Donald Trump is shaking up his administration yet again. And the recent shuffles and new blood is an ominous sign that things can actually get worse. Much worse. This week on Intercepted: Famed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, who has a case against Trump that may result in her deposing the president, analyzes his legal battles ahead. The former national security briefer to George H.W. Bush, Ray McGovern, talks about John Bolton, Russia, and the CIA’s twitter account engaging in domestic propaganda by campaigning for Gina Haspel. McGovern, who spent 27 years at the CIA, also explains why the elder Bush called Bolton and his crew the “crazies.” Jared Kushner has a new bromance with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, but MBS has apparently been running around bragging that he has Kushner “in his pocket.” The Intercept’s Ryan Grim and Alex Emmons talk about Kushner, the Presidential Daily Brief, and MBS’s royal putsch that made him next in line for the Saudi throne. And punk musician Alice Bag of The Bags talks about the early punk scene in Los Angeles, feminism, and her career, and we hear music from her new album, “Blueprint.”
Newscaster: Who is John Bolton?
Newscaster: He wants to go to war first. Diplomacy second.
Newscaster: He’s a hawkish, television commentator who the president actually really likes.
Newscaster: He was a big proponent of the war in Iraq, is a hawk.
Brian Williams: Who is Mr. Bolton and how will this matter?
Rick Wilson: I don’t want that moment where John Bolton’s in the limousine with the president going, “Yeah, you can nuke ’em. Get ’em, get ’em, John, get ’em. They think you’re a small guy. You should nuke ’em.”
Martin Sheen (as Greg Stillson in “The Dead Zone”): Do it! Put your hand on the scanning screen, and you’ll go down in history with me!
President Donald J. Trump: No, I know nothing about them. So, I wouldn’t be doing that.
MS: You cowardly bastard! You’re not the voice of the people, I am the voice of the people! The people speak through me, not you! Now you put your goddamn hand on that scanning screen, or I’ll hack it off and put it on for you! Do it!
DJT: I think I can agree with that … beamed like a rocket ship, except in the wrong direction. Bing, bing, bing.
MS: Mr. President, the missiles are flying. Hallelujah.
DJT: Bye, bye!
[“Nuclear War” — Sun Ra.]
Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.
JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City, and this is episode 50 of Intercepted.
Steve Doocy: The new National Security Council chief, that man right there, John Bolton, who, just like you Geraldo, has a big mustache.
Geraldo Rivera: I was going to say, Steve, it’s about time that the administration has brought to the, to its core a man with a mustache. I was going to complain bitterly about it, I was this close as you can get to a mustachioed adviser to the president.
JS: Donald Trump is once again shaking up his administration and the recent shuffles and new blood is an ominous sign that things actually can get worse — much worse. A veteran torturer and destroyer of evidence, Gina Haspel, has been nominated as CIA director. Mike Pompeo, who is a right-wing Christian supremacist is now slated to become the U.S.’s top diplomat at the State Department. And last, and perhaps most dangerous, is John Bolton as national security adviser. That post, national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation and that means that barring some unusual intervention from Congress, John Bolton is going to be the chief voice in Trump’s ear on foreign policy, national security, and war.
John Bolton: I think the retaliation should not be proportionate. I think it should be decidedly disproportionate.
JB: I continue to favor any steps that lead to the overthrow of the regime, and I think that should be official American policy.
Newscaster: That would be mean military action against Iran.
JB: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Martha MacCallum: You’ve written an op-ed today in the New York Times, and here’s the headline: “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
JB: I’m afraid, given the circumstances, that’s the only real option open to us now.
JS: John Bolton’s official job is to sift through all of the intelligence and recommendations made by the CIA, the NSA, military, other intelligence agencies and tell the president what he should do.
And we don’t have to play guessing games about what John Bolton wants the president to do. John Bolton wants war. He wants destruction, chaos, imperialism. John Bolton wants to conduct first-strike attacks against North Korea and Iran. He wants more, not fewer, nuclear weapons. He wants Israel’s agenda to supersede that of a majority of Americans’ agenda. He’s a supporter of the Iranian exile terrorist group, the MEK, and he speaks at their fundraisers and rallies.
John Bolton: There is only one answer here, to support legitimate opposition groups that favor overthrowing the military theocratic dictatorship in Tehran. It should be the declared policy of the United States of America and all of its friends to do just that at the earliest opportunity. Thank you very much.
JS: John Bolton goes to any MEK rallies like a stoner following the Grateful Dead across the world.
[“Friend of the Devil” by Grateful Dead plays.]
JS: And just to underscore how devoted John Bolton is to this MEK terror group, just listen to what Rudy Giuliani, another MEK super-fan recently told the MEK at one of its events.
Rudy Giuliani: You saw John Bolton, you remember John Bolton? He’s going to be president Trump’s national security adviser. [Audience cheers and applauds.] You, you think he changed his mind? No, in fact, if anything, John Bolton has become more determined that there needs to be regime change in Iran, that the nuclear agreement needs to be burned.
JS: John Bolton is, in my analysis, the absolute most dangerous citizen of the United States to have as national security adviser at this moment in time. And I say that knowing that both Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger are still technically alive.
I say this because Bolton is an extremist with a lust for blood and war. Now that’s also true of Cheney and Kissinger, but unlike those two, this is John Bolton’s one big chance — maybe ever and Bolton will be serving a president that makes decisions on a whim, sometimes based on what the weatherman and sportscaster say on Fox & Friends.
John Bolton’s presence in the White House as national security adviser should thrust the nuclear countdown clock to just before midnight.
JB: The only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the South take it over. I think you’ve got to argue —
Trish Regan: That’s not really diplomatic (laughs), as far as they’re concerned.
JB: Well that’s their problem, not ours.
TR: Are we going to wind up with so many peoples’ lives gone in South Korea, in Seoul, because we make that move?
JB: Let me ask you this: How do feel about dead Americans?
JS: Now, John Bolton’s appointment as the national security adviser comes as wall-to-wall news coverage details the multiple alleged affairs that Donald Trump had, with Stormy Daniels.
Stephanie Gregory Clifford (Stormy Daniels): You are special. You remind me of my daughter. You know? He’s like, “You’re smart, beautiful, and a woman to be reckoned with. I like you. I like you.”
JS: With Karen McDougal.
Karen McDougal: He’s very proud of Ivanka — as he should be, I mean, she’s a brilliant woman. She’s beautiful. You know, that’s his daughter and he should be proud of her. He said I was beautiful like her, and you know, “you’re a smart girl.” There wasn’t a lot of comparing, but there was some. Yeah.
JS: It might be helpful to recall what happened the last time the country was in a similar situation with a sitting president, and that was Bill Clinton in the late 1990s.
President Bill Clinton: I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody a lie, not a single time. Never. These allegations are false and I need to go back to work for the American people.
JS: As the so-called Monica Lewinsky scandal intensified in 1998 and 1999, Bill Clinton seemed to find a new love for lobbing cruise missiles and authorizing bombing campaigns, in Afghanistan, in Sudan, for 78 days, a U.S.-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and, of course, Iraq in Operation Desert Fox which Clinton authorized on the eve of the impeachment proceedings against him.
President Bill Clinton: Earlier today, I ordered American forces to strike Iraq. Our missiles sent the following message to Saddam Hussein: When you abuse your own people or threaten your neighbors, you must pay a price.
JS: Now, of course, all of these wars and bombings from Bill Clinton, they might just be a coincidence. I mean Clinton was already a pretty belligerent hawk. But the timing of this uptick in military action coinciding with the impeachment proceedings, and the Lewinsky story, it’s tough to just dismiss it outright.
And I bring this up because war is often used as the grand American distraction. And it works! Remember: War made Trump presidential. Even in the eyes of liberal commentators.
Van Jones: He became president of the United States in that moment. Period. There are a lot of people who have a lot of reason to be frustrated with him, to be fearful of him, to be mad at him. But that was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics. Period.
JS: John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel and, yes, the adult in the room, General James Mattis at the Defense Department, that’s a pretty frightening group to have at the center of the most incendiary and dangerous foreign policy and national security issues our country faces. It should be viewed as a code red threat to world stability.
And my fear is that the more that Trump gets pummeled for these extramarital affairs and alleged abuse of women, the more distracted and dangerous he’ll become, and the more John Bolton will be calling the shots.
Tucker Carlson: So, you’ve called for regime change in Iraq, Libya, Iran, and Syria. In the first two countries, we’ve had regime change, and obviously, it’s been — I’d say a disaster, I think we can all agree.
JB: No, no, I don’t agree with that. And let me —
TC: You don’t think it’s been a disaster?
JS: Later in the show we’re going to discuss John Bolton with a veteran CIA officer who served as president George H.W. Bush’s national security briefer, and he’s going to tell us about some interesting things that the former president told him about John Bolton and the neoconservatives.
But first, while all of this attention is on the allegations Stormy Daniels made in her “60 Minutes” interview with Anderson Cooper, there are a few important points to keep in mind. First, if you look at Bill Clinton’s impeachment and how it got there, what was it about? Well, it was about lying in a sworn deposition in a case involving his accuser, Paula Jones. It took Jones’s lawyers four years, but eventually, they got their deposition.
Solomon L. Wisenberg: The person being deposed touching or kissing the breast of another person would fall within the definition.
President Bill Clinton: That’s correct sir.
SLW: And you testified that you didn’t have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky in the Jones deposition under that definition, right?
BC: That’s correct, sir.
JS: And it was the lies that Clinton told during that deposition that ultimately resulted in the impeachment proceedings. There are several paths that could result in Donald Trump being deposed, either by Stormy Daniels’ attorney or by the famed women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred.
Allred has a client named Summer Zervos, and she’s suing president Trump not for sexual assault or for harassment, but for defamation. Zervos is a former contestant on Trump’s show “The Apprentice” and she alleges that Trump sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions.
But Zervos never went public. In fact, she says she was still trying to determine if forced kissing and groping was just how Trump said hello to women. Despite the fact that she says that Trump groped her, she continued to view him as a possible mentor. She wanted to work with him.
Zervos says that she’s a Republican and that she had never planned to sue him or to go public with her story. But then this audio, which was recorded on the Access Hollywood bus, came out.
DJT: I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Billy Bush: Whatever you want.
DJT: Grab ’em by the pussy.
DJT: You can do anything.
JS: Zervos says that when she heard that tape she was horrified at how much it described what Trump had actually done to her. Yet, she still did not speak out and then Trump was asked about that tape on the Access Hollywood bus during a presidential debate.
DJT: I hate it, but it’s locker room talk and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS, we’re going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left —
Anderson Cooper: So —
DJT: — because of bad judgment and I will tell you I will take care of ISIS —
AC: So, Mr. Trump —
DJT: — and we can get on to much more important things and much bigger things.
AC: Just for the record, though, are you saying that what you said on that bus 11 years ago, that you did not actually kiss women without consent or grope women without consent?
DJT: I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do.
AC: So, for the record, you’re saying you never did that?
DJT: I said things that frankly, you hear these things I said, and I was embarrassed by it. But I have tremendous respect for women —
AC: Have you ever done those things?
DJT: — and women have respect for me. And I will tell you, no, I have not.
JS: It was that denial, that comment from Donald Trump that spurred Summer Zervos to speak out about her experiences with him.
Summer Zervos: I waited for about 15 minutes until Mr. Trump emerged. He had his suit on. I stood up, and he came to me and started kissing me open-mouthed, as he was pulling me towards him. I walked away and I sat down in a chair. He was on a loveseat across from me, and I made an attempt at conversation.
He then asked me to sit next to him. I complied. He then grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me again very aggressively, and he placed his hand on my breast.
I pulled back and walked to another part of the room. He then walked up, grabbed my hand and walked me into the bedroom. I walked out. He then turned me around and said, “Let’s lay down and watch some telly telly.” He put me in an embrace, and I tried to push him away. I pushed his chest, put space between us, and I said, “Come on man, get real.”
He repeated my words back to me, “Get real,” as he began thrusting his genitals.
He tried to kiss me again with my hand still on his chest and I said, “Dude, you’re tripping right now,” attempting to make it clear I was not interested.
He said, “What do you want?” And I said, “I came to have dinner.” He said, “OK, we’ll have dinner.”
JS: After Zervos went public, Donald Trump began to systematically label her and all of his other accusers, liars — and worse, he attacked their appearances, impugn their motives, called them liars, liars, liars.
DJT: These claims are all fabricated. They’re pure fiction and they’re outright lies. These events never, ever happened and the people that said them meekly fully understand. You take a look at these people, you study these people and you’ll understand also.
JS: Which brings us to why this case matters, and why I’m bringing it up on this show: It may well be the most dangerous of all of these legal cases for Donald Trump.
Zervos is suing Trump for defamation. She is charging that the president of the United States, arguably the most powerful man in the world, has used his galaxy-sized soapbox to defame her over, and over, and over. Zervos is represented by Gloria Allred, and she’s already had multiple battles with Trump, stretching back years.
Gloria Allred: Jenna [Talackova] entered this competition and gave the pageant her time, her best efforts — and her money. She did not think for one moment that what she might have looked like at birth would be relevant. She did not ask Mr. Trump to prove that he is a naturally born man or to see the photos of his birth to view his anatomy, to prove that he was male.
It made no difference to her. Why should it have made a difference to him?
JS: And it’s not just Gloria Allred’s clients. Trump also engaged in misogynist attacks on Gloria Allred years before he ran for office.
Harvey Levin: Gloria talked about wanting to see your birth pictures. If you want to give us one of those baby pictures, we’ll put it up on the site. Boom!
DJT: I may do that. I just want to know how much will Gloria pay me? Because if the payment is enough, I might just do it. Boy, will she be impressed.
HL: (Laughs.) Oh, Donald, thank you so much for joining us. You’re the best.
DJT: Had a good time Harvey. So long.
JS: The Summer Zervos case has at its core the question of whether Trump’s statements that she is a liar are true or false. And because Trump lumped Zervos in with all the other accusers, all of their testimony could become very relevant to this case. As part of her suit, Allred filed a subpoena against the Trump campaign to maintain “all documents concerning any woman who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.”
Trump’s lawyers moved to have this case dismissed. They said the president can’t be sued in state court. But last week, a judge in New York rejected Trump’s appeal and the judge cited Clinton v. Jones as precedent. In her ruling, the judge wrote, “No one is above the law.” And she stated, “Nothing in the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the president cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility.”
So that case is moving forward. And presumably, so, too, will the discovery phase in that case. So, unless Trump’s people succeed in getting it thrown out by a different court, Donald Trump and his campaign may have to hand over a lot of documents. And he may need to face the testimony of his accusers. And he may have to sit for a deposition with Gloria Allred. And if that happens, Donald Trump will almost certainly lie. And then we have the prospect of perjury.
Dan Abrams: By the court saying this case can now move forward, you’re opening up the door to discovery, meaning there are a whole lot of other issues that can now potentially come in. There are even — everything from possible tax returns to other women. Remember, she basically says that he kissed her and groped her, but that’s not what the case is about. It’s about defamation. It’s about him saying it’s not true.
When he was making those comments, he was talking about a bunch of other women as well, and so those other women could become relevant in the context of this case, and that’s why, for him, I think this case becomes much more perilous than anything else we’re talking about.
JS: This case, and some of the others against Trump, have the potential to actually draw blood. And they could lead to criminal charges against the sitting president. Gloria Allred has been very tight-lipped about the Zervos case since it first was announced, likely because she knows the stakes are potentially very high and any mistakes could be fatal.
Gloria Allred also represents other women who said that they were abused by Trump. She is a very busy woman these days. Gloria Allred moves from TV studio to TV studio, network to network, there’s also a really fascinating documentary about her that’s currently on Netflix. It’s called “Seeing Allred.”
Well, in the midst of her running all around earlier this week, I managed to catch Gloria Allred on the phone at the end of a very long day.
Gloria, thanks for taking the time to speak to us here on Intercepted.
Gloria Allred. OK, thank you.
JS: So first, I just wanted to say: Obviously, and you’ve been asked a lot about this recently, the Stormy Daniels story is very much front and center and sort of secondarily you have the Karen McDougal story, but a case that you have in addition to your involvement in sort of the broader issue of women coming forward and telling the stories of what happened to them at the hands of Donald Trump, but your case of Summer Zervos.
GA: Yeah, I can’t comment on Summer Zervos, I’m so sorry.
JS: You can’t say anything at all about the case.
GA: This is not, I can’t, it’s a defamation case. But I just have no comment on that at this time.
JS: So, parallel to that, there also is the defamation case now that Stormy Daniels’ legal team has filed, what’s your analysis of that?
GA: Well, what happened was, they’ve amended the existing lawsuit that Stormy Daniels has filed in reference to the settlement agreement that she entered into with the president’s Attorney, Michael Cohen, and a shell corporation. And it appears also, with, with Mr. Trump, using a pseudonym, that she entered into a nondisclosure agreement, a confidential settlement, and now she is seeking to void that settlement to make, to have it be, in other words, not enforced. Because that settlement would require that she have to arbitrate her claim, in a confidential arbitration, rather than in a courtroom, in a public courtroom. And in addition, that agreement that she entered into in which she was paid $130,000 to keep confidential her allegations of what she alleges Mr. Trump did to her and with her, you know, she wants to be able to talk. She did do that “60 Minutes” interview.
Anderson Cooper: For sitting here, talking to me today, you could be fined $1 million. I mean, aren’t you taking a big risk?
SGC: I am;
AC: I guess I’m not 100 percent sure on why you’re doing this.
SGC: Because it was very important to me to be able to defend myself.
AC: Is part of talking wanting to set the record straight?
SGC: 100 percent.
GA: Clearly there have been breaches of the settlement. Her attorneys’ position would be that Michael Cohen’s breached. His position is that Stormy Daniels and perhaps her attorney breached. This is all going to have to be sorted out somewhere in a court of law, but the defamation claim is something that has been added to her existing lawsuits, not a separate lawsuit.
JS: Got it. Does that in your view open her up to questions of her credibility, because they’re going to say, “Oh, look it, she has this pattern of lies.” And, you know, she explained her own history on “60 Minutes,” but does it expose her potentially to an effective counterattack from Trump’s team?
GA: There’s no question they’re going to — that there’s a counter, you know, response to what she has filed, and of course the president’s attorney is alleging that she’s breached the lawsuit, that she owes $20 million, or that they’re going to rather seek $20 million, because the settlement agreement which she signed provides for $1 million for each breach, so they’re alleging that she’s breached twenty times.
Now my experience is that requiring $1 million for each breach, even if a breach could be proven would be considered excessive, and that no court is going to state or require that even if there is a breach proven, that she breached, that she’d pay $1 million for each breach. That’s considered excessive, it would be substantially reduced even if the agreement were enforced.
And so, you know, that’s an interesting aspect of it. Of course, her attorney is alleging that this Mr. Trump never signed it, that therefore it’s not enforceable, that that place for his signature was a blank. He was using a pseudonym, not his own name anyway.
But then again the argument by the Trump lawyers is, “Look, she accepted the money.” This is one of the arguments. So, there was a settlement agreement and she did accept the money, there’s no question that she did it.
And of course, they would like it, Trump’s attorneys would like it to be an arbitration that would be confidential. Stormy Daniels and her attorney would like this all to be resolved in an open court of law.
JS: What’s the likelihood of Trump sitting for a deposition? Because you remember when you had the Clinton-Paula Jones situation, the sort of political strategy of the Clintons was to try to, you know, legally kick it down the road until after the reelection.
Bill Clinton: In the face of the Jones lawyers, the people that were questioning, in the face of their illegal leaks, their constant, unrelenting, illegal leaks, in a lawsuit that I knew, by the time this deposition and this discovery started, they knew was a bogus suit on the law, and a bogus suit on the facts.
JS: Is it realistic to think that Trump could end up sitting for a deposition with you or another attorney in any of these cases.
GA: Well, in the Stormy Daniels case which what we’re discussing right now if it’s an arbitration, there’s limited discovery and that means that you know we’ll have to see whether the arbitrator would allow that or not.
If it’s in a court of law, it depends, you know there may be a motion to dismiss a defamation claim, it may be a motion to dismiss other parts of it. So first I think you’ve got to get as a legal issue as to whether this case can be pursued or not, and then if so where, and then we’ll see what courts allow.
But, I mean, it may be that at least Michael Cohen has to sit for a deposition. Whether president Trump will, remains to be determined.
JS: Have you ever seen anything like this, their version of the story, which is that Michael Cohen, just sort of sitting around, decides to, you know, get a home equity loan to pay for this nondisclosure agreement, and it wasn’t Trump’s idea, he just did it? Have you ever heard of anything like that?
GA: Well to stay that that is unusual is probably the understatement of the year. No, I’ve never seen or heard of an attorney, himself, putting out that amount of money in order to persuade or entice or have some other party and opposing party agree, or agree to keep confidential information about the attorney’s client. People don’t — there are rules and you know, again, about attorney conduct that must be followed. In addition, I mean why would any attorney do that?
The other thing is this is, more than that, this could potentially be an election law violation because there are experts on the Federal Election Commission and the law that governs what candidates for president can do. And that amount might be considered to be a donation to Trump’s campaign since the amount was paid right before the election, where he was running for president. And it would exceed the amount that any individual is permitted to donate to or on behalf of a candidate. So that means the Federal Election Commission is going to be investigating this, which could take a long time. But it is potentially a Federal Election Commission violation if proven.
JS: And there’s a subpoena for campaign records and the campaign is saying they’re going to produce them. Have you heard anything from them about those records?
GA: Yeah. I don’t know anything about that, but Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney, has said that neither the campaign nor the Trump Organization reimbursed him for what he paid. I didn’t hear him say that Trump himself had not reimbursed him. He didn’t say anything about that. He also didn’t say whether, if anyone else had reimbursed him. And so we don’t know if anybody else did or if they did, who. So, these are questions that remain to be answered.
JS: Do you, do you see — I mentioned the Clinton situation earlier — do you see parallels beyond the very obvious, but I mean is there a parallel situation right now with what you as the attorneys have in front of you with the White House’s deliberations, now?
GA: Well, I mean, I do think that you know, that president Trump is likely to do everything and anything that would be legal to not testify under oath in a deposition. I don’t — that’s not what he would want to do, I would think if he could avoid it. He’s done that in other cases prior to his being elected president.
DJT: And they thought I made statements that were inflammatory in some form, and they, I don’t know, they sent out a notice. I think what was maybe worse than sending out a notice, they went to the press. I don’t understand why, why they did this.
GA: I don’t think that’s what he wants to do now, especially about his relationships with any women, especially those women he might have had sexual relationships with if he did while he was married. I mean, he is alleged now by Stormy Daniels to have sex with her not long after the birth of his child. He is alleged to have had an affair with Karen McDougal. Again, after his little baby was born.
Karen McDougal: The only regret I have about the relationship that I had with Donald was the fact that he was married. If he weren’t married, I wouldn’t have any regrets, because he treated me very kind, he was very respectful. As I told you, it was a good relationship while it happened.
GA: So, this is serious from Melania’s point of view, is my guess, embarrassing to her, probably upsetting to her. I don’t know what she knew when she knew it or what kind of marriage they have or whether she was OK with that. But, you know, this is serious, it’s embarrassing, and I’ve seen polls all day that showed that the majority who watched the interview found that Stormy Daniels was credible and also that Karen McDougal in her interview was credible.
Now, Karen McDougal said that both she and Trump said to each other that they loved each other, and that, I mean she portrayed it as a romantic relationship — in other words, not just one about sex.
Stormy Daniels alleged she had sexual activity with Mr. Trump once and she didn’t find him attractive, and she didn’t she say anything about being in love with them or that he was in love with her or that was anything romantic about it. So that’s a very different situation than what Karen McDougal has described.
JS: You know, part of why I wanted to talk to you was to ask you this final question. If you were empowered to depose Trump based on all of these cases, not just the ones that you’re involved with, and you had everything that you know and those attorneys know right now, do you think that your deposition would result in the beginning of the end for his administration? If you were to depose him in that manner?
GA: Well you know anybody and everybody has a duty to testify under oath if they are subpoenaed in the United States if they are properly subpoenaed. So, all I can say is, I always assume the best, but if they do not testify truthfully — in other words, if they lie about a material fact — then that’s perjury, and there are significant consequences for perjury.
So, would president Trump testify truthfully under oath? I certainly hope so. There are those who allege that in the past he has not testified truthfully under oath. So, he has a record while he’s been in the White House of lying, and lying, and lying, about many issues. Of course, he wasn’t under oath when he misstated certain things to the public, and I can’t predict what the president will do, but, there are going to be consequences if he doesn’t take that oath seriously.
JS: All right, Gloria Allred, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule.
GA: Anytime. Keep up the good work. Thanks, Jeremy.
JS: Gloria Allred is a pioneering women’s rights attorney. She’s hated by many powerful men. She represents Summer Zervos in her defamation case against Donald Trump, and Allred may actually get to depose the president. She is the subject of the Netflix documentary “Seeing Allred.”
JS: Well what Gloria Allred was just discussing is part of the context of the turmoil in the Trump Administration that John Bolton is soon going to be joining. Not only is Bolton dying to go to war with Iran, North Korea, on and on and on, he’s also been a very aggressive Cold Warrior, and an uber-hawk on Russia.
That issue is going to be really interesting to watch unfold, particularly in light of the Mueller investigation and of Trump’s recent move that he conducted in coordination with the UK and European Union countries to expel Russian diplomats.
For more on John Bolton becoming the national security adviser, I’m joined now by Ray McGovern. He spent 27 years in the CIA where he specialized in the Soviet Union. McGovern was also the national security adviser for George H.W. Bush and often prepared or presented the president’s daily briefing. Ray McGovern also chaired the national intelligence estimates and, since leaving the CIA, Ray McGovern helped start Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. In 2006, in protest of the CIA’s torture program, Ray McGovern returned his intelligence commendation medal.
McGovern has been a fierce critic of both the Trump administration and the U.S. intelligence community’s assertion that Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of the DNC and other targets.
Ray McGovern, welcome to intercepted.
Ray McGovern: Thanks, Jeremy.
JS: Ray, let’s start with the immediate news of John Bolton in a matter of days taking over as the national security adviser — your analysis.
RM: Where to start? I would say that John Bolton deserves the moniker of the archdeacon of neocon-dom. Back in the day, back when I was working at CIA in the ’60s and ’70s, we didn’t talk about neocon, we talked about “crazies.”
And we watched George H.W. Bush be very careful in keeping “the crazies,” in quotes, in positions in government, deputy assistant secretary and so forth, where they had a prestigious job but they couldn’t do great harm to the country.
And so, when George Bush, Jr. came in, what did I see? My god, I saw all these crazies. Now, I have to tell you that this was uniformly accepted as the word for these folks. Matter of fact, I wrote to my friend George H.W. Bush, and I said, you know, “Would you please tell your son” — this was actually in January of 2003, when it looked like we’re going to have a war that was not warranted and based on phony intelligence — “please tell your son why it was that you kept the crazies, like John Bolton, at arm’s length. Just tell him that.”
And he wrote back, and he said, “Well, thanks for your letter, please don’t worry about the quote ‘crazies’ and that they have undue influence on my son. My son is great. Don’t worry about it.” Well, yeah. That was the 22nd of January 2003, two months before the invasion of Iraq.
Now, why do I say all that? I say all that because John Bolton was one of the prime movers behind that invasion, [a] prime mover in destroying or so distorting the intelligence as to quote to “justify” such an invasion. And there he was, he was the undersecretary of state for arms control.
Now, the next thing we knew, under his influence, George W. Bush took the extreme step of saying, “This Antiballistic Missile Treaty” — which by the way everyone acknowledges was the bedrock for strategic stability since 1972 when it was signed — “we think we’re going to ditch that.”
President George W. Bush: Today, I have given formal notice to Russia, in accordance with the treaty, that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost 30-year-old treaty. I have concluded the ABM Treaty hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorists or rogue-state missile attacks.
RM: Now, that was a big, big deal that nobody really realized at the time, but now we realize it because Putin’s speech on the first of March indicates that all these new weapons systems, some of them pretty menacing, were developed as a direct result of the fact that the strategic stability that was introduced in ’72 — and I was in Moscow for the signing of that and felt very strongly about it — was simply eliminated by the fact that Bolton and George W. Bush and Cheney decided they didn’t need it anymore.
Newscaster: “It goes like a meteorite to its target,” boasted Putin. “Like a fireball.” Then, in reference to the United States pulling out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, Putin added ominously, “They kept ignoring us, so listen to us now.”
RM: That’s why it’s very significant that somebody foisted Bolton on Trump. I don’t think Trump is really aware of how things work in Washington but it’s the same thing that happened to George H.W. Bush when he was director of central intelligence and foisted on him was something called Team B, which reassessed all the good work that the intelligence community had done on Soviet strategic systems, made them much more menacing and actually turned out to be quite incorrect. But, that skewed all the intelligence for quite some time, that was foisted on George H.W. Bush. His cardinal mistake, in my view.
And now we have Bolton coming in at a time when despite the “instructions” of his advisers, president Trump has congratulated Putin on his election victory. And, worse still, said we gotta talk about arms control.
Well, I see a lot of this stuff as a direct result of the danger that people who profiteer on arms control, both in the industrial sector and in government, are really wanting to make sure that Trump does not have this kind of flexibility. How better to do it, then putting the tried and true John Bolton to put a stop to any of this negotiating with Russia?
JS: Well, and Ray, of course, the national security adviser is a very powerful position, influential position, but it also is not subject to Senate confirmation. Explain what the role of the national security adviser is and the kinds of authority and power that Bolton will have.
RM: Well it’s really hard to draw direct comparisons between what went before and the Trump Administration. But what can be said is that it really all depends on the personal relationship between the national security assistant and the president.
Bolton will come in and his job really is to sort through what the departments, you know, what Defense, and State, and CIA are saying, and what they’re suggesting, and boil it down so the president can either read it or be briefed on it, and make a decision.
Now in Bolton, you have somebody that far longer than anybody expected, he advertised this yellowcake uranium, sought ostensibly by Iraq, in deepest, darkest Africa in Niger, which is all based on a forgery which he knew about.
Dave Chappelle (“Black Bush”): I didn’t wanna say this — [dramatic instrumental] the mother [bleep] bought some yellow cake. OK? In Africa. He went to Africa and he bought yellow cake.
Reporter: Are you sure?
DC: Yes, I’m sure, bitch! I got the head of the CIA right here to tell you!
RM: And he was pursuing that as late as December 2002, against the intelligence community, he cut them out. So, you can imagine what kind of very tailored, very self-described, tailored by Bolton “intelligence” the president’s going to get. So, unless the president turns elsewhere — and where can he turn? If Gina Haspel becomes the head of the CIA. My God. If Pompeo becomes head of State. I’ve never seen it so bad, Jeremy. I’m sort of breathless.
So, you have Bolton in a key position and it will be how much trust Trump puts in Bolton. And I think he was probably forced to accept Bolton, just as Team B, was foisted upon the first George Bush. So maybe, maybe he’ll come to his senses to say — well, this guy. For example, you know, McCain said that the Russian interference — so-called — in the 2016 election, that that was an act of war. Now, what has Bolton said? Oh, he’s gone one better. He said, “It’s a true act of war.” End quote.
Now, just so no one misunderstands: Do the Russians hack? Sure they act. Everybody hacks. The big point here is: Did the Russians hack into the Democratic National Committee computers and give that information to WikiLeaks? And the answer to that is: There is no proof of that.
As a matter of fact, there’s forensic evidence that some of our Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, to wit, [William] Bill Binney and Ed Loomis, both of whom were technical directors at NSA, they’ve poured over forensic evidence which indicates that the big event that people advertised with Guccifer and everyone else, was not a hack of any kind. The download speed indicates that it was an inside job, a download onto a thumb drive because the speed of the Internet could not handle the speed with which that data was downloaded. So, it was spurious, to begin with.
Did someone hack into that? No. The Russians? No. Nobody hacked into that. And we can prove it. The only problem is we can’t get into the public media.
The saving grace is that somehow or other, Donald Trump was shown our findings, and he ordered Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, to ask Bill Binney to come in to have a chat. Now, what was that all about?
On the 24th of October, that happened. It was bizarre. And Bill came in, and he told me and he told the press that Pompeo says, “So, the president asked me to talk to you. What do you got to say?” And he says, “Well, with all due respect, sir, your people are lying to you.” He said, “What? How can they be? How can they be?” And he said, you know, if they’re telling you that the Russians hacked into the DNC, they’re lying and I know because I created the system and I know the physics and I know the principle of fluid dynamics, which makes it impossible for that thing to have been downloaded from a remote site. It was an inside job.
JS: I mean, the point that I agree with you on 1000 percent is that the onus is on the U.S. government to prove this to the American people because this is so serious that it can lead to a war stance. And certainly a lot of politicians, most of them right now Democrats, seem to want this sort of new Cold War mentality.
But I sort of look at it with a little bit of a difference than you, Ray.
I look at it as the United States, China, Russia, Israel, all of these countries are constantly trying to hack each other’s systems. Course, the United States spies on even its allies. And again, I say this with the caveat that there is no documented proof that Russia was behind this. There’s, you know, there’s a lot of smoke, there are allegations, there are forensic reports that some of them have very dubious actors involved with them, but let’s just say for a minute that Russia, like the United States, is doing hacking operations — my understanding was that the fingerprints that were left on the DNC operation that have been analyzed are very similar to the fingerprints that were left on a much broader attempt to target a variety of influential Americans, including military officials, people with top-secret clearances, spouses of CIA and military people. And to me, the question becomes, if this was all part of the same operation and obtaining the DNC stuff was a part of that, the question becomes why that particular set of documents was released. But my sense is that whoever did this has a lot more information about a variety of American institutions and individuals. Again, this goes against your thesis that this was a leak or an inside job and not a hack, but I do think that there’s another possibility which is that there was a much wider field at play here and we’re just focused on one minuscule portion of it because of the election.
But I want to leave that for, you know, to continue this at a different time, because I really want to finish up on Bolton. Are you concerned that Trump is going to use the kind of tried-and-true, epic distraction of war in the same way that Clinton did when the Lewinsky scandal was blowing up, he seemed to all of a sudden find a variety of countries that just needed some cruise missiles from the United States at that exact moment?
RM: Well, you know, he was described by various and sundry as acting presidential when he fired those 59 cruise missiles into Syria. So, it’s a danger.
I would say that the real danger is letting these folks do crazy things vis-a-vis Russia. And Bolton, it could not be anybody more dangerous than John Bolton, given his record of distorting intelligence, of concocting and creating intelligence to suit his worldview, his worldview is a very dangerous worldview and we have his experience with respect to Iraq and lots of other things to confirm that view.
JS: What did you make, Ray, of the Central Intelligence Agency on its Twitter feed openly advocating, and bragging, and heaping praise on Gina Haspel? I haven’t seen something like that before, and correct me if I’m wrong, but the CIA is not supposed to be engaged in domestic propaganda.
RM: Yeah, the old ethos where we tell it like it is and we don’t get involved in politicization, that seems to have gone by the board and if Haspel is confirmed, and we are working very hard to prevent that, witness our last VIPS memo, if she’s confirmed, you know, where is the president to look when he wants the straight poop on this or that issue in the world? He’s not going to get it from Bolton, he’s not going to get it from Pompeo. Is he going to get it from Haspel? Even less so. So he’s left on his own. He’s got some instincts that — I should make clear: I think he’s the worst president the United States ever had. And I think we should get rid of him, depose him, but not on a lie. OK? And what I see on this Russia gate is a whole pack of lies, very similar, you know, very similar to lies before the invasion of Iraq.
JS: Ray McGovern, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me here on Intercepted.
RM: You’re most welcome.
JS: Ray McGovern is one of the co-founders of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He was in the CIA for 27 years, where he often prepared the presidential daily brief.
JS: You heard me mention the presidential daily brief a few times earlier with Ray McGovern. That’s the daily intelligence presentation that is culled from assets around the world, from the military, from U.S. intelligence agencies and given to the president every day. And every president can choose what format they want to receive that briefing in. We’ve heard reports that Trump likes it with pictures and bullet points, and some have even alleged that the briefers try to mention Trump by name in points that they really want him to read because they know he’s going to go straight to the mention of his name. Who knows?
But the presidential daily brief is an extremely sensitive document, and it contains information that could be very dangerous if placed in the wrong hands. By the way, I include John Bolton’s hands in that assessment, and Trump’s, for that matter, but that is what it is. But what about Jared Kushner? He can’t even get a top-secret security clearance and has to sort of get backdoored by Trump into reviewing classified intelligence.
According to a report published last week by The Intercept, Jared Kushner allegedly shared information from the presidential daily brief with the Saudi Crown Mohammad bin Salman, and that information was allegedly shared as Salman was in the midst of a coup of sorts, targeting his political opponents and other people that he deemed problematic to his effort to snatch power and ultimately take the throne one day.
According to that report, Kushner may have given the names of some Saudi opponents to Mohammad bin Salman just before Salman had dozens of Saudi royals and military officers imprisoned in the Ritz-Carlton. One of those individuals was reportedly gruesomely tortured to death. “60 Minutes” and Thomas Friedman of The New York Times have been fawning over the new crown prince, and a whole magazine celebrating the awesomeness and modernity of Mohammad bin Salman hit newsstands across the U.S. this week. It was produced by Trump’s buddies at the National Enquirer, by the way.
And Kushner is said to have a deep bond with the Saudi royal, staying up until all hours of the night with him chatting, and also exchanging messages on WhatsApp — which is not an official communication tool of the U.S. government, the last time I checked.
And this isn’t just a recent thing with concerns about Jared Kushner. A couple weeks ago, The Washington Post reported that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster, “expressed early concern that Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy.” According to the post, Tillerson once asked staffers in frustration, “Who is the secretary of state here?”
This story has the potential to really blow, up or to emerge as an important part of the Mueller investigation — not just because of the presidential daily brief issue, but also because Mohammad bin Salman has reportedly been running around bragging that he has Kushner “in my pocket.”
All of this may well be related to Kushner’s real estate business, and the 666 Fifth Avenue project, and it may turn out that private financial interests resulted in drastic U.S. policy decisions in the Middle East.
For more on this, I’m joined now by my intercept colleagues Ryan Grim and Alex Emmons. They broke this story with Clayton Swisher. The story is called “Saudi Crown Prince Boasted That Jared Kushner Was ‘In His Pocket.'” Ryan, Alex, welcome to intercepted.
Ryan Grim: Thanks for having me.
Alex Emmons: Good to be here.
JS: Ryan, let’s start with you. The bigger picture of Jared Kushner’s relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Give us a sense of sort of the big picture here?
Ryan Grim: So, on the political end, Jared Kushner was tasked with, you know, all sorts of things by his father-in-law Donald Trump when he came to the White House, but in particular, it was creating Middle East peace. He has believed that if he could get Saudi Arabia on board with some type of a peace plan, then that’s the way he’d be able to jam it down the Palestinian side.
On a more personal level, his father Charles Kushner is a real estate developer, Kushner Companies is a firm that Jared Kushner still owns a major, major piece of and ran right up until he entered the White House. And, you know, if you run one of these big real estate companies, you need an influx of couple billion dollars of cash every couple of years to continuously refinance your properties, and the places you go for that sort of money are China, Russia, and the Gulf, effectively. There may be a few other places, Malaysia here or there. But so he had a lot of kind of personal relationships throughout the Gulf through his efforts to solicit cash for the Kushner Companies, so both of those streams kind of came together in creating his relationship with Mohammad bin Salman.
JS: And Alex talk about that relationship. When do we know that the two of them started to appear to be closer than just kind of a liaison from the United States speaking with an emissary from Saudi Arabia? It seems like there’s a closeness to their relationship that’s different than just Jared is talking to him about Middle East peace.
AE: Right. I would say it started not long after the election. Obviously, when you’re trying to create peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, you have to involve a lot more people than just the Israelis and the Palestinians. You have to go to regional partners. Through Jared Kushner’s mission, he stepped into a really tumultuous situation in Saudi Arabia’s history. Saudi Arabia has been a stable country for a long time because the succession of kings went from brother to brother to brother to brother, and so there wasn’t much of a contest for the throne, but now we’re talking about the succession passing from one generation to another.
I think this ambitious, now-Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman really saw an opportunity with Trump’s election to make a move, and last June we saw the replacement of the former Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Nayef, extremely controversial in Saudi Arabia and throughout the world, and MBS really taking his place, the king appointing his son the successor over the current heir.
And what’s unusual about this is that the U.S. has had a relationship with Saudi Arabia for a very long time, a military alliance, an economic alliance, but what’s very unusual about this is that we have the Trump Administration backing a specific crown prince, someone who is ruthless, and brutal, and willing to torture his own family members, someone who’s willing to use starvation as a weapon of war in Yemen, and the U.S. is essentially, through Jared Kushner, saying, “This is our guy.”
JS: And Ryan, what do we know about Jared Kushner’s unannounced trip to Riyadh in late October last year.
RG: We know now in the months before Kushner went over there, he had access to some previously unreported U.S. intelligence that had identified a set of political dissidents back in Saudi Arabia, as the political situation was unfolding there, the intelligence services had identified that there were some elements that were uncomfortable with the way that MBS was rising and consolidating power.
JS: Then you have in early November, and The Intercept was the first outlet to report this in English, they start sending dozens of members of the Saudi royal family into a very sort of high-class, five-star prison of sorts, they used the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh to house all of these members of the royal family in the midst of this crackdown, what was going on in Washington at the time? And we’re now getting to the thrust of your story. What happened regarding Jared Kushner and the president’s daily briefing?
RG: So we know that in the president’s daily briefing there were the names of some Saudi royal figures and other elites who were said to have questionable loyalty to MBS and those people were rounded up in this in this crackdown, and we know that after MBS met with Jared Kushner, he told people close to him, including Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, effectively the kind of ruler of the UAE, that Kushner had shared intel with him, including some of these names.
JS: Alex, why would Jared Kushner, who has struggled to get a security clearance, and doesn’t appear to be able to get a top-secret, SCI security clearance. What was he even doing accessing the sensitive information or being briefed or having the information shared with him from the PDB?
AE: It seems like in the early months of the Trump Administration, it was kind of a free-for-all for who got access to the most sensitive information that was shared with the White House. I mean obviously since his security clearance has been downgraded. But it just goes to show we have someone who is naive, never had a government job before, whose company’s actively soliciting money from foreign governments. That’s obviously a sort of intelligence liability of the highest order. The CIA would see someone like that in a foreign country as a tremendous opportunity to cultivate a source or an influencer.
So it’s someone who’s very high risk of getting access to very sensitive information, and I think anyone who has been through the vetting process to get a security clearance would tell you that.
JS: Ryan, the Saudis have their own Mabahith, their secret police, their internal intelligence services. There is a tremendous amount of Stasi-like spying on their own citizens in Saudi Arabia. Why does Mohammad bin Salman need Jared Kushner to give him names of people that probably were already in the crosshairs of the sort of coup regime among the royals?
RG: Right, and in some ways, that’s been the response from his camp, and I asked a few people that while we were reporting this out, and there are sort of different questions — like, there is the question of whether or not he needs the information. The answer to that is probably, pretty clearly no.
But then there’s the question of: What is the effect of getting it? And it’s to be able to say, “Look, the United States is with me, like there is an internal struggle going on here, and the son-in-law of the president of the United States is actively helping me in this effort, so if you think you’re going to find some aid and comfort from your human rights champions over there in Washington, I’ve got something else coming for you because, you know, because Jared and I are in this together.” That would be the message that he’d be sending and that and that he’d be taking, by either receiving that information or by telling other people that he had gotten it from him.
JS: Right and Alex, the stakes are raised quite substantially, even if the Saudis didn’t need the information, the fact that or the idea that Jared Kushner nonetheless gave them information that aided this crackdown, the stakes of all of that are raised a lot higher when you take the case of General Ali al-Qahtani, who was reportedly tortured to death at the Ritz-Carlton. Talk about what happened to him, and what we know.
AE: Severely tortured to death. According to the New York Times, his dead body showed signs of burn marks from electrocution all over. So we’re talking about incredible coercion and torture going on in the Ritz-Carlton. I think what we’re seeing play out over U.S.-Saudi relations in the past year has been MBS trying to feel out what he can get away with from the U.S. — I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve seen this palace coup and massive crackdown be launched not under Obama, who almost certainly would have taken some kind of action to at least get it to slow down, but under Trump who seems to be enthusiastically cheering this brutal crown prince because he thinks he’s on his team.
RG: Also I don’t think there’s anybody that would look at the Saudi political economy and say that it didn’t need some type of a corruption crackdown.
But the case of the Major General al-Qahtani is a telling one because he himself was not an owner of any major businesses, he was not really implicated in any way that I know of in any type of corruption probe. He was much more of a government figure who apparently wound up on the on the wrong side of this dispute, but it’s very hard to pinpoint any kind of corruption-related reason that he would have been facing interrogation, set aside the way that the interrogation played out in this horrific way that wound up with him dead. What was even doing there, to begin with?
JS: What does your reporting tell you about what Mohammad bin Salman has been saying about Jared Kushner?
RG: The phrase he used among a lot of people was that he’s “in his pocket.” He sat down with The Washington Post when he came here recently for an off-the-record chitchat, and the only thing he did put on the record was a denial. He said, “No, no, no, that’s not true, you know we have a very good relationship, I do not believe that he is in my pocket.” But, yeah that’s the way he’s been phrasing his relationship with Jared.
JS: Well, and Alex, it created this kind of strange competition it seemed between Mohammed bin Zayed of the Emirates, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, both sort of trying to take credit for the downfall of Rex Tillerson at the State Department.
AE: I think, in a big way though, MBZ and MBS, as they’re commonly referred to, are kind of on the same team when it comes to stuff like that. You know as Ryan talked about earlier, the UAE has actually really shepherded and championed the rise of MBS — I think in large part because they think they can control him because they think that then they’re the biggest voice coming out of the Gulf. And so I think that MBZ and MBS are sort of acting and unison on this. And our reporting shows that MBS, you know, bragged about this to MBZ, that he’s one of his closest confidants and that they’re all on the same page about the stuff that MBS is doing to other members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, so in a lot of ways I think MBS is closer to them MBZ than a lot of other top officials in Saudi Arabia.
JS: Well, and I want to talk for a moment about the rejection by Qatar of this real estate investment deal for 666 Fifth Avenue, the property that Jared Kushner bought in ’07 for, you know, almost $2 billion and they put down a half a billion dollars in cash. They were going to do this deal with Qatar, and then the Qataris rejected it. You had Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries announcing this blockade of Qatar and saying, “Well, they’re really the ones behind all the terrorism in the region.”
What’s the connection with the Trump Administration policy, Jared Kushner, his properties, and the targeting of Qatar?
RG: Yeah, immediately after that blockade was announced, Rex Tillerson, the then-secretary of state, you know, publicly called for it to end.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: The blockade is also impairing U.S. and other international business activities in the region. It has created a hardship on the people of Qatar and the people whose livelihoods depend on the commerce of Qatar. The blockade is hindering U.S. military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS.
RG: President Trump came out and said: Well, actually you know Qatar deserves what it’s getting because, you know, they’ve been funding terrorism and this absolutely needs to stop.
DJT: Nations came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behavior, so we had a decision to make. Do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action? We have to stop the funding of terrorism.
RG: Tillerson came to believe that this was a statement that had been drafted by Yousef Al Otaiba for Kushner, and then Kushner delivered it to the president, and that Qataris have since come to believe that if they had taken the offer that was on the table, that none of this ever, ever would have happened.
JS: Well and you had Chris Murphy, senator, Democrat from Connecticut on George Stephanopoulos’ program, one of the Sunday shows, “This Week”, where he said the following:
Senator Chris Murphy: We could not understand why the Trump Administration was so firmly taking the Saudis side in this dispute between the Saudis, the Emiratis, and the Qataris, because the United States has very important interests in Qatar — at the top of the list, are thousands of U.S. troops that are stationed in a base there. And so to so firmly take the side of the Saudis against the Qataris, potentially resulting in the downward spiral of the Qatari economy, put thousands of Americans at risk.
If the reason for this, if the reason that this administration put U.S. troops at risk in Qatar was to protect the Kushner’s financial interests, then that’s all the evidence you need to make some big changes in the White House.
JS: Alex Emmons, your response to what Chris Murphy is saying.
AE: Well he’s right — I mean it really looks bad because there’s only one way to understand it, and the way to understand it is that it certainly appears to be corruption, it appears to be a kind of retaliation that Jared Kushner is willing to go through because they didn’t get this loan. So, so corruption really is the only word that can describe them.
JS: Alex, the long-term agenda of Mohammad bin Salman and MBZ as well? What is your reporting indicating of what is the ultimate game that they’re playing here that involves potentially using Jared Kushner?
AE: I think it’s to secure their own power, to secure their own power for a long time and to continue to enjoy the backing of the U.S.
And as they continue to do more and more extreme things, they will need more and more extreme people to back them. And I think the Trump Administration is the perfect example of how that plays into their strategy.
JS: Ryan Grim, just a final question: What happened when you went to the White House to try to get comment from Jared Kushner on this story?
RG: Oh yeah, they referred me over to his personal lawyer, which is an interesting moment in our kind of journalistic history here. Like, you know, as we look back on this, years from now, I think the moment when the White House started referring basic questions about the conduct of senior adviser, son-in-law Jared Kushner to Kushner’s personal attorney will wind up being kind of flagged as like a moment like, “OK, something definitely unusual is happening here.” And I went back and I said, “You guys sure? No comment from the White House proper on this?” No. No. Just talk to, talk to Abbe Lowell.
And Abbe Lowell’s a very, very busy man. He’s Kushner’s attorney. He’s so busy that he has his own spokesperson who insists on being identified in the press not as Kushner’s spokesperson, but as the spokesperson to Kushner’s attorney.
JS: Yeah it’s very unusual, you know — and just for people that don’t follow this stuff that closely, you know, you call the White House under the Obama administration or even under George W. Bush’s administration, and you say, “We were trying to understand why official x did action y,” and a lot of times they won’t comment or they’ll give you some milquetoast statement, but it’s very unusual to be to have the first response be, “You’re going to have to talk to the lawyer that’s representing them in the Russia investigation.”
JS: This is about UAE-Qatar. What is, what is it? Huh? I mean it really is, to me, one of the most important aspects of the story that you guys broke, in a sea of really important revelations.
RG: Yeah, no, it’s very interesting, and when I reached out to him directly, he said the same thing. He didn’t say, you know, talk to the White House spokespeople, he said talk to my PR guys.
JS: Right. And in fairness to Jared Kushner, here is the comment the spokesperson for Kushner’s lawyer, not his White House lawyer but his lawyer in the broader probe into Trump-Russia, this is the comment from the spokesperson for Kushner’s private lawyer, Abbe Lowell: “Some questions by the media are so obviously false and ridiculous that they merit no response. This is one. The Intercept should know better.”
Ryan Grim, thank you very much for joining us.
RG: You got it.
JS: Alex Emmons, thank you as well.
AE: Thank you.
JS: Ryan Grim is the Washington D.C. bureau chief of The Intercept. Alex Emmons is an investigative reporter in our D.C. bureau. Their story is called “Saudi Crown Prince Boasted That Jared Kushner Was ‘In His Pocket.'”
JS: From its beginnings, punk music has always been a disrupter of the establishment — at times a disruptor of all establishments. At its best, it has featured a passionate and creative pushback against authoritarianism — authoritarianism in a lot of forms. And as a music genre that gained ground in the mid-’70s, punk was and still is largely portrayed in broader society as a white-guy thing with few notable exceptions. But our next guest says otherwise.
Alice Bag was the lead singer and co-founder of The Bags, one of the first bands to form during the initial wave of the punk-rock scene in Los Angeles. And she says that scene was very different than the dominant portrait of the punk world. That scene had women, people of color and queers at the forefront leading and influencing punk music in LA. Alice Bag is a musician and author and educator and a punk feminist. She has a new album out. It’s called “Blueprint.”
Alice Bag: My name is Alice Bag and I am a writer, a musician, and active agent in my world.
Both my parents were immigrants and my father really wanted to keep Spanish at home and he was confident that I would learn English at school. My parents played a lot of music, my father loved rancheras, which is this kind of Mexican music that you typically hear played by mariachis, and most of the time it’s going to be a guy singing it, but every now and then there were, you know, women like Lola Beltran [“Cucurrucucú Paloma” by Lola Beltran plays] and Lucha Villa [“Tu A Mi Ya No Me Interesas” by Lucha Villa plays] who were these Mexican ranchera singers that were just very bold in their performances. And then my mother loved Mexican pop, it’s very passionate and sweet, and there was this one performer named Raphael who was actually Spanish, he wasn’t Mexican, who just emoted so much when he sang that I was transfixed as a child. I could feel every word he said. [“Yo Soy Aquel” by Raphael plays.]
AB: Another thing that was happening in my household that really influenced me was the fact that my father was abusive towards my mother. That abuse was physically aimed at my mother but I feel like it really, it filled the whole house and it affected everyone that was there. I feel like it’s marked me for life.
A lot of times, because my father ruled the house, you know, in such a firm patriarchal way, when women would come into my house and challenge him in any way, it was really thrilling for me. I remember watching my sister-in-law like question my father about something he said, and watching them argue about it and just feeling like, “Aw, someday I want to be like my sister-in-law,” who stands up to my father, she never cowers and I also had an aunt who did that.
And I think those were the seeds of my feminism. Those were the first experiences that I had as a little girl watching a woman stand up to the patriarch, and like hold her own and it was thrilling for me. And I wanted to experience that again and again. And, you know, it’s sad that I’m in a position where I get to experience it again and again. But I really, I’m up for it. I’m up for challenging it.
[Chicano Moratorium rally archival sound]
AB: In 1970, the Chicano movement organized a march through the streets of East LA a protesting in the Vietnam War in general, but specifically the large number of Chicano soldiers that were being drafted, and they were not only being drafted in disproportionate numbers but they were being sent to the most dangerous places. They were being sent to the front and coming back in boxes in larger numbers.
Protestor: Before the world, before all of North America, before all our brothers on this, the bronze continent, we are a nation, we are a union of free pueblos, we are
AB: And it ended up, as most protests by people of color are misinterpreted as acts of violence by the state. So we had riot police come out and start busting heads, using tear gas on the population. I was at the Chicano Moratorium, but I was only 11 years-old, and I grew up in East LA, so this park is a park that I used to go to us a little girl called Laguna Park, and there were speakers and dancers. These little girls are dancing folklorico, and they had like food vendors and it was a generally, like festive celebration and a feeling of like unification and getting everybody motivated to fight the powers that be and to right this wrong.
And instead it turned, you can see the riot police come in and start shooting the tear gas and people running, and people being clobbered, and eventually it ended up with like, you know, a lot of people injured, a handful of deaths, and specifically one death that was Ruben Salazar, who was a newspaper reporter, who looked favorably on the Chicano movement and wrote about it in, you know, more objective ways. And he was shot.
[“White Justice” by Alice Bag plays.]
AB: I was in high school. I was going to an all-girls school in Montebello, California and we had off-campus launch, and during that off-campus lunch, I, you know, I didn’t have a car, so I would just walk to the liquor store which was like two or three blocks away, and I usually would look at their rock magazines. I was really into rock. I was into glam rock. And I saw one that I hadn’t seen before. It was called Punk magazine and it was from New York, and it talked all about the New York punk scene.
This was early in ’76. I bought that magazine and I started seeking out punk. And I graduated high school that year and I started going out to more shows in Hollywood, more concerts. And one day, I went to see a band and as we were standing outside we saw these kids that were hanging out. We started talking to them. I’m like, “Are you waiting for the show?” They’re like, “yeah, we’re the opening band! We’re going to play, but we’ve never played a show before.” And it turned out that it was a band called The Germs.
[“Manimal” by The Germs play.]
It was just an out-of-control performance, but they left an impression on me. I mean I just thought, “What guts!” Right? To get up and do that.
So everything was like something I had never seen before. And the music was melodic, but it was also like really fast and frenetic and exciting. And it’s just such a huge moment for me to feel like I know that I can do that, I want to do it. Give me the stage now! Hand me that microphone.
[“We will bury you” by The Bags play.]
AB: The early Hollywood LA punk scene was really, really steered by women and people of color and queers who hadn’t found visibility in other music scenes. But the thing about the punk scene is that it wasn’t just a music scene, and it wasn’t just a genre, and we didn’t know that at the time. At the time we thought it was about the music. But as we grew and became a community, we realized that it was really about a community and about learning how to harness our power.
“77” was written because the gender gap in the United States for women, in general, is said to be at about 80 cents on the dollar, so it’s about a 20 percent gap. But that is for all women. And Asian and white women have a narrower gap. Women of color have a much greater gap. They make much less.
[“77″ by Alice Bag plays.]
AB: I decided to stick with “77” because I felt like it’s probably closer to what I make.
Once you have a blueprint for yourself and a blueprint for your communities, then you can also have a blueprint for what you want the world to be like. And that we need to get to the point where we are active agents in our world, where we steer the direction that it’s going in because it is off-balance right now. It is going in the wrong direction and we need to gather our numbers, gather our strength, figure out how to fix it. It is a long fight that we’re in.
We’re in it for the long-haul, so we have to take breaks, be positive, take a deep breath, hang out with other people who love, who replenish your energy, and then we can go out fresh, can ring the bell and get back in the ring.
JS: Alice Bag is a singer-songwriter, musician, author, educator, and feminist. She spoke to our producer Jack D’Isidoro. If you want to learn more about the contributions of women in punk music, check out Alice’s website where she features a collection of her interviews with women in the LA punk scene. You can find that at alicebag.com. And don’t forget to check out her newly released album “Blueprint.” You can find her on Twitter @alicebag.
One last thing: I recently gave a speech in Madison, Wisconsin, and afterward a young kid came up to me in the book signing line and asked me to sign his book. He said he was an avid fan of this podcast, and of The Intercept, and in a big way, Glenn Greenwald. Then he began to rattle off the names of some of my Intercept colleagues and recent stories that they did, and he’s a pretty impressive kid.
His name is Charlie Grabois, and he’s 13 years old, which makes him our youngest documented fan, our youngest-known fan. Well, Charlie was in New York City this week with his parents, and I invited him to stop by The Intercept office for a tour and to join me in the Intercepted studio.
Charlie Grabois: I think every generation has that moment of, whether it’s the Vietnam War or World War II or World War I, or, now, all the wars in the Middle East or the war at home against terrorism, whatever that means in a sense, whatever, however you define it, so I think every generation has their moment to make things right.
Charlie Grabois is a 13-year-old 8th grader in Madison, Wisconsin and perhaps a future member of The Intercept team.
JS: That does it for this week’s show. If you’re not yet a sustaining member of Intercepted, log onto theintercept.com/join.
Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. We’re distributed by Panoply. Our producer is Jack D’Isidoro, and our executive producer is Leital Molad. Laura Flynn is associate producer. Elise Swain is our assistant producer and graphic designer. Emily Kennedy does our transcripts. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky.
Until next week, I’m Jeremy Scahill.