ago. “The case I’m trying to make is, within the lifetime of a large number of Americans in this country, there was theft.”
“The Case for Reparations” was an intellectual sensation, and Coates did change the conversation; of the more than twenty candidates in the 2020 Democratic Presidential race, eight have said they’re in favor of at least establishing a commission to study the subject. He points to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who sought out Coates to discuss his article years before she was considered a candidate. But Coates’s own hopes for America truly making amends remain modest. “It may be true that this is something folks rally around,” he says, “but that’s never been my sense.”
How China Sees Trump and the Rapidly Escalating Trade War
In May, President Donald Trump instructed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to impose a ban on foreign-made equipment, much of it from China, that might pose a security threat to the U.S. Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, characterizes the new U.S. policy as “bullying” and called it a threat to “liberal, laws-based order.” Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Chinese hacking of the 2012 American election and decades of intellectual theft, and China’s response to the Trump Administration’s “nuclear option” in the trade war.
Two Perspectives on the Future of the Green New Deal
The Green New Deal is the most ambitious climate proposal ever brought to Congress. And it’s coming to the table during one of the most divisive periods that Washington has ever seen. The New Yorker’s Eliza Griswold recently spoke with a woman named Varshini Prakash. Prakash, who is twenty-five, is the co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, a group of environmental activists, many of whom are very young. Although it’s not a household name, like the Sierra Club, the Sunrise Movement has played a key role in bringing the Green New Deal to Washington. Prakash has had to answer criticism that the proposal is too radical and that the economic and technological transformation it demands simply isn’t possible in the proposed ten-year time frame. “I don’t know if we can completely decarbonize our economy in the next ten years. I don’t know if we can eliminate all warming emissions,” she says. “But we have done incredible things in this nation’s history before.” And, this late in the game, Prakash says, “We don’t have a choice but to strive.”
What will it take to get serious climate legislation passed? The New Yorker’s John Cassidy posed that question to Carol Browner, who was the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton and an adviser, known as the “climate czar,” to President Barack Obama. Yet neither of those Administrations managed to make any substantial dent in the climate crisis. Browner supports the Green New Deal, but she says that we shouldn’t depend on Congress to lead the way to serious climate reform. Grassroots organizing and appealing to industry leaders are crucial steps. “If you look at the long history of environmental protection in this country, what you will see is that people move forward, and then Congress follows, because you have to set a floor,” she says. “It may not ever be as much as we all hoped for, but it will be a step, and then we have to argue for more.”
On Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, It’s Bolton vs. Trump
For decades, John Bolton, now the Trump Administration’s national-security adviser, has been warning about the threat that Iran poses to the United States. Last week, the White House announced a series of deployments to the Middle East that suggest the Administration may be following Bolton’s lead into a confrontation with Iran. But, on Thursday, Trump told his acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want a war with Iran. Dexter Filkins joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Bolton and where his views on foreign policy clash with Trump’s.
Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert: Is It Too Late to Save the World?
After years of languishing far down the list of voters’ priorities, climate change has moved to the top of many voters’ concerns, according to a new CNN poll. Now Presidential candidates are competing to establish themselves as leaders on the issue, and children are making headlines for striking from school over the issue. Bill McKibben, whose book “The End of Nature” brought the idea of global warming to public consciousness thirty years ago, tells David Remnick that the accumulation of weather catastrophes—droughts, wildfires, floods—may have finally made an impact. “You watch as a California city literally called Paradise literally turns into hell inside half an hour,” McKibben reflects. “Once people have seen pictures like that, it’s no wonder we begin to see a real uptick in the response.” McKibben joined the New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert in a conversation about the U.N.’s new report on biodiversity. It finds that a million species could become extinct within a few decades and that human life itself may be imperilled. Although the political tide could be turning, both worry that it is too late. “The problem with climate change is that it’s a timed test,” McKibben notes. “If you don’t solve it fast, then you don’t solve it. No one’s got a plan for refreezing the Arctic once it’s melted. . . . We’re not playing for stopping climate change. We’re playing—maybe—for being able to slow it down to the point where it doesn’t make civilizations impossible.”
The United States Constitution on Broadway, and What It Means to Us
This week, a showdown between Congress and the Trump Administration over the refusal of Attorney General William Barr to testify before the House Judiciary Committee spurred further conversation about a “constitutional crisis.” In recent years, there has been a non-stop national debate about how the Constitution handles potential abuses of Presidential power and the relationship among the three branches of government. The Constitution is also the unlikely subject of a new play, on Broadway: “What the Constitution Means to Me,” written and performed by Heidi Schreck. Dorothy Wickenden visits Schreck backstage, at the Hayes Theatre, on Broadway, to discuss what the Constitution does and does not say about the basic rights of Americans.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her candidacy for President outside the Trump International Hotel. Little known outside of New York, Gillibrand was representing a congressional district in the region around Albany when she appointed, in 2009, to fill Hillary Clinton’s former Senate seat. Gillibrand has been fierce on the issue of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the military and government; as a champion of the #MeToo movement, she was among the first Democrats to call for Senator Al Franken to step down. Some in the Party, she has claimed, are still angry with her over it, and have withheld donating to her campaign. Gillibrand tells David Remnick that her experience as a female politician will be a strength if she were to face Trump in the general election. “My first two opponents were in a 2-to-1 Republican district, who demeaned me, and name-called me, and tried to dismiss me. And not only did it make my candidacy relevant but it got a lot of people deeply offended, and they wanted to know who I was and why I was running.” Trump’s “Achilles’ heel,” she says, “is a mother with young children who’s running on issues that . . . families care about. His kryptonite is a woman who stands up for what she believes in and doesn’t back down.”
Last week, former Vice-President Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the 2020 Presidential race. He has an early lead in polls, but several women have come forward to accuse him of inappropriate behavior, and he is facing renewed scrutiny for how, as a senator, he handled Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, in 1991. Jane Mayer and Evan Osnos join Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the first Presidential campaign of the #MeToo era.
In a crowded 2020 Democratic field, the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is looking for a way to set himself apart. One way he’s tried to do that is by taking on the issue of immigration—a favorite topic of President Donald Trump, and one that’s important to his base. In a wide-ranging conversation with the New Yorker editor David Remnick, Castro lays out his plan: to repeal the law that makes it a federal crime to enter the country without documentation, and to reform the federal agencies that enforce immigration policy. “The other reason that I put forward this bold immigration plan is I’m not afraid,” he tells Remnick. “I’m not afraid of the President on this issue. He’s counting on that he can stoke up enough fear and paranoia and enough people to get a small narrow Electoral College victory.”
But, in some ways, Castro’s plan stops short of what other Democrats have advocated. For example, he doesn’t support “abolishing ICE” entirely, saying instead that he would prefer to see the agency “reconstituted.”
Voter Suppression and Other Threats to the 2020 Presidential Election
Since a surge of new voters participated in the 2018 midterm elections, Republican legislatures have introduced measures to limit those voters’ ability to cast their ballots. At the same time, research indicates that some of the methods historically used to suppress voter turnout—particularly in communities of color—were exploited by Russian hackers to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. Jelani Cobb joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the past, present, and future of voter suppression.
Last March, Wayne LaPierre sent a fund-raising letter to his members—an urgent plea for money. LaPierre described an attack on the Second Amendment that is unprecedented in the history of the country. But, in reality, what is endangering the N.R.A. isn’t constitutional law; it’s destructive business relationships that have damaged the organization financially, and have put it in legal jeopardy.
Searching through N.R.A. tax forms, charity records, contracts, and internal communications, the reporter Mike Spies discovered that “a small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders have extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, enriching themselves in the process.” While the organization is quick to lay blame on its political opponents, Spies says, it’s its questionable financial practices that have weakened it from the inside.
Central to the story of the N.R.A’s financial problems is an Oklahoma-based media agency called Ackerman McQueen. Ack-Mac didn’t just write press releases: for three decades, it has steered the N.R.A.’s imaging on all platforms, and its executives routinely took positions within the N.R.A. In 2017, the N.R.A. paid Ackerman and affiliates forty million dollars, which totalled about twelve per cent of the N.R.A.’s total expenses that year. Ostensibly just a contractor, Ackerman influenced N.R.A. decision-making from inside, and the for-profit company seems to have used the nonprofit company as a vast source of funds to enrich itself.
Spies interviewed Aaron Davis, who worked in the N.R.A.’s fund-raising operation for a decade. “I think there is an inherent conflict of interest,” Davis says. “And it just doesn’t seem like N.R.A. leadership is all that concerned about this.”
(After this interview took place, the N.R.A. sued Ackerman McQueen, claiming that the contractor had hidden important documentation from it that detailed the business relationships.)
The Notre-Dame Fire Could Be a Turning Point for the Macron Presidency
On Monday, a fire severely damaged the nearly nine-hundred-year-old Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, one of France’s most beloved cultural landmarks. In the wake of the fire, President Emmanuel Macron delayed a long-awaited speech addressing the French populist political movement known as the Yellow Vests, which has been causing civil unrest around the country. Lauren Collins joins Dorothy Wickenden from Paris to discuss the mood of the city and what the Notre-Dame fire might mean for the future of the Macron Presidency.
Masha Gessen and Keith Gessen Debate Russian and American Politics
Masha Gessen and Keith Gessen have, taken together, written more than a dozen books and a thousand articles. Keith Gessen is a founder of n+1, an influential literary journal; Masha has written for major newspapers and journals as well as, since 2014, The New Yorker. Their parents emigrated from the Soviet Union in its latter days. Keith has spent most of his life in America, but Masha, who is older, returned to Russia as an adult and worked there as a reporter. In a conversation at the 2018 New Yorker Festival, the siblings discussed their different perspectives on the U.S.-Russia relationship. All through the Mueller investigation, Masha warned people not to expect a smoking gun to prove collusion between Putin and Trump, and then, somehow, this fierce critic of Putin was branded an apologist for his regime. Masha’s most recent book is “The Future Is History”; Keith’s is a novel, called “A Terrible Country.”
The Sackler Family, Purdue Pharma, and the Lawsuits Threatening Opioid Manufacture
Purdue Pharma, the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company owned by the Sackler family, brought OxyContin to market in 1995. The Sacklers dismissed warnings that the drug was addictive and unleashed a well-funded marketing campaign to sell it to doctors. Since then, Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers have been sued thousands of times for the role they played in the opioid epidemic, and now some fifteen hundred civil cases against the company and its founders have been bundled together into a multi-district litigation that could cost the Sacklers billions of dollars. Patrick Radden Keefe joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma participated in the proliferation of opioids and what the new round of lawsuits may mean for the company’s future.
The Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg on Coming Out: “I Realized I Couldn’t Go On Like That Forever”
During an exit interview with President Barack Obama in November, 2016, just weeks after the election, David Remnick asked who would be the leaders of the Democratic Party and the contenders to oppose Trump in 2020. Obama mentioned people like Kamala Harris, of California, and Tim Kaine, of Virginia, along with a very surprising figure: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was only thirty-five at the time. In recent weeks, Buttigieg has been raising his profile dramatically, and raising money at a surprising clip, considering that he lacks the national profile of a senator or a governor. In a huge field of candidates, the mayor stands out. He’s a Navy veteran, and was born and raised in South Bend, so he brings heartland credibility to his campaign. But he’s also the youngest candidate in the field, and the first openly gay person with a real shot at the nomination. Buttigieg had not yet come out when he took office and when he joined the Navy Reserves, but deployment in Afghanistan changed his perspective. “I realized I couldn’t go on like that forever. . . . Something about that really clarified my awareness of the extent to which you only get to live one life and be one person,” Buttigieg tells Remnick. “Part of it was the exposure to danger,” he notes, but there was more to it: “I began to feel a little bit humiliated about the idea that my life could come to an end and I could be a visible public official and a grown man and a homeowner and have no idea what it was like to be in love.”
The Trump Administration’s Self-Sabotaging Approach to Border Politics
Last week, President Trump announced that he would stop sending financial aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the countries of origin of many of the migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump’s announcement contradicts accepted wisdom that foreign aid decreases migration, and comes as Trump is threatening to close the southern border as a matter of national security. Jonathan Blitzer, who recently reported on migration from Guatemala, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Trump’s immigration policies and how climate change is giving his Administration even more to worry about.
The Mueller investigation has been a two-year obsession for nearly everyone who cares about politics in America. For one side, the special counsel was a bête noire, a leader of a witch hunt; for the other, Mueller was a deus ex machina who would end the political disruptions of Trumpism. But the report received by Attorney General William Barr was highly ambivalent, neither indicting nor exonerating the President, and leaving to the A.G. to decide the crucial question of obstruction of justice.
To weigh the consequences of the Mueller report, David Remnick sat down with the staff writers Masha Gessen and Susan Glasser. “Any other political figure of course would be glad that an investigation like this is over, and would want to move on as quickly as possible,” Glasser notes. “True to form, [Trump] is already talking about various vindictive moves, and ‘investigating the investigators.’ . . . It’s a strategy compatible with his overall approach of appealing to his supporters, and maximum divisiveness.”
Did the Press Do Its Job in Covering the Mueller Investigation?
Last week, the special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Though the report has not been released to the public, a summary by Attorney General William Barr cleared the President of charges of collusion with Russia. Many have criticized the press for stoking hysteria around the collusion narrative, and for bias against Trump. Steve Coll joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the media’s coverage of the Mueller investigation, and the symbiotic relationship between the President and the press.
The U.K. Edges Closer to the Cliff of a No-Deal Brexit
Since the minute that British citizens voted, in a 2016 referendum, to leave the European Union, confusion and disorganization has consumed the U.K. Three years later, little has changed: confusion and disorganization may carry the U.K. over the cliff of a no-deal Brexit, with devastating economic consequences.
Though we can’t predict what will happen, we continue to learn about what brought the U.K. to this precarious position. Like the 2016 presidential election in the U.S., the campaign for Brexit employed divisive social-media campaigns, mysterious sources of financing, Cambridge Analytica, and questionable meetings with Russians. At the center of it was a man named Arron Banks, an insurance magnate who is happy to take credit for his efforts to promote Brexit by whatever means necessary. Ed Caesar reported on Banks’s outsized role in the referendum, and found that Banks is under investigation in Britain and in South Africa, where he has business interests in diamonds, and was also a person of interest in the Mueller investigation. Caesar spoke with David Remnick about Brexit’s shady past and uncertain future.
On April 9th, Israel will hold a general election. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces several accusations of corruption, and seems sure to be indicted. The increasingly right-wing Likud Party, which has held power for a decade, faces strong opposition from the new centrist party Blue and White, which argues that Israel’s democracy has “lost its way,” and that Netanyahu’s government of “divide and conquer” must be stopped. Bernard Avishai joins Dorothy Wickenden from Jerusalem to discuss what to expect from Israeli politics in the weeks ahead, and what lessons the election holds for the United States.
In 2012, two young activists from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance went on an undercover mission to infiltrate the Broward Transitional Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Florida. NIYA had been contacted by the son of a man named Claudio Rojas, who was taken from his home by immigration agents and brought to Broward. NIYA has been compared to ACT UP; its members try to force confrontations with authorities over immigration policy. The two activists, who are themselves undocumented, pretended to be newly arrived, confused immigrants who spoke little English. They got themselves arrested by somewhat perplexed Border Patrol agents.
The story of those activists is told in a new film called “The Infiltrators,” which recently showed at the Sundance Festival and South by Southwest. It is a kind of quasi-documentary, the directors Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera tell David Remnick; because they were not able to film inside the ICE facility, they staged a reënactment of the events inside a decommissioned mental hospital. Rojas, who had been released from detention after staging a hunger strike, advised the production for verisimilitude. But after the movie’s release, Rojas was suddenly re-detained during a routine check-in with ICE, which he attended with his lawyer. “For eight years I presented myself for supervision visits,” Rojas tells The New Yorker’s Camila Osorio, speaking on the phone from detention. “Why didn’t they detain me before? . . . I am completely sure that this is a reprisal against me, that they want to deport me no matter what.”
Note: In regard to Rojas’s suspicion of retaliation on the part of ICE, a spokesman for the agency sent this statement after the story went to air: “ICE detains individuals according to federal law and makes custody decisions based upon the facts of their case. Any accusation that ICE uses retaliatory tactics is patently false.”
Theresa May’s Brexit Saga Continues, with No End in Sight
This week, a series of votes in the British House of Commons introduced a new chapter in the Brexit story and pushed parliamentary procedures to a breaking point. After Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan was voted down for a second time, the House voted to attempt to delay the U.K.’s exit from the E.U. Sam Knight joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how May continues to survive, and whether she might yet prevail.
Jane Mayer on the Revolving Door Between Fox News and the White House
Donald Trump has made no secret of his great admiration for Fox News—he tweets praise of it constantly—and his disdain for other, “fake news” outlets, which he regards as “enemies of the people.” But the closeness between Fox News and the White House is unprecedented in modern times, Jane Mayer tells David Remnick. In a recent article, Mayer, a staff writer since 1995, analyzes a symbiotic relationship that boosts both Trump’s poll numbers and Rupert Murdoch’s bottom line. “I was trying to figure out who sets the tune that everybody plays during the course of the day,” Mayer says. “If the news on Fox is all about some kind of caravan of immigrants supposedly invading America, whose idea is that? It turns out that it is this continual feedback loop.” Mayer pays particular attention to the role of Bill Shine, the former Fox News co-president and now former White House deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine resigned days after Mayer spoke to Remnick. In his tenure in the Administration, Shine helped create a revolving door through which those who craft the Administration’s political messaging and those who broadcast it regularly trade places. She also discovered that Shine was linked to the network’s practice of intimidating employees who alleged sexual harassment at work.
In an Age of Science Denialism, a Breakthrough in the Fight Against H.I.V.
This week, it was announced that a patient in the United Kingdom had been cured of H.I.V. The “London Patient” is only the second person with H.I.V. to be cured of the disease since its discovery, in 1981. The breakthrough comes weeks after President Trump announced a plan to eradicate the disease by 2030. Jerome Groopman joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how previous Administrations have addressed the AIDS crisis, and the politics of science and medicine in the Trump era—on everything from the anti-vaccine movement to climate-change denialism.
A Moderate Republican Wants to Give Donald Trump a Primary Challenge in 2020
Donald Trump boasts an approval rating among Republican voters of close to ninety per cent. But the former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld recently announced an exploratory committee to challenge Trump in the primary. It looks like a political suicide mission, but Weld sees a pathway to victory that runs through his neighboring state of New Hampshire, to other blue-leaning states where Republican voters might be open to a different candidate for the nomination. Weld is a type of Republican rarely seen at the national level these days—a New England moderate—and he’s called Trump’s Presidency a “train wreck.” He says that some “billionaires” will back his long-shot bid, and he’s betting that the damage from investigations may end Trump’s charmed political life. Weld criticizes the white-supremacist dog whistles used in Trump’s 2016 campaign, and he calls Republicans in Washington victims of Stockholm syndrome—identifying with the man who captured their party.
How Michael Cohen’s Testimony Signalled the True Beginning of the Many Cases Against Trump
This week, in an open hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime consigliere, implicated the President in multiple felonies, and gave the world a hint of what to expect in investigations into the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Administration. Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the fallout from Cohen’s testimony, and growing pressure on congressional Republicans as they continue to defend the President.
In 1972, the I.R.A. abducted and “disappeared” Jean McConville, the mother of ten children, most of whom were teen-age or younger. Her case became one of the most notorious unsolved murders of the long period of unrest in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. Patrick Radden Keefe wrote about McConville for The New Yorker in 2015. “On the one hand, it’s a story about a terrible murder that happened in 1972,” Keefe tells David Remnick. “On the other hand, it’s about how that history, far from being remote . . . was incredibly politically explosive.”
While researching a book about the murder, Keefe stumbled across an overlooked clue. Now, Keefe tells Remnick, he’s pretty sure he knows who murdered McConville.
Keefe’s book, “Say Nothing,” is available on February 26th.
Bernie Sanders Enters the Democratic Field, But He’s No Longer Alone on the Left
On Tuesday, the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders announced that he would once again run for President. When Sanders ran in 2016, he was viewed as an insurgent candidate challenging the Democratic mainstream from the left flank of the Party. This time, among Sanders’s opponents for the Democratic nomination are several other self-proclaimed progressives, including the senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Benjamin Wallace-Wells joins Eric Lach to discuss how Sanders’s entry into the 2020 Presidential campaign reflects how the Democratic Party has, and hasn’t, changed since 2016.
When depictions of Virginia politicians in blackface surfaced this month, the New Yorker contributor Teju Cole was unsurprised. “A white man of a certain age in the U.S.,” he reflects, “is found to have done something racist in his past; well, yes.” As a photographer and photo critic, he is acutely aware that a photograph captures the thinnest sliver of time, half a second or much less. So any photograph of a man in blackface—or in any other offensive image—always indicates that “there’s a lot more where that came from.”
Cole maintains that Governor Ralph Northam’s resignation or persistence in office isn’t the point. Resignations, he says, can play the role of a valve, merely releasing pressure from a system that is intolerable. “Wealth inequality between black people and white people is cavernous,” Cole says. “And yet I don’t suppose most white Americans wake up in the morning and feel personally responsible for that state of affairs.”
Donald Trump’s Skewed View of Human Trafficking at the Border
In recent speeches defending his plan to build his border wall, President Trumphas repeatedly made reference to women who are kidnaped and trafficked over the U.S.-Mexico border. “Women are tied up, they’re bound, duct tape put around their faces, around their mouths,” he said during a speech, in the White House Rose Garden, in January. “They’re put in the backs of cars or vans or trucks. . . . They go into the desert areas, or whatever areas you can look at, and, as soon as no protection, they make a left or a right into the United States of America. There’s nobody to catch them. There’s nobody to find them.” Experts agree that the kind of human trafficking that Trump is describing is very rare. Jenna Krajeski, who writes about human trafficking for the Fuller Project, joins Eric Lach to discuss what the President misunderstands about human trafficking, and how his Administration’s policies may be making life hard for its victims.
Last week, the House held hearings on gun violence, the first in eight years. In the 2018 elections, gun-reform groups outspent the N.R.A.—which appears to be in financial trouble. After years of greatly expanded gun rights, is the tide turning on gun reform? David Remnick talks with Lucy McBath, who ran for Congress as a gun reformer and won in the conservative district once represented by Newt Gingrich. We’ll hear from the reporter Mike Spies, the criminal-justice professor April Zeoli, the Navy veteran Will Mackin, and the gun-violence survivor Sarah Engle.
Tucker Carlson Joins the Movement Against Market Capitalism
The Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a vigorous defender of President Trump, shocked many viewers recently with a sharp warning about the dangers of market capitalism. “Market capitalism is not a religion,” he said. “Any economic system that weakens and destroys families isn’t worth having.” A growing number of critics on both the left and the right are saying that the market is functioning to the detriment of average Americans. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the new Republican and Democratic rhetoric about economic inequities, as the parties look toward the 2020 elections.
Washington is abuzz with rumors that the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report is coming soon. We know that Donald Trump’s Presidency depends on its contents. But with all the headlines of the past two years—this one brought in for questioning, that one indicted, this one coöperating—it can be hard to keep track of what this is really all about. We asked the staff writer Adam Davidson, who has been reporting on the Mueller investigation since the beginning, for a refresher on the basic facts—the broad strokes of what we’ve learned so far. Both parties are strategizing to position themselves for the unknown. But Jeffrey Toobin believes that, unless the report contains a major, unexpected discovery, its findings will have little impact on Trump’s Presidency or on his future. Toobin debates with The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent, Susan B. Glasser, about the lessons of Bill Clinton’s impeachment and Richard Nixon’s resignation.
The Trump Administration Leads Calls to Unseat Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela
In May of 2018, Nicolás Maduro announced that he had won reëlection as the President of Venezuela. Almost immediately, reports of voting irregularities and of suppression of opposition parties cast doubts on the legitimacy of the election. Earlier this month, the Venezuelan National Assembly declared the election results invalid, and that Juan Guaidó, the Assembly’s leader, was the acting President of Venezuela. More than twenty-five countries, including the United States, have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful President, but Maduro refuses to step down. Jon Lee Anderson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Venezuela’s moment of reckoning, and the potential consequences to the region, and the United States, of the Trump Administration’s warnings to Maduro.
Silicon Valley may be the center of the tech world right now, but Kai-Fu Lee says that’s going to change, and fast. Lee—a computer scientist who worked at Apple, Microsoft, and Google before becoming a venture capitalist—predicts that China will soon overtake the United States as the world leader in innovation. Lee points to the company WeChat as an example; it’s a one-stop shop for all the many things that people use apps for: texting, ride hailing, ordering food or movie tickets, and even paying for those services. WeChat “has essentially eliminated credit cards . . . which have become a dinosaur in China,” Lee tells the New Yorker staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar. The enormous customer bases for Chinese services mean that the tech sector has more data to use for machine learning, and therefore its algorithms become “smarter” faster. The U.S., Kolhatkar thinks, does have legitimate complaints about Chinese economic policy, but the Administration’s use of tariffs as a lever is backward-looking. If China’s development of artificial intelligence surpasses ours, Chinese entrepreneurs will beat out Silicon Valley and hold the key to the future.
With Roe v. Wade Under Threat, a New Era in the Battle Over Abortion Rights
With a solid conservative majority on the Supreme Court, many expect that the Justices will revisit Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that made abortion legal in the United States. Should Roe be overturned, it will fall to the states to regulate access to abortion. Jia Tolentino joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the next stage in the politics of reproductive rights, and how the polarization of the Trump era will affect the abortion debate.
The Producer dream hampton Talks with Jelani Cobb about “Surviving R. Kelly”
For decades, it’s been an open secret that R. Kelly has allegedly kept young women trapped in abusive relationships through psychological manipulation, fear, and intimidation. His domestic situation has been compared to a sex cult. He was acquitted of child-pornography charges even though a video that appears to show him with a fourteen-year-old girl was circulated around the country. It was described only as the “R. Kelly sex tape.” Why has it taken so long for the reckonings of the #MeToo movement to catch up to him? Lifetime just aired “Surviving R. Kelly,” a six-part documentary by the producer dream hampton that airs the full breadth of the accusations against Kelly. (He continues to deny all charges of illegal behavior.) One young woman featured in the documentary left a relationship with Kelly, whom she met when she was a teen-age supporter outside the Chicago courtroom where he was being tried. “He was cruising eleventh graders on that trial,” hampton tells the New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb. “I mean, the hubris!”
Cobb and hampton discuss the complicated dynamics of accusing R. Kelly. “It’s a deep shame black women have, handing over black men to this system we know to be unjust and that targets them,” she says. “At the same time, black women are black people, and we too are targeted . . . . Most sexual-violence survivors don’t find justice in this system, regardless of race.”
Update: After our program went to air, RCA Records dropped R. Kelly from its roster.
How Mitch McConnell is Prolonging the Shutdown, and What He Did to Turn the G.O.P. Into the Party of Trump
The government shutdown is entering its fifth week. Although recent polls indicate that a majority of Americans oppose President Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border, he refuses to consider a federal budget unless it includes money for the wall, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that he will not consider any legislation that the President would not sign. Alec MacGillis joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how McConnell led the way in turning Republicans into the Party of Trump, and how democracies become captive to minorities who thwart the will of the public.
An Insider from “The Apprentice” on How the Show Made Donald Trump
A number of people have been credited with the political rise of Donald Trump—Roger Stone and Steve Bannon among them—but perhaps the most influential is Mark Burnett, the English reality-TV producer. After the massive success of his show “Survivor,” Burnett could have made virtually anything, and he chose “The Apprentice.” His task was to make a New York real-estate developer who was a fixture in the tabloids into a national celebrity, a tycoon, and a decisive leader with unerring judgment. The staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe interviewed a number of people who worked on shaping Trump’s image on “The Apprentice,” including the supervising producer Jonathon Braun. Braun told Keefe that Trump’s quick, instinctual decisions complicated the work of the show’s editors, who would often have to recut the episodes to find material that seemed to justify those decisions. And Braun argues that the White House and the news media now often play the same role that the “Apprentice” crew did: isolating Trump’s most coherent statement within a long string of improvised iterations.
With Rod Rosenstein Leaving the Justice Department, What’s Next for the Mueller Investigation?
With the departure of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, following the ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump will soon be rid of the two men he holds responsible for the Robert Mueller investigation. Jeffrey Toobin joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what to expect from the confirmation hearing for William Barr, Sessions’s likely successor, and what Barr believes about Presidential powers.
Janet Mock first heard the word “māhū,” a Native Hawaiian word for people who exist outside the male-female binary, when she was twelve. She had just moved back to Oahu, where she was born, from Texas, and, by that point, Mock knew that the gender she presented as didn’t feel right. “I don’t like to say the word ‘trapped,’ ” Mock tells The New Yorker’s Hilton Als. “But I was feeling very, very tightly contained in my body.”
Eventually, Mock left Hawaii for New York, where she worked as an editor for People magazine. “[Everyone was] bigger and louder and smarter and bolder than me,” she tells Als. “So, in that sense, I could kind of blend in.” After working at People for five years, she came out publicly as trans; since then, she has emerged as a leading voice on trans issues. She’s written two books, produced a documentary, and hosted for MSNBC. She is a contributing editor for Marie Claire, and, in 2018, she became the first trans woman of color to be hired as a writer on a TV series—Ryan Murphy’s FX series “Pose.” Now she’s working on a film adaptation of her Times best-selling memoir, “Redefining Realness.”
Donald Trump Starts 2019 With Political Turmoil and a Democratic House
Cracks in the Republican Party’s façade of unity are showing. Trump stumbled into the New Year, having invited a shutdown of the federal government, prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, suffered through the stock market’s worst December since the Great Depression, and watched his nemesis Nancy Pelosi assume the speakership of the House. Susan B. Glasser joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss whether Trump faces any significant dissent from within the congressional G.O.P., and what it would take for the Party to abandon a President who retains the same approval rating he has held since taking office.
The New Yorker staff writers Jia Tolentino, Doreen St. Félix, and Alexandra Schwartz all cover the culture beat from different angles. They talk with David Remnick about the emblematic pop-culture phenomena of 2018 that tell us where we were this year: how “Queer Eye” tried to fix masculinity, and how that spoke to women in the #MeToo era; whether “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” will mark a turning point in the representation of nonwhite people in film; and how, as Tolentino says, “A Star Is Born” was “arguably the only event of the year that brought America together.”
How Worried Should Americans Be About Facebook and Cyber Warfare?
On Monday, reports from the Senate Intelligence Committee accused Facebook of “dissembling” about its knowledge of Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 Presidential election. The next day, the Times revealed how Facebook gave other big tech companies extensive access to users’ personal data. On Wednesday, the attorney general for the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against the company for allowing the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to buy the data of millions of Facebook’s users. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how lawmakers are responding, and what can be done about America’s vulnerability to ongoing cyberattacks against American businesses and our entire electoral system.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, Running as a Democrat in the Age of Trump
Until September, you’d be forgiven for not knowing much about Senator Amy Klobuchar. A Democratic senator from Minnesota since 2006, Klobuchar made national headlines over her frank questioning of the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s history of drinking. She then ran for reëlection in November and won by a twenty-four-point margin.
Klobuchar’s opponent was the Republican Jim Newberger, but, like many Democrats, she really ran against Donald Trump. While Trump’s rural support throughout the country is generally quite strong, Klobuchar tells the staff writer Susan B. Glasser that the President’s character issues helped her in rural areas of her state. “You have to go to the core of, what kind of person do you have in the White House that your kids watch on TV when they’re learning their civics lesson and the Pledge of Allegiance?” she asks. “Who do you want speaking to them?”
As many as ten Democratic senators, including Klobuchar, are considered likely Presidential candidates for 2020, though she tells Glasser only that she is “considering” a run. She is adamant, though, that any Democratic victory requires an appeal to voters in the Midwest—a region that turned to Trump in 2016. She tells a story about her husband, one of six children who was often at risk of being forgotten at the gas station on family road trips. “The Midwest was left at the gas station” by Democrats, she says, “and we’re not going to let that happen again.”
Theresa May Hangs On, but Great Britain's Brexit Crisis Continues
On Wednesday, the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom voted not to oust Prime Minister Theresa May. With the March Brexit deadline approaching, May must convince not only her political opponents but also the fringe members of her own party that her Brexit deal is the best one for the U.K. Sam Knight joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what the Brexit emergency reveals about the political chaos inside the U.K. and across Europe.
The twelve years that Claire McCaskill has served as the Senator from Missouri have not been good for Congress. They saw the unprecedented rise of partisan rancor and the collapse of legislative process; bills are now written in the majority leader’s office, rather than in bipartisan, collaborative committees; and moderates are discouraged from reaching across the aisle. “The more dysfunctional this place gets,” McCaskill, a Democrat, says, “the more people in the real world are going, ‘You guys suck. You guys are terrible. All of you. A pox on both your house[s] . . .’ It’s very dangerous for this democracy.” While McCaskill has damning words for Mitch McConnell, who she says “looks at everything through the lens of ‘how can I stay majority floor leader,’ ” she sees at least one potential upside to Trump’s unprecedented style: “More elected officials will realize that people will be forgiving of you if you say something stupid,” McCaskill argues. That’s salutary in her view, because “the lack of authenticity is really problematic for a lot of people around this building. They are so poll driven and so scripted. . . . Then it’s easier to swipe with a broad brush and say, ‘They’re all phony.’ ”
What is Robert Mueller’s Endgame Against Donald Trump?
Recent developments in the Mueller investigation, in the cases against Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn, provide some answers to two key questions: Did President Trump or anyone in his inner circle conspire with Russia to interfere with the 2016 Presidential election? And, did Trump obstruct justice by trying to shut down the Mueller inquiry? Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss where the investigations by Mueller and in the House of Representatives are headed.
In the November midterm elections, Stacey Abrams, a gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, arrived at her polling place to cast a vote for herself, only to have a poll worker claim that she had already filed for an absentee ballot. Carol Anderson’s book “One Person, No Vote” explores how measures designed to purge voters rolls or limit voting have targeted Democratic and particularly minority voters. Anderson sees voter-identification laws and a wide range of bureaucratic snafus as successors to the more blatantly racist measures that existed before the Voting Rights Act; she describes the resurgence of voter suppression as an expression of white rage. “It is not what we think of in terms of Charlottesville and the tiki torches,” she tells David Remnick. “It's the kind of methodical, systematic, bureaucratic power that undermines African-Americans’ advances." White Americans, she says, see themselves as trapped in a kind of “zero sum” situation, in which all advances for people of color must come at whites’ expense.
The Migrant Caravan Reaches the U.S.-Mexico Border
In the run-up to the 2016 midterm elections, President Trump spoke frequently about the threat posed by the “migrant caravan,” a group of Central and South American migrants travelling through Mexico toward the U.S. border. In the past two weeks, the caravan has arrived in the Mexican border city of Tijuana. On Sunday, U.S. border agents deployed tear gas on a group of migrants attempting to cross the border, including a number of children. Reporting from Tijuana, Jonathan Blitzer speaks to David Rohde about the situation at the border and about how the Trump Administration is reshaping American immigration law.
George Packer, Adam Davidson, and Jill Lepore on Short-Term Thinking in America
George Packer talks with David Remnick about how a political feedback loop has driven the Republican Party into a policy of climate-change denial, despite the almost universal scientific consensus. Adam Davidson contrasts climate change with the 2008 financial crisis when an emergency situation forced politicians to confront a problem head-on. And Jill Lepore reflects on why our democracy isn’t well built for long-term planning: elected officials with limited terms have no incentive to ask citizens to make sacrifices. Looking back at some moments of large-scale change, Lepore argues that we shouldn’t expect elected officials to lead us; change must come from all quarters.
More than two years after British voters approved a measure to withdraw their nation from the European Union—a gigantic undertaking with no roadmap of any sort —Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled a plan: essentially, that the U.K. would remain in the European customs union, participating in trade with the E.U. and remaining subject to its trade policies, but exit the political process of the E.U. The deal was seen by some as the worst of both worlds, and several cabinet ministers resigned; May could well lose a no-confidence vote in the immediate future. David Remnick talks with the London-based staff writers Sam Knight and Rebecca Mead about the ongoing challenges of Brexit.
A Week After the Midterm Elections, the Blue Wave Continues to Grow
On Monday, almost a week after the polls closed on Election Day, Kyrsten Sinema was the declared the winner of the race for Jeff Flake’s vacated Senate seat in Arizona. Sinema will be the first Democrat Arizona has sent to the Senate in decades, and she won the seat with a moderate platform that avoided hot-button progressive issues like universal health care and the abolition of ICE. John Cassidy joins guest host Eric Lach to discuss what races like the one for Senate in Arizona say about the future of Democratic strategy in red states.
After the 2008 Financial Crisis, the Economy Was Fracked Up
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act injected almost nine hundred billion dollars into the U.S. economy to help the nation recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Ninety billion dollars went to clean energy, with the intention of jump-starting a new green economy and replacing aging fossil-fuel technologies. Instead, the bill may have done the opposite. Low interest rates, which made borrowing easier, encouraged a flood of financing for the young fracking industry, which used novel chemical techniques to extract gas and oil. Fracking boomed, and made the U.S. the leading producer of oil and gas by some estimates. The financial journalist Bethany McLean and the investor and hedge-fund manager Jim Chanos tell The New Yorker’s Eliza Griswold that something in the fracking math doesn’t add up. If interest rates rise, thereby reducing the flow of cheap capital, they believe that the industry will collapse.
After the Midterm Elections, a Democratic House Takes on a "Warlike" Trump
In the midterm elections on Tuesday, the Democrats captured control of the House of Representatives. They now have the authority to investigate many of the potentially criminal activities that took place during the campaign and the first two years of the Trump presidency. Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Democrats intend to use their investigative powers, and what the president may do to thwart them.
Jonathan Blitzer spent a week in Mexico with the so-called caravan—a group of about five thousand migrants, most of them from Honduras, who are making a dangerous journey on foot to the U.S. border. Donald Trump, who has described the caravan as “invaders” who might include terrorists and criminals, is using the issue to galvanize Republicans for the midterms. The reality, which Blitzer describes to David Remnick, is remarkably different: exhausted people walking thirty miles a day in sandals and Crocs, sleeping largely in the open, and wholly dependent on townspeople along their route and a few aid groups for food and water. They travel in a group for protection from kidnappers, criminals, and the notoriously severe Mexican immigration authorities. They know little about how their trek has been politicized in the U.S. Those who make it to the U.S. border will likely be greeted by an overwhelming show of American force, but, for these migrants, almost any uncertainty is better than the certain poverty and violence of their home country.
Brazil’s New President, Jair Bolsonaro, and the Rise of Latin American Authoritarianism
Last week, Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil. Bolsonaro has been called Brazil’s answer to Donald Trump—an outspoken populist who promises to punish his political enemies and roll back protections on minority groups in the interest of “making Brazil great again.” Jon Lee Anderson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what the election of Bolsonaro shows about Latin American politics, and about the contagion of authoritarianism.
In Pennsylvania, a Pipeline Shakes up the Political Map
The reporter Eliza Griswold has long been following political campaigns in Pennsylvania. She has found that, for voters across a wide swath of the state, the thing that’s foremost on people’s minds isn’t Donald Trump but a pipeline running through their back yards. The Mariner East 2 pipeline project carries gas by-products of fracking from the Marcellus shale in west-central Pennsylvania, and carries them east, to a port where the products are shipped overseas. The Democratic governor and Republican legislature have both supported it. The opposition, too, is bipartisan. Griswold followed Danielle Friel Otten, a first-time candidate for the state Assembly, as she went door to door in Exton, Pennsylvania, campaigning against the Mariner East pipeline. Friel Otten would like to unseat her Republican opponent—and then hold her own party accountable.
The Challengers: In Missouri, Senator Claire McCaskill Fights for Political Moderation Against the Trump Republican Josh Hawley
Senator Claire McCaskill, running for a third term in the Senate, continues to define herself as a moderate Democrat in a state that has grown almost entirely red. Her opponent, Josh Hawley, a fierce young supporter of President Trump, describes her as a left-wing liberal allied with Washington and Hollywood elites. Nicholas Lemann, who recently profiled McCaskill for The New Yorker, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the plight of Democrats running for Congress in Trump country.
In the Midterms, White Supremacy Is Running for Office
While the big story going into the midterm elections has been the possibility of a “blue wave”—an upsurge of Democratic progressives, including a high number of women and minority candidates—the divisive political climate has also given us the very opposite: candidates on the far right openly espousing white-supremacist and white-nationalist views. Andrew Marantz, who covers political extremism, among other topics, says that these views have always been on the fringes of political life, but, in the era of Trump, they have moved closer to the center. Candidates who used to “dog-whistle”—use coded language to appeal to racist voters—now openly make white-supremacist statements that Republican Party leadership won’t disavow. Marantz talks with David Remnick about the campaigns of Steve King, the incumbent in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District; Corey Stewart, a pro-Confederate running for a Senate seat in Virginia; and Arthur Jones, a neo-Nazi running in Illinois’s Third Congressional District.
With growth surging, the stock market still breaking records, and unemployment lower than it’s been in decades, the strength of the economy should be a strong selling point for Republicans in the midterm elections. But with a trade war looming and economists warning that the boom is unsustainable, some Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump. John Cassidy joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how voters are responding to the tax cuts and the President’s threats of a trade war.
Is the U.S. Voting System—and Voters' Personal Information—Secure?
For democracy to function, we have to trust and accept the results of elections. But that trust is increasingly difficult to maintain in a world where malicious actors like the G.R.U., the Russian intelligence agency, have been actively probing our election systems for technological vulnerabilities. Sue Halpern, who reports on election security, spoke with the researcher Logan Lamb, who found a massive amount of information from the Georgia election system sitting unsecured on the Internet. The information included election officials’ passwords and the names and addresses of voters, and Lamb made the discovery during the time that (according to the Mueller investigation) Russian hackers were probing the system. Georgia is one of a number of states that do not use any paper backup for their balloting, so suspected hacking of voting machines or vote tabulators can be nearly impossible to prove. On top of this, new restrictive voting laws purge voters who, for instance, haven’t voted in the last few elections, so hackers can disenfranchise voters by deleting or changing information in the databases—without tampering with the tallied votes. Susan Greenhalgh of the National Election Defense Coalition tells Halpern that while some states are inclined to resist federal assistance in their election operations, they are poorly equipped to fight cyber-battles on their own.
The Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi Casts Suspicion on the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman
On October 2nd, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He has not been seen since. Turkish intelligence believes that he was abducted or assassinated on the orders of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Bin Salman—or M.B.S., as he’s popularly known—is a key figure in the Trump Administration’s Middle East strategy. Dexter Filkins joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what consequences Khashoggi’s disappearance could have for U.S. foreign policy.
After the election of Donald Trump, the feminist journalist Rebecca Traister began channeling her anger into a book. The result, “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger” combines an analysis of how women’s anger is discouraged and deflected in patriarchal society, with a historical look at times when that anger has had political impact. Landing a year into the #MeToo movement, it could not be more timely; an unprecedented number of women have spoken bluntly about their experiences with sexual harassment and abuse and demanded consequences. Yet Traister told David Remnick that she sympathizes with men “caught in the middle” of #MeToo, “who entered the world with one set of expectations . . . and are being told halfway through that [their behavior is] no longer acceptable.” But, Traister says, “There’s no other way to do it. We don’t get to just start fresh with a generation starting now.”
The Challengers: Can the New Sunbelt Progressives Defeat Conservatives in the Midterms?
Democrats are running surprisingly competitive races across the Southeast and Southwest, in states that Republicans have long considered safe, including Texas, Tennessee, and Arizona. In Florida and Georgia, two proudly progressive African-American candidates--Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams--are running strong gubernatorial campaigns against Trump-endorsed conservatives. Ben Wallace-Wells joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Democrats are faring in southern red states, and how the Democrats’ most powerful donors are supporting candidates who appeal to younger voters.
Most Republicans would go into the 2018 midterm elections boasting of low unemployment and economic growth. Donald Trump is not most Republicans. The President has an affinity for protectionist tariffs—most recently including two hundred billion dollars on Chinese-made goods—and while he says that trade wars are “easy to win,” they have become a hot issue in some key Senate races. In states like North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee, those tariffs—and China’s sixty billion dollars in retaliatory duties—could possibly give Democrats control of the Senate. John Cassidy and Sheelah Kolhatkar, both staff writers, parse how candidates in both parties are navigating a new economic order.
Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh and the Partisan War Over the Supreme Court
On Thursday morning, in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Professor Christine Blasey Ford testified that she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 1982. In the afternoon, Kavanaugh furiously described the accusations as an attack motivated by "revenge on behalf of the Clintons" and orchestrated by left-wing opposition groups. Jeannie Suk Gersen joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the hearing, and what it suggested about how Kavanaugh would approach his judicial work if confirmed to the court.
Jill Lepore is a New Yorker staff writer and a historian at Harvard University. She tells David Remnick that her new book is the result of a dare: to tell—or even to understand—the story of this country, from the Age of Discovery through the present day, in one volume. In “These Truths,” Lepore surveys six-hundred-odd years of American history, paying particular attention to themes of immigration, suffrage, and how the media has shaped our democracy. Above all, Lepore grapples with whether the United States has lived up to the promises of its founding. She finds an America alternately fearful of change and fearful of stagnation, trapped between idealizing the past and hoping for a better future. The journey toward progress, Leporesays, is less a march than a stumble.
Twenty-Seven Years After Anita Hill, Brett Kavanaugh Faces a #MeToo Moment
Last week, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, publicly accused the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of drunkenly assaulting her when they were both teen-agers. Ford’s allegations have imperilled Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in the Senate, much as, in 1991, the confirmation of Clarence Thomas was nearly derailed when Anita Hill, his former employee, came forward with charges of sexual harassment. Jane Mayer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what has and hasn’t changed since Anita Hill’s testimony, and how Senate Republicans are scrambling to contain the fallout.
The day after The New Yorker published Ronan Farrow’s exposé about Harvey Weinstein, Farrow got a phone call from the actress and screenwriter Illeana Douglas. She wanted to talk about Leslie Moonves, who was then the head of CBS and one of the most powerful men in the media industry. Douglas went on the record in a story by Farrow, describing an assault by Moonves in the nineteen-nineties and the repercussions to her career after she refused him. “I got warnings about the casting couch, but I didn’t perceive this as the casting couch,” Douglas tells David Remnick. Moonves “was a man who I admired, and respected, and who had gained my trust. And now he was on top of me.” On September 9th, The New Yorker published a follow-up story by Farrow, describing new accusations. Three hours later, Moonves stepped down from his position at CBS. He has not, however, admitted any wrongdoing and has denied engaging in any non-consensual sex or any form of retaliation.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, and the End of Silicon Valley’s “Wild West”
Revelations about Facebook’s role in the Russian effort to undermine the 2016 Presidential elections, along with news about its failures to safeguard users’ privacy, has brought a new level of scrutiny to the company. As members of Congress consider ways to monitor Facebook’s operations, they warn that the era of the “Wild West” in Silicon Valley is coming to an end. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Facebook and its top executives are dealing with the backlash against the company.
Idalia and Arnold came to this country nearly two decades ago, from Honduras. They settled in a small city in New England and found the working-class jobs of the type common to undocumented Central Americans: janitorial, hotel housekeeping and construction. They and their three children were a loving, close-knit family. The kids were active in school—in the band, on the football team, and in R.O.T.C. Idalia lectured them to work hard in school and set goals, and to spend less time playing video games. When one son got a hoverboard, he taught his mom to ride it, and she would take it to work to zoom around the hotel’s halls. But when Idalia was arrested for a traffic violation and deported to Honduras, things started to come apart. Idalia tries to stay present in her children’s lives, talking to them over video calls while they eat dinner or loaf around the house. But increasingly, it’s Andy, the sixteen-year-old middle child, who is playing the roles of mother and father to his whole family. The New Yorker staff writer Sarah Stillman and Micah Hauser, who have been tracking the fates of deportees, have spent much of the past year with this ordinary family that is facing an extraordinary situation.
The Columbia Journalism School's Global Migration Project supported the reporting of this story. Eileen Grench assisted in translation.
Bob Woodward and an Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed Show Trump Isolated and In Peril
Bob Woodward's book about life inside the Trump White House won't be published until next week, but an excerpt published in the Washington Post this week portrays Trump as erratic and ignorant, and quotes top officials describing measures they've taken to limit the President's destructive impulses. Similarly, an Op-Ed in the New York Times this week, written by an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration, describes a cabal of "unsung heroes" that acts to thwart parts of Trump's agenda and his worst impulses. In response, Trump reportedly worried to a friend that he could trust no one but members of his own family. Susan B. Glasser joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the revelations of Woodward's book and the perils facing a President who values personal loyalty above all else.
Rev. Franklin Graham Offers an Evangelist’s View of Donald Trump
Like his father, Rev. Billy Graham, before him, Rev. Franklin Graham is one of the nation’s most prominent preachers, influential in the evangelical world and in the highest echelons of Washington. But where Billy Graham came to regret that he had “sometimes crossed a line” into politics, Franklin Graham has no such qualms about showing his full-throated support of the President. An early advocate of Trump’s candidacy, he has remained stalwart even as scandals pile up. Graham tells the New Yorker staff writer Eliza Griswold that Trump’s critics have forgotten that “he’s our President. If he succeeds, you’re going to benefit.” Of Trump’s many personal scandals, Graham says only, “I hope we all learn from mistakes and get better. . . . As human beings, we’re all flawed, including Franklin Graham.”
The Challengers: Fierce Partisanship in the Land of John McCain
On Saturday, John McCain, the six-term senator from Arizona and former Republican Presidential candidate, died after a battle with brain cancer. Three days later, Arizona held its statewide primary elections. McCain offered some pointed final words to his party, the President, and the country, about the dangers of political tribalism and fear-mongering. Jonathan Blitzer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how partisan rivalries, anxiety over immigration policy, and the legacy of John McCain are being felt in Arizona politics.
Sergeant Edwin Raymond is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by a group of New York City police officers who have become famous as “the N.Y.P.D.-12.” They claim that, despite a 2010 statewide ban, officers are forced to meet monthly quotas for arrests and summonses—and that those quotas are enforced disproportionately on people of color. “They can't enforce [quotas] in Park Slope, predominantly white areas,” Raymond says. “But yet here they are in Flatbush, in Crown Heights, in Harlem, Mott Haven, South Side of Jamaica, enforcing these things.” He walks Jennifer Gonnerman through the process by which so-called quality-of-life or broken-windows policing—advocated forcefully by former New York Police Commissioner William Bratton—led to a form of systemic racism in policing. Although he was concerned about what blowing the whistle would do to his own career, Raymond was promoted to sergeant, and he continues to hear from people around the world concerned about the spread of quota policing—which he calls “Bratton’s cancer.”
Trump Asks, “How Did We End Up Here?” We Suggest: “Follow the Money”
On Tuesday, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, was convicted on multiple counts of tax and bank fraud. Also on Tuesday, Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty to violations of campaign-finance law, which may directly implicate the President as an unindicted co-conspirator. Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what Manafort’s and Cohen’s legal troubles tell us about Trump’s history of corrupt business deals, and how to anticipate the disclosures to come.
Three Actors Explain What It Means to be “Presidential”
During the lead-up to the 2016 election, three actors who have played fictional Presidents of the United States discussed what it means to be “Presidential,” in a panel moderated by Michael Schulman. Bill Pullman, who, as President Thomas J. Whitmore, rallied the nations of the world to join forces in “Independence Day,” talks about how a reaction to Bill Clinton informed the movie’s depiction of an ex-military President. Alfre Woodard talks about how “State of Affairs” imagined a second black President in the character of Constance Payton. And Tony Goldwyn, who played Fitzgerald Grant, on “Scandal,” talks about Presidential nudity.
During their summit in Helsinki, in July, Vladimir Putin made an offer to Donald Trump: Robert Mueller’s investigators could come to the Kremlin to interview twelve Russian intelligence officials. In return, Putin wanted the opportunity for the Kremlin to interview a select group of Americans. Among them was a little-known American-born hedge-fund manager named William Browder, whom Putin has criticized for his role in the passage of the Magnitsky Act, which levies sanctions against human-rights abusers in Russia. Browder and the Magnitsky Act were ostensibly the focus of the June, 2016, Trump Tower meeting, between a Russian lawyer and members of the Trump campaign, that is being investigated by Mueller. Joshua Yaffa joins David Rohde to discuss how a private financier became a central figure in the Trump-Russia investigation and in the relations between Washington and Moscow.
David Remnick Interviews Lee Child, the Creator of Jack Reacher
Lee Child didn’t start writing novels until he lost a prestigious job producing TV in England during a shakeup that he attributes to Rupert Murdoch. He tried his hand at writing a thriller, and found that the new career suited him: with a hundred million copies of his books in print in forty languages, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels make up one of the most successful series in print. Every September 1st, he sits down to write a new one. He tells his longtime fan David Remnick that his all-American tough guy is a modern-day knight-errant wandering the land doing good deeds. But at sixty-three, Lee Child has thoughts about giving Reacher up. What would he do, instead? Catch up on his own reading, finally getting around to Jane Austen and other classics. “Remember, I’m from Europe,” he points out. “I have no work ethic.”
Last week, prosecutors began arguments again Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, in the first trial to come out of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Manafort has been indicted for a litany of financial crimes stemming from his work, from 2004 to 2014, as an advisor to a pro-Putin party in Ukraine. Meanwhile, President Trump continues to call the Mueller investigation a politically-motivated “witch hunt”. Susan B. Glasser joins David Rohde to discuss the courtroom spectacle of the Manafort Trial, how Mueller is building his case, and what's at stake for the President.
All her life, Astrid Holleeder knew that her older brother Willem was involved in crime; in their tough Amsterdam neighborhood, and as children of an abusive father, it wasn’t a shocking development. But she was stunned when, in 1983, Willem and his best friend, Cornelius van Hout, were revealed to be the masterminds behind the audacious kidnapping of the beer magnate Alfred Heineken. Although he served some time for the crime, it was only the beginning of the successful career of Holleeder. He became a celebrity criminal; he had a newspaper column, appeared on talk shows, and took selfies with admirers in Amsterdam. He got rich off of his investments in the sex trade and other businesses, but kept them well hidden. But when van Hout was assassinated and other of Holleeder’s associates started turning up dead, Astrid suspected that her brother had committed the murders. She decided to wear a wire and gather the evidence to put him away.f that didn't work, she told the New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, she would have to kill Willem herself. Willem is on trial now for multiple murders, and Astrid is testifying against him. Living in hiding, travelling in disguise, she tells Keefe the story of her complicity and its consequences. Keefe’s story about Astrid Holleeder, “Crime Family,” appears in this week’s magazine.
President Trump has taken to boasting about overseeing, as he said recently, "the best economy in the history of our country." But trade wars loom and the deficit continues to grow. John Cassidy joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the good news and bad news about the American economy, and how the Administration's policies may affect the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election.
American sanctions on Russia—the Magnitsky Act, in particular—probably motivated the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. But in the wake of the summit in Helsinki, and facing the threat of Russian meddling in the 2018 midterms, the Senate is now mulling even more sanctions. The New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser spoke with Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, who is a co-sponsor (with Marco Rubio of Florida) of the DETER Act—“Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines.” The legislation says that, if the Director of National Intelligence determines that a foreign power has interfered in an election, that finding would trigger a series of crippling sanctions on key sectors of the adversary nation’s economy. That’s an action far harsher than anything the President has done to respond to the threat of Russia. Van Hollen tells Glasser that, on Russia, the gap between the President and his party continues to widen.
The Challengers: The Fight for the Working-Class Vote
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Governor Scott Walker turned Wisconsin from a progressive state into the proving ground of right-wing politics. In 2016, Donald Trump narrowly won the state, the first Republican to win there in over thirty years. Next month, Randy Bryce, a steelworker, and Cathy Myers, a former teacher, are competing in the Democratic primary for the congressional seat currently held by Ryan, who is retiring. Dan Kaufman joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Democrats in Wisconsin are hoping to defeat the Tea Party and take back the Rust Belt.
Among the examinations of Philip Roth’s work that followed his death, in May, were several that leveled a familiar charge at the author and his work: that of misogyny. Long known as a vivid chronicler of male sexual desire, Roth’s work, some argued, sidelined female characters, and conceived of them as simply objects of lust for Roth’s more rounded male protagonists. The writers Judith Thurman, Claudia Roth Pierpont and Lisa Halliday were all friends of Philip Roth’s, and all agree that to read Roth’s work as misogynistic is to misunderstand what Roth was after. “He wanted to know humanity and reflect it, not to change it or make it into a moral project,” Halliday says. They join David Remnick for a conversation about Roth’s relationship with women, on and off the page.
This segment features excerpts from Roth’s work, read for The New Yorker Radio Hour by Liev Schreiber. Special thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the Wylie Agency.
Despite the "Helsinki Humiliation," Republicans Stay Loyal to Trump
This week, at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Trump again expressed doubt about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The next day, following a torrent of criticism, Trump claimed he had misspoken. Though some Congressional Republicans expressed disagreement with Trump's statement, none have meaningfully challenged his position on Russia. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Congressional Republicans' refusal to turn on Trump contribute to America's ongoing vulnerability to Russia attacks and undermines the basic premise of governance in this country.
The Democratic Party, Desperately Seeking an Identity
In June, the ten-term congressman Joe Crowley lost the Democratic primary for New York’s Fourteenth District to a twenty-eight-year-old democratic socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This result was a shock to the Democratic establishment, who had thought of Crowley as a likely successor to Nancy Pelosi, the Party’s leader in Congress. Ocasio-Cortez’s win is a boon to the Party’s progressive wing, and it mirrors the rift between the moderate establishment once embodied by Hillary Clinton and the liberal insurgency championed by Bernie Sanders. Across the country, in voting booths and legislative chambers, Democrats are struggling to define a cohesive identity and to find a way forward. Benjamin Wallace-Wells provides a survey of some key midterm races and considers what they tell us about the direction of the Democratic party.
What Putin Hopes to Get at His Helsinki Summit with Trump
Next week, President Trump will travel to Finland to meet with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Susan B. Glasser joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what Putin hopes to achieve at the summit, and how Trump is upending decades of U.S. foreign policy to pursue policies that his closest advisers oppose.
When Autumn Miles filed for divorce from an abusive spouse, the church that she belonged to told her to return to her husband—or face expulsion. Since then, Miles has been on a crusade to call attention to the treatment of women in the evangelical community. She tells The New Yorker’s Eliza Griswold that a Biblical scripture about wives “submitting” to their husbands has often been used to justify mistreatment. Although Miles isn’t an egalitarian—she opposes the ordination of women as head pastors—the lack of female leaders in the church strikes her as a problem. “Are we not elevating women to positions because of pride? Because of religion? Because of tradition?” she says. “If any of those things are the case . . . our pastors might need to repent.” And, if that causes a rift in a largely conservative community, she says, so be it.
West Virginia has grown increasingly conservative in recent decades, while Virginia has become more liberal. In Virginia, where Democrats hope gains will help them take the House, Abigail Spanberger, a former C.I.A. officer, poses a strong challenge to the Tea Party incumbent Dave Brat. Can a divided Democratic Party tip the balance against the G.O.P.? Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how West Virginia and Virginia are grappling with their political identities, and how turmoil within both parties will affect this year’s midterm elections.
The Government Took Her Son. Will It Give Him Back?
Border Patrol, which has forcibly separated families in border detention, has put some immigrant children in the care of a separate agency, the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Although a recent executive order modified the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of child separation, it said nothing about reuniting the more than two thousand children still in detention with their families. Jonathan Blitzer has reported on the bureaucratic nightmare facing mothers and fathers when the government is unable or unwilling to tell them where their children are. At an ICE facility in El Paso, Blitzer spoke with Ana Maritza Rivera, whose five-year-old son, Jairo, was taken from her. Through sheer luck, she found a case worker who knew his location, but it isn’t clear whether the government will reunite them before deporting Rivera to her native Honduras. Blitzer says that Rivera told an official, “If I get to the airport and my son is not there, you’ll be killing me.”
Will Donald Trump Help Andrés Manuel López Obrador Become Mexico's Next President?
On July 1st, Mexicans will elect a new President. The front-runner is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a progressive populist and former mayor of Mexico City. López Obrador has promised to address the country's economic problems, rein in the drug cartels, and strongly oppose President Trump's anti-Mexico policies. Jon Lee Anderson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss López Obrador and how the Trump backlash has contributed to his political rise.
Charles and David Koch are two of the ten richest Americans. They’ve been major donors to conservative and libertarian causes, funding candidates for office, the Tea Party movement, and even university economics departments. They sat out Donald Trump’s campaign for President, characterizing his race against Hillary Clinton as the choice between cancer and a heart attack. Now Trump has promised a wave of tariffs on products from China, Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, which violates their principles and would hurt the business of Koch Industries. Jane Mayer has reported on the Kochs and their political activities for years. She tells David Remnick that the brothers plan to spend thirty million dollars on advertising against the tariffs, right as the midterm elections offer voters a referendum on the Trump Presidency. But, as much as trade is a flash point in the Republican Party, Mayer thinks that, in the most critical areas of environmental deregulation and corporate taxes, the Kochs have every reason to be satisfied with the Administration.
President Trump has struggled to fulfill several of his campaign pledges, but in one area his Administration has made considerable headway: his Attorney General is leading a brutal crackdown on undocumented migrants. Jonathan Blitzer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the Administration’s radical reimagining of immigration policy.
In the Civil Service, Loyalty Now Comes Before Expertise
Donald Trump came into office promising to make so many cuts to the government that “your head will spin.” Evan Osnos has been reporting from Washington on how the Administration is radically changing the civil service, and he’s found that, to a degree unprecedented in modern times, political loyalty is prized over qualifications and experience. In many departments, senior officials deemed insufficiently loyal have been “turkey-farmed”—reassigned to jobs that are meaningless or less important than their previous posts. (The practice was known in the Nixon Administration as the “new activity technique.”) Osnos spoke with Matthew Allen, who was, until recently, the communications director at the Bureau of Land Management.
What Does Kim Jong Un Really Want From the Summit in Singapore?
Next week, President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. The summit comes after months of political provocations from both leaders. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what Kim really wants to achieve, and how he is positioning himself as a power-broker in Asia.
Not so long ago, Senator Marco Rubio was seen as the shining future of the G.O.P.: a staunch, national-security-minded conservative who was young, charismatic, and a popular Latino politician in a crucial swing state. That was before Donald Trump’s instinct for insult rendered him “Little Marco.”
Since the election of 2016, Rubio—like many traditional conservatives—has been weighing what it means to be a Republican in the age of Trump. Rubio spoke with the newyorker.com columnist Susan B. Glasser about the threat of China and the future of his party. “We’re modernizing,” Rubio tells her. “Just like every couple weeks I get an update that there’s a software update on my phone that I should download. I think we have to update it, because there’s new ideas and new realities.” “Do you always update those?” Glasser wonders. “Generally,” Rubio replies. “Depends what the fix is.”
A Teachers' Strike and a Democratic Movement in Oklahoma
In February, teachers in West Virginia went on strike to protest low wages and underfunding of schools. Since then, teachers have gone on strike in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma. New Yorker contributor and Oklahoman Rivka Galchen recently visited with the striking teachers in Oklahoma and joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the teacher protest movement is contributing to grassroots political change across the country.
In his New Yorker story “Thresholds of Violence,” Malcolm Gladwell turned his attention to the psychology of school shooters. In a conversation with The New Yorker’s Dorothy Wickenden, Gladwell explains why the social dynamics of school shootings are comparable to those of a riot, where every act of violence makes the next one slightly more likely. He also explains why the problem is far too complex to be addressed through gun control.
This week, we inaugurate our new monthly series, "The Challengers," which will discuss some of the most contentious midterm races across the country, and examine how revolts against established politicians are reshaping the two parties. On this episode, Lawrence Wright, a New Yorker staff writer and the author of "God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State," joins Dorothy Wickenden to talk about the political scene in the Lone Star State, where Republicans have been in control for more than two decades, and now face insurgent candidates on many fronts.
An Architect of the Iran Deal Sees Her Work Crumbling
Susan B. Glasser, a staff writer for The New Yorker based in Washington, speaks with Wendy Sherman about the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran deal. As the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Obama Administration, Sherman helped write that agreement, and led the U.S. negotiating team in complex multilateral talks. She also has first-hand experience negotiating with the North Korean government, having visited Pyongyang with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the Clinton Presidency.
The Iran deal seemed to be working: in exchange for curbing its nuclear program, as the International Atomic Energy Agency subsequently verified, Iran got relief from sanctions. But Donald Trump lambasted the deal throughout his campaign and Presidency; he called it overly generous and vowed to withdraw from it. John Bolton, his recently appointed national security adviser, opposed the deal on the grounds that verification was not “infallible.” Sherman has a sobering question for the Trump Administration, which now wishes to negotiate with Kim Jong Un about North Korea’s nuclear program: “How in God’s name can any verification or monitoring of North Korea be infallible?”
Trump, Putin, Kim Jong Un, and the Perils of the New Nuclear Proliferation
The Cold War was a showdown between two nuclear powers, and many experts believe that it was nearly miraculous that the period ended without catastrophic loss of life.Today, with nine nations possessing nuclear weapons and three other which may soon develop their own, the situation is more volatile still. Eric Schlosser joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss why the world is in a nuclear arms race, what happened to the No Nukes movement, and whether significant reductions in arsenals are still possible.
In an atmosphere of toxic political partisanship, the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence is working very hard to maintain a functioning bipartisan investigation on Russian interference. The vice-chairman of that committee, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, is more informed about Russia’s role in the 2016 election—on social media and in communications with the Trump campaign—than just about anyone else in Washington. Warner is deeply frustrated that, after everything his committee and others have discovered about Russian hacking and manipulation, the White House is ignoring a clear and present danger. Russia has interfered with democracy in the United States and elsewhere “for less than the cost of one new F-35 airplane,” Warner tells David Remnick. “We’re buying the world’s best twentieth-century military, when in many ways, the conflict in the twenty-first century may be in the realm of cyber and misinformation,” he says. “And in those areas, Russia is our peer.”
How Michael Avenatti is Redefining His Legal Case Against Trump
This week, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for the adult film star Stormy Daniels, released a report detailing the shady business practices of Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer. Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Avenatti's aggressive push to move beyond a narrow focus on campaign hush money to questions about selling access to the President.
A groundswell of women are seeking congressional seats this year, as Margaret Talbot recently reported, and an all-time high of seventy-eight women are expected to run for governor. Among them is Stacey Abrams, a lawyer, businesswoman, author, and former state representative. If elected governor of Georgia, Abrams would be the first black woman to lead a state, as well as one of the first fiction writers to hold that office; under the name Selena Montgomery, Abrams is the author of a number of romantic novels. Under her own name, Abrams wrote “Minority Leader,” a nonfiction account of her time as a lawmaker. “For me,” she told The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, “there’s no clear roadmap for this.”
Mueller, Rosenstein, and Trump's Legal Liabilities
Recent weeks have seen an F.B.I. raid on the offices of President Trump’s personal lawyer, a leak of the Mueller investigation’s questions for the President, and a shakeup on Trump’s legal team. Jeffrey Toobin joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice case, the hush-money caper, Giuliani’s bizarre attempts to exculpate Trump, and the continuing showdown between the President and his own Department of Justice.
Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted its largest workplace raid in a decade, in the tiny town of Bean Station, Tennessee. The owner of a meat-packing plant was being investigated by the I.R.S., and was suspected of employing undocumented workers. Ninety-seven people, mostly from Mexico and Guatemala, were arrested. Most lived in Morristown, in Hamblen County, which voted seventy-seven per cent for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. This suggests that Hamblen is an inhospitable place for undocumented Latinos, but the reality that the staff writer Jonathan Blitzer found while covering the raid is more complicated; U.S.-born residents were quick to tell him that the community had quickly raised sixty thousand dollars for the families of detainees. Blitzer talked with David Williams, the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, in Morristown, who said that the raid has inspired conservative residents to reconsider what immigration enforcement should look like.
This week, President Trump hosted his first state dinner, in honor of Emmanuel Macron, the French President. Macron spoke with Trump about the Iran nuclear deal, and gave a speech before a joint session of Congress explaining his differences with current U.S. policies on the Middle East and on climate change. Lauren Collins joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Macron set out to disarm Trump, and to persuade him to think more like a European.
In a long career in law enforcement, the former F.B.I. Director James Comey aimed to be above politics, but in the 2016 election he stepped directly into it. In his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey makes the case to America that he handled the F.B.I. investigations into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and Donald Trump’s campaign correctly, regardless of the consequences. Even after being fired by President Trump, the former F.B.I Director says he doesn’t dislike the President; he tells David Remnick that what he feels is more akin to sympathy. Trump “has an emptiness inside of him, and a hunger for affirmation, that I’ve never seen in an adult,” Comey says. “He lacks external reference points. Instead of making hard decisions by calling upon a religious tradition, or logic, or tradition or history, it’s all, ‘what will fill this hole?’ ” As a result, Comey says, “The President poses significant threats to the rule of law,” and he chides Congressional Republicans for going along with the President’s aberrations. “What,” he rhetorically asks Mitch McConnell and others, “are you going to tell your grandchildren?” Nevertheless, Comey remains hopeful about the resilience of American institutions. “There isn’t a ‘deep state,’ [but] there is a deep culture,” he believes. “It is [about] the rule of law and doing it the right way,” and it serves as “a ballast” during political turmoil. David Remnick’s interview with James Comey was taped live at New York’s Town Hall on April 19, 2018.
Will the Midterm Elections Produce a Women's Wave?
As of this week, five hundred and twenty-nine women are running in 2018 for Congress. Another seventy-eight are pursuing governorships. Margaret Talbot joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the surge in female candidates, and how the sexual scandals surrounding Trump may affect the elections in November.
As a conservative columnist at the New York Times, Ross Douthat fills the post once held by no less a figure than William Kristol. A devout Catholic, Douthat opposes the progressive direction in which Pope Francis is leading the Church—to prioritize caring for poor people and migrants over opposing abortion and the culture of sexual revolution—even though he acknowledges to David Remnick that this puts him at odds with the Church’s emphasis on mercy. In his new book, “To Change the Church: Pope Francis of the Future of Catholicism,” Douthat provocatively compares Francis to Donald Trump, painting him as a disruptive figure who is determined to bring change fast and damn the consequences.
The Russian-backed forces of President Bashar al-Assad have all but regained control of Syria, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and more than half of the country's population displaced. This week, President Trump threatened Russia over its backing of Assad, whom Trump referred to as a "Gas Killing Animal." Robin Wright joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the showdown between the United States and Russia in Syria, and how it will shape the politics in the region.
Emma González is a survivor of the Parkland attack and, in its aftermath, she has quickly become one of the most visible leaders of the new push for gun control in this country. In the last two months she has debated an N.R.A. spokesman on live television and faced a wave of extremist trolls. And, seemingly overnight, she and her classmates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas forged a national movement, #NeverAgain, which gathered hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country in an event billed as the “March for Our Lives.”
González spoke to David Remnick on the phone from her home in Florida. In their conversation, she explains how her life has changed since the shooting, and why activism comes surprisingly naturally to high-school students: “We know how to keep people's attention on us because we're teenagers, and we have the phones.”
As Facebook faces rising scrutiny about Facebook's handling of users' private information, Mark Zuckerberg struggles to contain the damage. Next week, he'll be questioned before a congressional committee. Andrew Marantz joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Facebook and other social media companies are responding to unprecedented political pressures from Washington and their own customers.
When police showed up to question John Thompson, he was worried that it was because he had sold drugs to an undercover cop. When he realized they were investigating a murder, he could only laugh: “Shit, for real? Murder?”
Thompson was insistent on his innocence, but New Orleans prosecutors wanted a conviction for a high-profile murder, and they were not scrupulous about how they got it. Thompson quickly found himself on death row. Eighteen years later, just weeks before Thompson was due to be executed, his lawyers discovered that a prosecutor had hidden exculpatory evidence from the defense. Thompson had been set up. This was a violation of the Brady Rule, established by the Supreme Court, in 1963, to ensure fair trials. Ultimately, he was exonerated of both crimes, but his attempts to get a settlement from the district attorney’s office—compensation for his time in prison—were thwarted. Though an appeals court had upheld a fourteen-million-dollar settlement, the Supreme Court reversed the decision, declining to punish the D.A. for violating the Court's own ruling.
Thompson’s case revealed fundamental imbalances that undermine the very notion of a fair trial. Under the Brady Rule, prosecutors must share with the defense any evidence that could be favorable to the defendant. But there is essentially no practical enforcement of this rule. In most states, prosecutors are the ones who hold the evidence and choose what to share, and disclosing exculpatory evidence makes their cases harder to win. We have absolutely no idea how many criminal trials are flawed by these violations.
The staff writer Andrew Marantz, his wife, Sarah Lustbader, of the Fair Punishment Project, and the producer Katherine Wells reported on John Thompson’s story and its implications. They spoke with the late John Thompson (who died in 2017), with his lawyers, and with Harry Connick, Sr., the retired New Orleans D.A. who, despite having tried very hard to have Thompson killed, remains unrepentant.
This episode contains explicit language and may not be suitable for children.
#NeverAgain and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last week, in a coordinated effort by many grassroots groups, a series of protests against gun violence took place in communities around the world. Jelani Cobb joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how today's activists are adapting Civil Rights-era principles to organize twenty-first-century movements.
Abdulqader Hilal Al-Dabab was the mayor of Sana’a, a politician with a long record of mediating disputes in a notoriously fractious and dangerous country. Earlier in his career, he accepted a position at which his two predecessors had been assassinated; Hilal, as he was known, served in that post for seven years. By 2015, Yemen was at war and Sana’a had become the center of a brutally destructive bombing campaign by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia—with planes, arms, and logistical support from the United States. Hilal was trying to hold the city together, keeping the ambulances running and convincing parents to send their children to school. At the same time, he was trying to broker a ceasefire, using the skills he had cultivated in local government at a broader level. When the Saudis bombed a funeral gathering that Hilal was attending, he was killed and the country lost a bright hope for peace. Nicolas Niarchos talks with Hilal’s son about his father’s fate and what it says about the country’s future.
Cambridge Analytica and the Dark Arts of Voter Manipulation
This week, new stories emerged about how the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook profiles to shape Trump's culture war. Cambridge Analytica is almost wholly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, a billionaire donor with a far-right vision of America. Jane Mayer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how dark money and data mining are being used to influence elections and undermine democracy.
As the fourth season of “Veep” came to an end, director Armando Iannucci turned from chronicling the foibles of cynical western democracy to something darker still: life under dictatorship. He found his source material in the French graphic novel “The Death of Stalin.” David Remnick compares Iannucci’s new film to “Get Out”—a real horror story that is also a comedy of terror. “I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone by taking on these themes that involved death, destruction, and paranoia,” Iannucci tells him. As the brutal dictatorships of the twentieth century fade into history, Iannucci wants to remind people—especially those frustrated with democracy—just how horrific totalitarianism really is.
At Trump's State Department, Tillerson Is Out, Pompeo In
On Tuesday, President Trump announced that he had fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and planned to replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Dexter Filkins joins Evan Osnos to discuss the changes at the top of the State Department and the CIA, and where the Trump administration is heading on foreign policy and national security.
The dossier—a secret report alleging various corrupt dealings between Donald Trump, his campaign, and the government of Russia, made public after the 2016 election—is one of the most hotly debated documents in Washington. The dossier’s author, Christopher Steele, is a former British spy working on contract, and went into hiding after its publication. “The Man Behind the Dossier,” Jane Mayer’s report on Steele, was just published in The New Yorker. She reports that Steele is in the "unenviable predicament" of being hated by both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin—and that he documented more evidence than he put in the dossier.
Yesterday, the White House announced that President Trump would travel to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-Un to discuss the regime's nuclear program. Robin Wright joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the Administration's slapdash foreign policy is aiding the autocracies of North Korea, Iran, and Syria, and undermining American influence around the world.
A national conversation about gun control is gaining ground after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. But in the days just after the shooting Florida legislators voted against even debating gun control. The unwillingness of politicians across the country to address the crisis is rooted in the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association, and in Florida the N.R.A.’s voice is a particularly powerful one. Marion Hammer is responsible for some of the state’s most extreme gun laws, like concealed carry, which went on to be copied by many other states. Mike Spies recently profiled Hammer for The New Yorker, and he joins the staff writer Evan Osnos to discuss how she became an untouchable figure in Florida, writing laws and giving orders at the highest levels of government. But the high schoolers who survived the Parkland shooting, Spies thinks, may be Hammer’s nightmare.
Teenaged survivors of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, already have begun to change the terms of debate over gun safety. Adam Gopnik joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how grassroots movements--from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America--force social and political change.
Masha Gessen on Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America
Masha Gessen was born in Moscow, and came to this country with her family as a teenager, and she moved back and forth between the United States and Russia as an adult. Her work as a journalist and as a gay rights activist in both countries has made her uniquely positioned to write about Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Donald Trump’s America, and how they intersect at this very fraught moment. “It’s like I was gifted with this special pair of eyeglasses,” she tells David Remnick.
Gessen is as ferocious a critic of Putin as you’ll find, yet she’s skeptical of how much attention the Russia scandal has received in the media. “Every column inch that’s devoted to the Mueller probe is not devoted to some other thing that the Trump Administration is doing, that I think often is more important,” she said. When asked about the effects of Trumpism on American society, Gessen thinks that while we’re having lots of conversations about politics, we’ve lost the capacity for political conversation: “A political conversation is a conversation in which people with different views come to agreements about how they’re going to inhabit this society together,” she says. “We don’t see that happening in Congress, we don’t see that happening in the streets, we don’t see that happening at kitchen tables.”
What does the Trump Organization's unorthodox business conduct reveal about the Administration's political troubles with Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the Trump family's financial ties to Russian oligarchs led to extraordinarily risky behavior during the campaign and the current questions about obstruction of justice and collusion with Putin's Russia.
We now know that Russian operatives exploited Facebook and other social media to sow division and undermine the election of 2016, and special counsel Robert Mueller recently indicted Russian nationals and Russian entities for this activity. During that period, however, Facebook executives kept their heads down, and the C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, denied and underplayed the extent of the damage. Now Zuckerberg is in a process of soul-searching, attempting to right Facebook’s missteps—even if it means less traffic to the site. Nicholas Thompson, the editor in chief of Wired (formerly the editor of NewYorker.com), interviewed fifty-one current and former employees of Facebook for a Wired cover story, co-written with Fred Vogelstein, called “Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook—and the World.” He tells David Remnick that the effort is not just lip service: for a business like Facebook, reputation really is everything.
The tensions between President Trump and the intelligence agencies escalated this week. On Tuesday, the nation’s top national-security officials warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that the current security-clearance program at the White House is broken, and that the country is dangerously vulnerable to ongoing cyber attacks by Russia. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the Trump White House is undermining the nation’s security.
The 2016 Presidential primaries were a rebuke to moderates in both parties. Bernie Sanders, a sometime Democratic Socialist, built a grassroots movement that bitterly rejected the centrist Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, whose conservative credentials were deeply suspect, defeated sixteen Republican stalwarts. As the 2018 midterms approach, both parties are wrestling with the question of whether to rise with the tide of extremist sentiment, or run moderates to regain the center. Andrew Hall, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford, studies the effect of extremist candidates on elections. He tells The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson Sorkin that we may be asking the wrong question.
#MeToo Takes on the White House—and Its Own Critics
This week, Rob Porter, an aide to President Trump, resigned after his two ex-wives went public with accusations that he’d been physically abusive. At the same time, the backlash against #MeToo continues. Jia Tolentino joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how to think about the public shaming of powerful men charged with sexual misconduct.
Laura Kipnis is a professor at Northwestern University and a provocative feminist critic. Her book “Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus” states, “If this is feminism, it’s feminism hijacked by melodrama.” She has been accused of violating Title IX by creating a hostile environment for students to report harassment. Kipnis, who supports the movement, tells the staff writer Alexandra Schwartz that the grassroots power of public revelations is being hijacked by institutions in a power grab to control the lives of employees and students. The real feminist lesson of cases like Aziz Ansari’s much-discussed bad date, Kipnis thinks, is that women as well as men need to reflect on how they conduct themselves in heterosexual relationships.
In his first State of the Union Address, President Trump made passing reference to making America's nuclear arsenal "so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else." Also this week, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that the world is closer to a global nuclear war than at any time since the 1950s. Steve Coll joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the escalating risk of nuclear warfare under President Trump.
The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has had commercial and critical success: Her best-seller “Americanah” won a National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, and a speech she gave on feminism was sampled by Beyoncé. But Adichie is skeptical of fame, and not afraid to voice controversial opinions. At The New Yorker Festival in October, 2017, she spoke with David Remnick about how the left in this country seems “cannibalistic,” and how, as a Nigerian immigrant to America, she at first distanced herself from our country’s conception of blackness. America was complicated for Adichie: she appreciated the freedom from the social hierarchies back home, but she had imagined everything would be newer and shinier than it really was.
In June, President Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. He changed his mind when Don McGahn, the White House counsel, threatened to resign. Jeffrey Toobin joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Trump's growing legal vulnerabilities.
The Ku Klux Klan was originally focused on maintaining the old racial order in the postwar South, chiefly through the violent suppression of African-Americans. But, in the nineteen-twenties, the Klan was reborn as a nationwide movement targeting not only African-Americans but Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Mexican-Americans, and Asian immigrants. In the jingoistic years following the First World War, the Klan made discrimination the new patriotism. The Bancroft Prize-winning historian Linda Gordon charts this rebirth in “The Second Coming of the KKK.” She writes that millions of people joined the Klan in the span of just a few years, among them mayors, congressmen, senators, and governors; three Presidents were members of the Klan at some point before taking the office. Gordon tells David Remnick that the lessons for our current political moment are sobering.
With government shutdown looming over Washington, the G.O.P. finds itself once again mired in intra-party conflicts. Despite its struggles with basic governance, Republicans have begun to achieve many of their long-standing goals. John Cassidy joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how they're succeeding and where they're most vulnerable.
Jonathan Blitzer and Sarah Stillman on Immigration in the Trump Era
From the first day of Donald Trump’s Presidency, immigration and deportation have been at the top of the agenda—from the so-called Muslim ban to the use of DACA recipients as a bargaining chip in the quest for a border wall. Under his Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement overturned some of its priorities under President Obama. Immigration arrests rose forty per cent in 2017; in January, 2018, two hundred thousand refugees from catastrophic earthquakes in El Salvador were ordered home, and the State of Washington sued Motel 6 for allegedly handing over guest lists to ICE agents, in violation of the law. The president complained about accepting immigrants from countries he considers “shitholes.” Sarah Stillman and Jonathan Blitzer talk with David Remnick about a year of tumultuous changes in Donald Trump’s America.
This week, Steve Bannon was ousted from his position as Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, the self-described "platform for the alt-right." Andrew Marantz joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the rise of the alt-right movement, and what Steve Bannon's downfall means for Trump and nationalist economic populism.
A Rare Interview with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
Nicolás Maduro was an unlikely successor to Venezuela’s popular and charismatic Hugo Chavez. And, since his election, the country has been wracked with devastating food shortages, a breakdown of ordinary services and medical care, and rampant violence. But, as Maduro sees it, the real problem is his political opponents, and he has taken steps to secure control over all the branches of government, in order to establish a de-facto dictatorship. The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson was recently granted a rare interview with the Venezuelan President, who told him of his country’s economic relationships with Russia and China. Anderson tells Dorothy Wickenden that he came away from the conversation with a renewed sense of the need for greater American engagement in Venezuela. “It is going through the sewer on our watch,” Anderson says.
Last week, protests against the government of President Hassan Rouhani broke out across Iran. On the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Robin Wright joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what Ayatollah Khomeini misunderstood about the price of chickens, and what the demonstrations mean for the politics of the region.
A.G. Sulzberger Talks to David Remnick about the Future of The New York Times
On January 1, thirty-seven-year-old Arthur Gregg Sulzberger will succeed his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., as the publisher of the New York Times. His 2014 internal report to the Times’ leadership is credited with launching the paper’s transition into a digital-first news platform. David Remnick talks with Sulzberger about his apprenticeship at a small-town reporter, the “Trump bump,” and how long the print edition of the Times is expected to continue.
The Administration is withdrawing from commitments abroad. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how China is vying to supplant the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economic and political power.