On today's BradCast, a top State Department official under President Obama joins us to detail the "high stakes" and major pitfalls that await Donald Trump's negotiations with Kim Jong Un, if next month's historic scheduled summit actually happens, and the already-contradictory positions offered over the weekend by the Administration. [Audio link to show follows below.]
But, first up today, CIA Director-nominee Gina Haspel finally concedes in a letter to Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) that the U.S. torture program --- which she still describes as "enhanced interrogation" --- instituted after 9/11 was a mistake. She refused to admit as much during her public confirmation testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, nor has she ever been held accountable for overseeing torture at a secret CIA prison she ran in Thailand, nor for her part in destroying video tapes of the waterboarding and other torture of prisoners there. Nonetheless, her confirmation now appears to be all but assured as Warner and other Democrats have committed to voting for her.
Also today, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended Israel's killing of more than 60 Palestinian protesters (and a baby) and the wounding of thousands in Gaza on Monday, as well as the controversial move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. During an emergency session at the U.N. on Tuesday, called in response to the escalating violence on Israel's border, Haley lauded the "restraint" used by Israel, as they and the U.S. were all but isolated in their support for the embassy move and for Israel opening fire on protesters. Adversaries and allies alike condemned both actions, and the U.N.'s human rights chief has called for an investigation of the attacks on mostly unarmed Palestinian protesters in recent weeks.
Then, with a landmark summit scheduled for next month in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, we speak with President Obama's former Deputy Asst. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, MICHAEL FUCHS, who is now a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. The historic meeting may now be imperiled, however, by the North's objections to ongoing joint U.S./South Korean military exercises on the peninsula, according to news breaking just before airtime today. Nonetheless, Fuchs details the many complications that lie ahead in negotiations, should the meeting actually come about.
"We need to wait and see what kind of information this really is and whether it can be confirmed," he tells me, regarding late reports that the North may wish to pull out of the summit. "I will say, true or not --- let the games begin. We are now in the midst of high stakes, high pressure diplomacy at the highest levels, of an unprecedented nature between the United States and North Korea. So the games that we've seen played by North Korea, and by the United States and others in the region, is just going to intensify now."
Among other things, Fuchs explains how Trump and Kim appear to have very different definition of the concept of "denuclearization"; how Trump's violation of the anti-nuclear pact with Iran last week is likely to increase leverage for Kim, as Trump appears increasingly desperate to make a deal --- any deal --- with the North; and how the Administration's current negotiating position appears to be all over the map, as based on conflicting remarks on last Sunday's news shows by Sec. of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
"I think the Iran deal withdrawal definitely adds fuel to the fire here. And the potential danger here --- I think there are lots of different dangers with this summit --- but I definitely think that one of them is that Trump wants a deal, he wants to bring home victory, if you will, and so he's going to want to spin this summit as a success," argues Fuchs, adding: "I don't think Trump is a very good negotiator. I don't think he understands the details of these issues. Nor do I think he has the interests of our US allies at heart. I think there's a very good possibility that he will throw allies under the bus in exchange for what looks like a good deal." In fact, Pompeo suggested on Sunday that a deal in which North Korea does away with its long-range missiles that could reach the U.S. might be enough to satisfy Trump, even if both nukes and short range missiles are allowed to remain on the peninsula, threatening our allies there. Bolton suggested the opposite.
The former Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Strategic Dialogues under then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton also details how the hollowing out of the State Dept. since Trump entered office may affect negotiations ("The question is not so much about whether or not we have the right personnel in place, it's whether or not the political leadership in the White House is actually listening to them and allowing them to do their jobs"). Fuchs explains how Kim is hoping to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the South (and may succeed at it), and also offers insight into Trump's apparent complete reversal over the weekend regarding sanctions against Chinese electronics giant ZTE.
Don't miss this very enlightening conversation. It would really be useful if Trump tuned in as well, frankly!
Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for the latest Green News Report, as the Trump Administration is blocking the release of a damning report on widespread water contamination across the U.S., a major energy company is revealed to have paid actors to pretend to be supporters of a new power plant project during a public hearing in Louisiana, and California adopts a landmark solar power mandate for new residential building construction...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)