The months of protests in Hong Kong may be the biggest political crisis facing Chinese leadership since the Tiananmen Square massacre a generation ago. What began as objections to a proposed extradition law has morphed into a broad-based protest movement. “There was just this rising panic that Hong Kong was becoming just like another mainland city, utterly under the thumb of the Party,” says Jiayang Fan, who recently returned from Hong Kong. In Beijing, Evan Osnos spoke to officials during their celebration of the Chinese Communist Party’s seventieth year in power. He found that the leadership is feeling more secure than it did in 1989, when tanks mowed down student protesters. “I think the more likely scenario,” Osnos tells David Remnick, “is that China will keep up the pressure and gradually use its sheer weight and persistence to try to grind down the resistance of protestors.”
Last Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan informed President Trump of his intention to launch a military offensive in northeastern Syria, in an effort to eradicate the Kurdish militias there. Trump agreed to draw down American troops to clear the way for the Turkish army. Though Erdoğan regards those militias as terrorist groups, the Kurds have been close American allies in the battle against ISIS. Trump’s decision was met with harsh criticism by high-ranking Republicans, U.S. military officials, and others. Dexter Filkins joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the incursion into Syria is affecting one of the most volatile regions in the world, and what it could mean for Trump’s Presidency.
David Remnick asks five New Yorker contributors about the nascent impeachment proceedings against the President. Susan Glasser, the magazine’s Washington correspondent, notes that Republicans have attacked the inquiry but have not exactly defended the substance of Trump’s phone call to Zelensky. Joshua Yaffa, who has been reporting from Kiev, notes Ukraine’s disappointment in the conduct of the American President; Jane Mayer describes how an impeachment scenario in the era of Fox News could play out very differently than it did in the age of Richard Nixon; Jelani Cobb reflects on the likelihood of violence; and Jill Lepore argues that, regardless of the outcome, impeachment is the only constitutional response to Donald Trump’s actions. “This is the Presidential equivalent of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue,” she tells Remnick.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the line for President Trump’s July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump urged Zelensky to assist in an investigation into Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden. Pompeo, a fierce Trump loyalist and the last surviving member of his original national-security team, is now implicated in a scandal that threatens Trump’s Presidency. Susan B. Glasser joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the rapidly unfolding Ukraine story and Pompeo’s place within it.
Senator Cory Booker burst onto the national scene about a decade ago, after serving as the mayor of the notoriously impoverished and dangerous city of Newark, New Jersey. To get that job, Booker challenged an entrenched establishment. “My political training comes from the roughest of rough campaigns,” he tells David Remnick. “You just won’t think it’s America, the kind of stuff we had to go up against. And it [was] such a great way to learn [that campaigning] has to be retail—grassroots. And so much of this, in those early primary states, is about that.”
Booker spoke with Remnick about growing up black in a largely white area of New Jersey, where his parents had to fight to be able to buy a home; about his long relationship with the Kushner family, which started back when Jared Kushner’s father, Charles, was a leading Democratic donor; and why he’s proud to collaborate with even his direst political opponents on issues such as criminal-justice reform. “Donald Trump signed my bill,” Booker states. “I worked with him and his White House to pass a bill that liberated thousands of black people from prison” by retroactively reducing unjustly high sentences related to crack cocaine. “Tell that liberated person that Cory Booker should not deal with somebody that he fundamentally disagrees with.”
Note: In this interview, Senator Booker asserts, “We now have more African-Americans in this country under criminal supervision than all the slaves in 1850.” The historical accuracy of this comparison has been challenged. More accurately, the number of African-American men under criminal supervision today has been compared to the number of African-American men enslaved in 1850.
This week, evidence emerged that Trump tried to enlist the help of a foreign power to discredit his political opponents—in this case, Democratic Presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Further disclosures revealed that the President may have been aided in his efforts by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Vice-President Mike Pence, and Attorney General William Barr. On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the start of a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump, saying that he had betrayed his oath of office, the nation’s security, and the integrity of U.S. elections. Jeffrey Toobin, Jane Mayer, and David Rohde—three New Yorker writers who have reported extensively about the Administration—join Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the case against Trump, and how his inner circle may have helped jeopardize his Presidency.
People of color have suffered disproportionately under cannabis criminalization, and social-justice advocates have played a major role in the push for legalization; Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow” changed many people’s minds on this issue. But, as the legal cannabis market takes off into a multibillion-dollar economy, this “green rush” is likely to leave behind those who suffered. An entrepreneur in New York tells the staff writer Jelani Cobb that “while we’re waiting [for legalization], huge corporations are . . . working on their packaging, how they’re going to come to the market. If we don’t have that same freedom, how is it fair?” Cobb reports on how legalization bills are seeking to address that historical inequity. In Oakland, California, a bill stipulates that half of dispensary permits must be awarded to people who have been harmed by criminalization in the past. But one businessman tells Cobb that, without access to capital, would-be dispensary owners will be shut out, and will likely end up selling those permits for cheap.
This past Saturday, a series of air strikes in Saudi Arabia damaged more than a dozen oil installations, including one of the most critical oil-production facilities in the world. The attack threw global fuel markets into disarray. Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed that they launched the strikes, but they have long been armed by Iran, fuelling conjecture that the attacks were carried out by Tehran. Robin Wright joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Iran views U.S. policies in the Gulf and how the Trump Administration has unwittingly strengthened the regime’s hard-liners.
An exodus is under way in the House of Representatives: not even halfway into the congressional term, fifteen Republicans have announced that they will not run in 2020. One of the exiting members is Will Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer who was elected in 2014. His district in Texas includes nearly a third of the state’s border with Mexico. Although he is reluctant to criticize the G.O.P. directly, Hurd tells the Washington correspondent Susan B. Glasser that he thinks the President’s border policy is ineffective: a wall isn’t the answer, Border Patrol is underfunded relative to the area it covers, and the technology in use for border security is both out of date and overly complicated, “requiring a Ph.D. in computer science to operate,” he says. “I wish I could pass a piece of legislation,” Hurd tells Glasser, “that says you can’t talk about the border unless you’ve been down to the border a few times.” Hurd’s departure is particularly significant because he is—for the sixteen months he has left to serve—the only African-American in the House Republican caucus, and he worries that the President’s negative rhetoric toward people of color is contributing to a demographic shift that’s turning Texas from deep red to purple. “When you have statements the equivalent of, ‘go back to Africa,’ ” Hurd notes, “that is not helpful.”
One of the big stories of the 2016 presidential election was the rupture within the Republican Party. "Never Trump" traditionalists lost their fight to prevent the nomination of Donald Trump, but a small faction still strenuously objects to his scorched-earth style and many of his policies. Earlier this month, Catholic University hosted a debate between two prominent conservatives representing two distinct visions. On one side, the constitutional lawyer and National Review staff writer David French, a voice for traditional Republicanism who sees Trump as a threat to democracy. On the other side, Sohrab Ahmari, the op-ed editor of the New York Post and who fervently supports the president and describes politics as "war and enmity." Benjamin Wallace-Wells joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what their opposing positions mean for the future of the Republican Party.
The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, talks with Salman Rushdie about “Quichotte,” his apocalyptic quest novel. A few years ago, when the four hundredth anniversary of “Don Quixote” was being celebrated, Rushdie reread Cervantes’s book and found himself newly engaged by a much-improved translation. He immediately began thinking of writing his own story about a “silly old fool,” like Quixote, who becomes obsessed with an unattainable woman and undertakes a quest to win her love. This character became Quichotte (named for the French opera loosely based on “Don Quixote”), who is seeking the love of—or, as she sees it, stalking—a popular talk-show host. As Quichotte journeys to find her, he encounters the truths of contemporary America: the opioid epidemic, white supremacy, the fallout from the War on Terror, and more. “I’ve always really liked the risky thing of writing very close up against the present moment,” Rushdie tells Treisman. “If you do it wrong, it’s a catastrophe. If you do it right, with luck, you somehow capture a moment.” At the same time, the novel gives full rein to Rushdie’s fantastical streak—at one point, for instance, Quichotte comes across a New Jersey town where people turn into mastodons. Treisman talks with the author about the influence of science fiction on his imagination, and about his personal connection to the tragedy of opioids. Rushdie’s much younger sister died from the consequences of addiction, and the book is centrally concerned with siblings trying to reconnect after separation.
After more than two years of debates and one deadline extension, the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union on October 31st. Last week, with no Brexit deal in sight, Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to suspend Parliament for five weeks leading up to that deadline. The move outraged members of Parliament and spurred a revolt in Johnson’s own party, resulting in legislation that may prohibit him from executing a no-deal Brexit. Johnson has called for a general election, though he no longer has the legislative majority he needs to force a vote. Sam Knight joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the week in Parliament and what it might mean for the future of British democracy.
Marianne Williamson, the self-help author associated with the New Age movement, has never held political office. But the race for the Presidency, she thinks, is less a battle of politics than a battle of souls. In her appearance in the July Democratic debates, she said that President Donald Trump is bringing up a “dark psychic force.” “The worst aspects of human character have been harnessed for political purposes,” she tells David Remnick. Williamson sees herself as a kind of spiritual counter to Trump, reshaping our moral trajectory. And she does have policies, which include repealing the 2017 tax cut and an ambitious plan for slavery reparations, and also tapping some surprising people for her Cabinet. Campaigning on her credentials hasn’t been easy: she’s had to debunk some myths and clarify some statements. She is not an anti-vaxxer, she insists—she apologizes for her earlier remarks on the subject—or a medical skeptic. “I’m Jewish,” she says, “I go to the doctor.” She does not, she says, even have a crystal in her home. “I know this sounds naïve,” she complains, but “I didn’t think the left was so mean. I didn’t think the left lied like this.”
Around the world, the number of measles cases is on the rise. Public health officials in the United States have put some of the blame on "anti-vaxxers," who believe that vaccines have destructive side effects and choose not to vaccinate their children. In some communities, school systems have made vaccinations mandatory, touching off political battles over personal and religious liberty. Nick Paumgarten joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the political lessons of the movement for the wider "war on science."
In 2014, a pair of crimes shocked Israelis and Palestinians. The first was the abduction and murder of three Israeli boys by a Hamas-linked group. Then there was an act of reprisal—the torture, burning, and murder of a Palestinian teen-ager named Mohammed Abu Khdeir—by Israeli right-wing extremists. Even by the standards of this conflict, the killings were shocking.
“Our Boys,” a co-production of HBO and the Israeli Keshet Studios, examines the forces that led to Abu Khdeir’s killing. It is not for the faint of heart, David Remnick says, but the series is as complex and deep a portrayal of the conflict as he has ever seen. Remnick spoke with two of the creators: Hagai Levi, an Israeli Jew, and Tawfiq Abu Wael, a Palestinian living in Israel. Abu Wael tells Remnick why he resisted pressure from activists not to participate in an Israeli production.
Mike Pompeo is the last surviving member of President Trump’s original national-security team. Pompeo entered the Administration as the director of the C.I.A., but, after the sudden end of Rex Tillerson’s tenure as Secretary of State, Pompeo was elevated to the position of America’s top diplomat. All this despite the fact that Pompeo had no diplomatic experience, a résumé that includes exaggerations, and a history of criticizing Trump. Since the 2016 election, though, Pompeo has rebranded himself as a strong advocate for the President, and has come to embrace Trumpism alongside many other former critics in his party. Susan B. Glasser joins Eric Lach to discuss Pompeo’s journey from traditional California Republican to staunch Trump ally, and what it says about larger trends within the Republican Party.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first starring role was in the 2002 movie “Secretary,” a distriburbing romantic comedy about a troubled woman in a sadomasochistic relationship with her boss. Since then, Gyllenhaal has continued to push the boundaries of how sex is depicted onscreen as an executive producer and star of “The Deuce,” HBO’s drama about the beginnings of the porn industry. In a conversation with The New Yorker’s Lauren Collins, Gyllenhaal talks about her character, Candy, who leaves street prostitution to perform in porn and eventually makes her way into directing. Since the show premièred, the #MeToo movement has shed light on how women are asked to compromise themselves, not only in sex work but in entertainment and almost every other walk of life. “Many women have been asked to compromise themselves, and have done it,” Gyllenhaal tells Collins, admitting that she has moments of thinking, “Oh, my God. How did I laugh at that joke or stay in that meeting or put that shirt on?” Gyllenhaal also talks about adapting a novel by Elena Ferrante, who gave her the film rights—on condition that Gyllenhaal direct the adaptation herself.
The third and final season of “The Deuce” begins in September, 2019.
Earlier this month, a gunman killed nine people and injured nearly thirty more in Dayton, Ohio. The shooting in Dayton, the 251st mass shooting in the United States this year, took place only hours before an even deadlier mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. As the city reeled, its mayor, Nan Whaley, was suddenly rocketed into prominence as both a spokesperson for Dayton and a figure in the national conversation about gun violence. Paige Williams, who met with Nan Whaley after the shooting, joins Eric Lach to discuss the role of local officials in times of national tragedy.
Nanfu Wang grew up under China’s one-child policy and never questioned it. “You don’t know that it’s something initiated and implemented by the authority,” she tells The New Yorker’s Jiayang Fan. “It’s a normal part of everything. Just like water exists, or air.” But when Wang became pregnant she started to understand the magnitude of the law—and the suffering that it caused. Wang’s documentary, “One Child Nation,” explores the effects of one of the largest social experiments in history. She uncovers stories of confusion and trauma, in Chinese society at large and within her own family. After Wang’s uncle had a daughter, his family forced him to abandon her at a local market so that he and his wife could try for a son. “He stood there, across the street, watching to see if somebody would come and take the baby,” Wang tells Fan. “He wanted to bring her home, but his mom threatened to commit suicide. . . . He felt so torn. There was no right decision.”
On Sunday, the Indian government of Narendra Modi revoked the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir, the Muslim-majority region on the border between India and Pakistan, and brought it under control of the Indian government. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, condemned the move as another policy decision designed to promote Hindu supremacy in India. Outrage among Muslims in the region may also affect the ongoing peace talks between the United States and the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the capital, Kabul, was the target of a terrorist attack on Wednesday. Dexter Filkins joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the situation in Kashmir and its ramifications around the world.
When Mohamedou Salahi arrived at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, in August of 2002, he was hopeful. He knew why he had been detained: he had crossed paths with Al Qaeda operatives, and his cousin had once called him from Osama bin Laden’s phone. But Salahi was no terrorist—he held no extremist views—and had no information of any plots. He trusted the American system of justice and thought the authorities would realize their mistake before long.
He was wrong.
Salahi spent fifteen years at Guantánamo, where he was subjected to some of the worst excesses of America’s war on terror; Donald Rumsfeld personally signed off on the orders for his torture. And, under torture, Salahi confessed to everything—even though he had done nothing. “If they would have wanted him to confess to being on the grassy knoll for the J.F.K. assassination, I’m sure we could have got him to confess to that, too,” Mark Fallon, who led an investigation unit at Guantánamo, said.
Ben Taub reported Mohamedou Salahi’s story for The New Yorker and tried to understand what had gone wrong in the fight against Al Qaeda. Salahi met Ben in Mauritania, because, when the U.S. released him, it was under the condition that Mauritania would withhold his passport. He would like to go abroad—he needs medical treatment, and he hopes to live in a democracy. But, for an innocent victim of Guantánamo, being released isn’t the same as being free.
In May, the Colorado senator Michael Bennet became the nineteenth Democrat to announce that he was running for the Party’s Presidential nomination. He is among the most experienced and respected candidates: prior to his decade as a Democratic senator from a purple state, he was the chief of staff to the governor, and, before that, the superintendent of Denver Public Schools. He is the kind of moderate many voters say that they’re seeking. Still, Bennet has struggled to make his voice heard when much of the attention is being lavished on the progressives in the race. Senator Bennet joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss why he is running for President, the trials of being a political underdog, and his ideas about how to restore America in an age of broken politics.
Tana French was an actor in her thirties when she sat down to write about a mystery that took the lives of two children, which became the global blockbuster “In the Woods.” With her subsequent books about the Dublin Murder Squad, French became known as “the queen of Irish crime fiction”—despite having been born in the United States. French’s latest book, “The Witch Elm,” departs from her line of police procedurals: the narrator is a civilian, a happy-go-lucky young man named Toby whose life is turned upside down when he is attacked during a burglary. Although the book involves a murder, “The core story arc is not the murder and the solution,” French tells Alexandra Schwartz. “The core story arc is Toby going from this golden boy [with] his happy life to somebody who’s had that shattered. . . . Where will this crisis take him?” Though known as a literary mystery writer, French acknowledges that some of her fans have found the plot frustrating. “If you’re coming to this book expecting a straight-up crime novel . . . you are going to be a hundred pages in [asking], ‘Where’s my murder?’ ”
In June, protests erupted in Hong Kong over a proposed bill that could have allowed the Chinese government to prosecute political dissidents living in Hong Kong. This past Sunday, police in the city fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, and a group of masked men attacked protesters and civilians at a Hong Kong train station. The protests are only the latest expression of increasing tension between Hong Kong, which has been a special administrative region since 1997, and the People’s Republic of China. Jiayang Fan joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss that rancorous relationship, and whether Beijing might order a military crackdown.
Since 1969, when an estimated six hundred million people around the world watched two astronauts walk on the surface of the moon, a significant number of people have doubted that it ever took place. A major line of conspiracy theory insists that the footage was faked (and directed by Stanley Kubrick, some have said) in an elaborate hoax engineered by NASA. In 1976, a book called “We Never Went to the Moon” was self-published by a man named Bill Kaysing, a former technical writer at Rocketdyne who claimed to have seen secret government documents. It attracted little notice, but Kaysing continued to make media appearances and fuel doubters into this century. Andrew Marantz, who has written on conspiracy theories for The New Yorker, notes that the moon landing always had skeptics, but the Internet and social media gave them platforms to advance even their most far-fetched views. Marantz sees links between the moon hoax and political conspiracy theories like QAnon. While skepticism toward government claims may be justified, conspiracy theories that dispute the most basic accounts of truth erode the functioning of a democracy, Marantz thinks; they lead to a totalitarian state where, in the words of Hannah Arendt, “everything was possible and ... nothing was true.”
Military tensions between Iran and the United States have been escalating since the spring, and rose further still this week. Robin Wright joins Dorothy Wickenden to talk about Iran's longstanding eye-for-an-eye strategy, and whether a new diplomatic solution with the U.S. is possible.
It’s hard to recall a newly elected freshman representative to Congress who has made a bigger impact than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her primary victory for New York’s Fourteenth District seat—as a young woman of color beating out a long-established white male incumbent—was big news, and Ocasio-Cortez has been generating headlines almost daily ever since. Practically the day she took her seat in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez became the hero of the left wing of the Democrats and a favored villain of Fox News and the right. She battled Nancy Pelosi to make the Green New Deal a priority, and has been involved with a movement to launch primary challenges against centrist or right-leaning Democrats. Like Bernie Sanders, she embraces the label of democratic socialism and supports free college education for all Americans. She has called for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She joined David Remnick in the New Yorker Radio Hour studio on July 5th, just after her trip to the border to examine migrant-detention facilities. Remnick and Ocasio-Cortez spoke about why she courted controversy by referring to some facilities as “concentration camps”; why she thinks the Department of Homeland Security is irredeemable; and whether Joe Biden is qualified to be President, given his comments about colleagues who supported forms of segregation. “Issues of race and gender are not extra-credit points in being a good Democrat,” she says. “They are a core part of the ... competencies that a President needs. . . . Where are you on understanding the people that live in this country?”
This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11, the NASA mission that first put men on the moon. In the decades since Apollo 11, the American space program has atrophied. No manned American space mission has left low Earth orbit since 1972. But recent developments in the space programs of other nations, along with new interest in space from private industry, have instigated a new interest in an American space program. The Trump Administration has announced plans to build an American military presence in space, as well as its intentions to send another manned mission to the moon. Rivka Galchen joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what’s next in outer space.
For decades, critical praise for a TV show was that it was “not like TV,” but more like a novel or a movie. That ingrained hierarchy always bugged Emily Nussbaum, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her criticism in The New Yorker. She has been compared to Pauline Kael, but Nussbaum—acknowledging the compliment—is quick to point out that she has never written about movies, nor has she wanted to. She was inspired to be a TV critic by “Television Without Pity,” a blog site of passionate, informed fans arguing constantly. In her new book, “I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way through the TV Revolution,” Nussbaum argues that the success of serious antihero dramas like “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” has led many to devalue mainstays of TV, like comedies and even soap operas. It’s time to stop comparing TV to anything else, she tells David Remnick.
Sarah Stillman joins Dorothy Wickenden to talk about how the deterrence policies of Republican and Democratic Presidents have failed, and what the Democratic candidates should be saying about how to deal with asylum seekers.
The New Yorker contributor Jenna Krajeski recently met with a woman who calls herself Esperanza. In her home country, Esperanza was coerced and threatened into prostitution, and later was trafficked into the United States, where she was subjected to appalling conditions. Esperanza eventually obtained legal help, and applied for something called a T visa. The T visa contains unusual provisions that recognize the unique circumstances of human-trafficking victims in seeking legal status. It has also been a crucial tool to obtaining victims’ coöperation in prosecuting traffickers. The Trump Administration claims to want to fight the problem of human trafficking, but Krajeski notes that its policies have done the opposite: T-visa applicants can now be deported if their applications are rejected. This dramatic change in policy sharply reduced the number of applications from victims seeking help. “If what [the Administration] cares about is putting traffickers in prison, which is what they say they care about, their prosecutions are going down and will go down further,” Martina Vandenberg, the president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, says. “Trafficking victims under the circumstances can’t actually coöperate.”
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.”
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 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 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.)
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 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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.’ ”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.