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Dr. Gerald Horne with host Paul Jay discuss the dysfunction in the American state and the divisions over the Trump presidency

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PAUL JAY: Baltimore. And we’re continuing our series of conversations about Trump, the Trump administration, politics in the United States, and the overall dysfunctionality of politics globally. But now, a little update or blow-by-blow on the latest soap opera in Washington, D.C. And joining us again is Dr. Gerald Horne. Dr. Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African-American studies at the University of Houston. Some recent books, “Storming the Heavens: African-Americans and the Early Fight for the Right to Fly,” and “The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in 17th Century North America and the Caribbean.” Thanks for joining us.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.

PAUL JAY: So talk a bit about the latest blow-by-blow and Washington, and then we’ll talk a bit about what we make of it.

GERALD HORNE: Well, I’m sure you know about the fact that the attorney for Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen, Michael Cohen, that the authorities barged into his office, into his home, into a hotel room that he was temporarily staying in, and claimed and confiscated everything. Everything worthy of investigating Mr. Trump, and also investigating Mr. Cohen himself for various kinds of misdeeds. Another lawyer for Mr. Trump has just suggested in the Wall Street Journal that Mr. Trump should be wary of talking to Mr. Cohen, because he might be wearing a wire and might be enticed to flip against Mr. Trump. Obviously the noose around the neck of Mr. Trump is tightening. The authorities are closing in.

I should also mention that the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is doing a parallel investigation of Mr. Trump, along with the federal attorney in the Southern District of New York, as well. In fact, the Cohen investigation is being carried out under the auspices of the federal attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York. New York State may be changing or seeking to change its laws to make sure that if there is a presidential pardon of Mr. Trump’s comrades for a certain set of facts that double jeopardy provisions, that is to say, not trying someone on the same set of facts, will not prevail and that those parties can then be tried in New York State. Supposedly Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, is sending copies of whatever he’s digging up to Eric Schneiderman so that if Mr. Trump manages to fire Mr. Mueller, which has been hinted for some days and weeks now, that that investigation can then go on under the auspices of Eric Schneiderman, who by the way was able to get a $25 million judgment against Mr. Trump’s fallacious fraudulent Trump University.

PAUL JAY: Which makes it easier for him to get people to flip, if they don’t think there’s a pardon waiting for them.

GERALD HORNE: Absolutely. And of course the Trump pardon of Scooter Libby, the former aide to Dick Cheney, the U.S. vice president, was interpreted as sending a signal to Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair to Michael Cohen, and others that if you just hang on, a pardon is on the way. But what New York State is doing may basically thwart that.

Now, this also has larger ramifications. Keep in mind that the mainstream press, the elite press, unlike April 7, 2017 when there was the missile attack in Syria, when they were all gung ho, they seem to be much more skeptical with regard to this April 2018 attack. For example, they oftentimes referred to the ‘alleged’ chemical attack. The term ‘alleged’ was not necessarily used to the same degree in April 2017. I even heard one person on mainstream media refer to this escapade in Syria as ‘Operation Desert Stormy,’ a reference to an attempt by Mr. Trump to divert attention from this other brewing scandal with the adult adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, to divert attention from that by shooting missiles at Iran. Excuse me, at Syria. Freudian slip, I’m afraid. So this is the state of play as we speak.

PAUL JAY: It’s all-out war. This is, I think Mueller and the others, the State’s Attorney in New York, they’re going after Trump with more vigor than they seem to go after the Mafia. And the media, which I think clearly most of it other than Fox is in this kind of liberal camp, as they get accused. Liberal meaning corporate Democrats, not real liberals. The way it used to be thought of who liberals were. And I think the point on Syria is very interesting, that during the first attack, missile attack that Trump waged, all of a sudden Democrats were saying he’s now for the first time being presidential. Well, there’s none of that now, even though it’s very by bipartisan amongst the corporate Dems to go after Assad and go after Iran. They’re not even giving him that. Clearly they want to wound him in a way that’s unprecedented. And there’s lots there, lots of fodder for the wounding.

But, but this dysfunctionality of the American state as a result of all this. Congress can’t pass anything. Paul Ryan doesn’t even want to run again. The White House can barely get anything passed. Their mental bandwidth is on anywhere from ex-Playboy bunnies to other people Trump has slept with, to so on and so on. On one level shouldn’t we welcome all this? I mean, isn’t this dysfunctionality in some way for the people better than a functional Trump-Pence White House?

GERALD HORNE: Well, to a degree I understand where you’re coming from. I mean, certainly one of the alternatives might be more rapaciousness, more looting, more taking money from our wallets. And with the stalemate that’s going on, that does not seem to be in the cards, even though of course if you look at that December 2017 tax bill, which was another grab by the 1 percent, you might take a different point of view to what I just said.

But in any case I do think there is a kind of stalemate in the U.S. ruling elite. That is to say that even looking at the most optimistic predictions and projections, even if the Democrats reclaim the House, which is an open question as we sit here today, it’s unclear whether they will be able to retake the Senate. And with regard to impeachment, that is to say not only indicting the president, which takes place in the House, but removing him from office, which takes place in the Senate, you may be able to get an impeachment resolution passed in the House if the Democrats reclaim the House, and even that’s iffy. But if they don’t reclaim the Senate it’s difficult to see how they can remove him from office. And if they do reclaim the Senate you have candidates like John Tester, the incumbent senator from Montana, and Claire McCaskill, the incumbent senator from Missouri, Democrats both, who are being challenged very strongly by Republican opposition. And even if they prevail they may be not encouraged or enticed to vote in favor of removing Mr. Trump from office because of a fear of a backlash from Trump voters and their particular states.

PAUL JAY: And I would think it’s in their interest not to actually impeach Trump. One, ,to have that whole soap opera but two, you don’t want to face a President Pence in 2020. Seems to me you’d want as dysfunctional as possible Trump in 2020.

GERALD HORNE: Well, I’d take it from another angle. My mind reels back to 1974-1975 with the forcing out of office of Richard Nixon and the bringing into office of his then-vice president future President Gerald Ford. Gerald Ford was so weakened politically that he was basically handcuffed when the Cubans intervened in Angola in the fall of 1975. And in fact, the CIA was rebuked for aligning with the apartheid South African forces by December 1975. So if Mr. Pence does manage to make it to the Oval Office, I daresay that he’ll be so politically weakened that, like 1975, it may open up new vistas for the progressive movement.

I should also say that this split the U.S. Ruling elite needs much more attention. We already know, for example, that historically those in the entertainment industry, not only celebrities but executives like Bob Iger of Disney, have historically been in the Democratic Party camp. In fact, there was just report on the Drudge Report, the right-wing website that Bob Iger was thinking about running for president in 2016, may run for president in 2020. This is representative the fact that these entertainment elites are more or less in the anti-Trump camp. Mr. Iger obviously was upset and said he was upset when Mr. Trump in the summer of June 2017 said he was going to pull out of the Paris climate accord. And that helped to trigger more thinking of Mr. Iger that he should run for the highest office in the land.

At the same time it’s important to note that there are powerful agricultural and agribusiness interests that historically have been aligned with the Republican Party. But now they’re upset with Mr. Trump for various reasons, not least this impending or actual trade war with China which will lead to China limiting exports of U.S. agricultural goods, which is going to hit agribusiness right in the pocketbook and may cause them to have less enthusiasm about the Republicans and Mr. Trump personally.

PAUL JAY: And there’s another kind of shift taking place. I interviewed Rana [Foroohar] from the Financial Times. She was saying prior to the election a large amount of Wall Street preferred Clinton over Trump. They thought Trump was kind of crazy, and they knew Clinton could work with her the same way they had with Obama and Bill Clinton. But they’re changing, many, she says, have really changed their minds and are starting to love Trump. They’re getting every deregulation they ever wanted, they’re getting rid of Dodd-Frank. They’re getting the tax cuts they wanted. They’re getting tax cuts and stimulus, which makes them even more money. They’re getting volatility in the markets which makes them even more money. She was saying, and it’s not just that they like what he’s doing to their bottom line, which is going up and up, but that much of Wall Street actually likes his ideology on the immigration stuff, and the racist stuff, and the xenophobia. That many of these people that are at the very senior levels, they’re with him on this stuff. Whether they believe it or not, I don’t know. She seems to think many of them do. But they see how useful it is for them. So it is very weird. Some of some of the industries that might have been traditionally more Republican may not like the trade policies, but here’s sections of finance that might have previously supported the Democrats are actually just loving the free for all Trump’s giving them.

GERALD HORNE: Well, mentioning finance reminds me of this much-ballyhooed documentary film that has been exhibiting from New York to California. I’m speaking of the China Hustle. One of the producers was Alec Gibney, who is, along with Ken Burns, one of the leading U.S. documentary filmmakers. And the thesis of the film fundamentally is that there are Chinese shell corporations that are looting U.S. investors. And the heroes of this particular documentary, which, by the way, is very well done, are these investors ,on Wall Street and elsewhere in the financial sector in the United States who are shorting, that is to say, betting on the fact that the stock in these Chinese corporations will fall, and then profiting from it handsomely. Now, the only figure I could pluck out of the morass of details was that China’s benefiting, or Chinese investors are benefiting, to the tune of about $15 billion. It’s really chump change, if you think about it.

PAUL JAY: For these guys.

GERALD HORNE: But I found it quite striking that this, in terms of finance capital and looting of U.S. investors, that this was the documentary that was made. The China Hustle. Not the Wall Street Hustle, if you like. And I think that that basically bespeaks this impending, if not actual, finance and trade war that’s erupting between China and the United States, with regard to United States most recently seeking to hamper the ability of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and ZTE to operate here in this country, although they’re operating all over the world, and China retaliating against Qualcomm of San Diego, California, seeking to pursue it in China on antitrust grounds. This is causing China and Russia to come closer together.

And an aspect of this new alignment that we see slowly coming into view is the response to Mr. Trump’s attempt to, as we are told, broker peace on the Korean peninsula. That is not necessarily going down well in Tokyo. Tokyo is already upset by the fact that when Mr. Trump backed down from imposing steel tariffs on U.S. allies he did not remove steel tariffs on Japanese corporations. One of the constants in Mr. Trump’s rhetoric going back decades is Tokyo bashing Japan bashing, despite the fact that Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, was one of the first people to meet with him after he was elected in November 2016, and in past years has become a regular at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s so-called Southern White House. So what this has led to, believe it or not, is one of the most potentially earthshaking, pathbreaking trends in international politics, which is an entente between Tokyo, which is shook up by Mr. Trump, and China.

PAUL JAY: And we’re going to talk about that in another segment of our our series. Thanks for joining us, and thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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Dr. Gerald Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His research has addressed issues of racism in a variety of relations involving labor, politics, civil rights, international relations and war. Dr. Horne has also written extensively about the film industry. His latest book is The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. Dr. Horne received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and his B.A. from Princeton University.