FBI’s Figliuzzi: Chaos or Civil War in 2020?

Strange Days podcast
Strange Days podcast

Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI deputy director for counterintelligence, looks ahead to the 2020 president election and sees chaos coming. The convergence of Trump, COVID, and William Barr, and is dangerous. “Things will get bad before they get better,” he tells Strange Days host Fernand Amandi.

Figliuzzi’s fears echo those of Mark Medish and Joel McCleary‘s warning about the looming crisis of emergency powers. American democracy is in the hands of dangerous men.

All three authors have extensive experience in national security politics and policy. They know what they’re talking about

Give a listen here. And if you want to know more, subscribe to Strange Days here.

“There’s crime being committed,” Figliuzzi says.

Trump Relationship with CIA Sinks to New Low

Gina Haspel CIA director speaks

The Washington Examiner is generally pro-Trump in its coverage but this report from White House correspondent Rob Crilly conveys the dismay widely felt in the intelligence service about the president’s recent actions.

Kevin Carroll, a former CIA case officer, said, “It’s a very troubled relationship. Trump got it off to a terrible start with comments during the transition, comparing the intelligence community to the Nazis, and then his buffoonery in front of the memorial wall the day after he was inaugurated.”

Crilly raises–but does not answer–the question: what does Gina Haspel think about the CIA whistleblower who jump-started impeachment.

Members of the intelligence world now fear the fallout from the president’s violent reaction to the complaint about his phone call with the president of Ukraine. Carroll said members of the intelligence community took such language very personally. “It’s the sort of language that is thrown around on the far-right websites about the swamp, the elites, and the deep state, and now the most dangerous language which has been used now of treason and sabotage and coup d’état,” he said. 

Haspel was unlikely to push back in support of her officer in public, he added. “I don’t know, and I shouldn’t know, and no one else should know what she may have said to him in private, but I would hope that she is sticking up for her officer,” he said.

Source: Trump relationship with CIA sinks to new low after whistleblower allegation

Beto O’Rourke: Trump and Russia Threaten National Security

Beto O'Rourke

On the Campaign Trail:

Beto O'Rourke
Beto O’Rourke (Credit: Creative Commons)

Where He’s Coming From

In his three terms in Congress, Beto O’Rourke staked out positions on issues of war and peace to the left of President Obama. Where other candidates have gone along with the foreign policy consensus in Washington, O’Rourke sometimes broke with it.

While his signature foreign policy issue is immigration, his record suggests he is more anti-interventionist than some other candidates.

In Jacobin magazine, writer Branko Marcetic says O’Rourke “bucked Obama on several important issues, pressuring him to close Guantanamo, supporting legislation to curtail NSA spying, opposing war in Syria and arming the country’s rebels, and demanding Obama get congressional authorization for his continued war on ISIS.”

[Do you like Beto O’Rourke? Tell us why in the comments section. Or DM us @jeffersonmorley. We will publish your comments with minimal editing.]

On Immigration: Laws Should Reflect Our Values

Immigration is O’Rourke’s primary foreign policy issue. He advocates comprehensive immigration reform.

On Russia: Not As Bad As Another War

Defense donations only make up 0.14% of all campaign donations

O’Rourke says Russia interfered in the 2016 election but he does not depict Russia as the dangerous enemy.

Russia has interfered & will continue to try to change outcome of our elections. President Trump: where is the help to safeguard integrity of ballot box? Why have you not imposed Congressionally mandated sanctions against Russia?


On the issue of Russian intervention in Ukraine, he broke with the Washington consensus saying the danger of war was greater than the danger of Russia.

From the San Antonio Express News:

O’Rourke was one of two Democrats in the U.S. House in 2015 to vote in opposition to a bill condemning Russia’s armed intervention in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea.

“It was us becoming a participant in yet another war …
I’m not down with more war for the United States.”

On North Korea: Slow But Steady

Any nuclear negotiations process with North Korea should be judged by its ability to deliver verifiable progress toward eliminating the regime’s nuclear weapons program. By that metric, President Trump’s policy has been a complete failure. In return for providing Kim Jong Un with the propaganda and legitimacy that comes with multiple presidential summits, President Trump has gotten nothing for the United States. North Korea’s nuclear stockpile continues to grow. It continues to fire missiles into the Sea of Japan. Even the delivery of American Korean War veteran remains has come to a stop.
As President, I would be open to a deal that provided partial sanctions relief for a partial rollback of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But for such an agreement to be in America’s interest, North Korea would have to commit to a mutually agreeable definition of denuclearization, vigorous international inspections, and provide a full accounting of its nuclear program. Any sanctions relief would have to have strong “snap back” provisions. In all these efforts, I will place a high value on working with our allies in the region, South Korea and Japan, each of which shares our interest in a peaceful and denuclearized peninsula.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

O’Rourke eschews hawkish rhetoric in favor of articulating a positive goal of negotiations: the denuclearization of Korea and the end to the Korean War.

“Look, this is an incredibly tough, slow, frustrating, deliberate process, but it sure beats the alternative. …. we also need a comprehensive strategy there and we need the administration to be able to articulate that to us and to the American public because it is confusing, it is frustrating, and it’s unclear right now what we have done, whether what we have done is helping to get to our ultimate goal there which is denuclearization of the peninsula, peaceful resolution to the conflict between North Korea in South Korea and preventing using the U.S. military and the service members whose lives will be on the line to try to resolve that.”

Bloomberg Politics

On China and Human Rights:

To address complex global challenges—climate change chief among them—we need smart, principled engagement with China. But we don’t do ourselves, or our relationship with China, any favors by not being forthright about our core values. Chinese oppression of the Uighur minority is a human rights disaster, and the United States should not only be condemning their detention and surveillance, but should be leading an international effort to pressure China to relent. Likewise, the people of Hong Kong should have no doubt about where we, as Americans, stand in their struggle to preserve democracy against increasing efforts by the Chinese government to undermine it. 
These issues are not—and should not be seen as—separate from other strategic interests we pursue in the broader relationship with China. Our values are assets, not liabilities, in the global competitive environment. Indeed, we are more likely to achieve our other objectives with China when China upholds its human rights obligations, including its promises to respect Hong Kong’s independence. 
Navigating the wide range of trade, security, climate, and human rights interests we have with China requires skillful and patient diplomacy, something that is sorely lacking in the current administration. Like all nations, China will act in a way that it believes is consistent with its interests. As President, I will seek to engage China around mutual interests, like climate change, where our countries should be cooperating to build the global green economy.   

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Iran: Nuclear Deal, Not War

O’Rourke puts the issue more starkly than other candidates. The alternative to negotiated agreements with Iran is war.

O’Rourke said he backed the nuclear deal because “without firing a single shot, without sacrificing the life of a single U.S. service member, it was able to stop the country of Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.”

“The alternative to a peacefully negotiated resolution to the threat that Iran poses is war,” O’Rourke said.

Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke differ sharply on key foreign policy issues — San Antonio Express-News

On Israel: No to AIPAC

A two-state solution that realizes the aspirations of the Palestinian people and addresses Israel’s legitimate security concerns is the only way to guarantee peace and the human rights and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians. Our strong relationship with Israel is key to achieving that outcome, and as President, I will support and sustain it. 
Leaders on both sides continue to take steps that make negotiating a two-state solution more difficult, including Netanyahu’s embrace of the far-right in Israel and Abbas’ ineffectual leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Ultimately, peace will require bold and principled leadership from both parties. But the United States also has an indispensable role to play. Far from fulfilling that role, President Trump’s reckless and inflammatory actions have added fuel to the fire. As President, I will leverage the unique position of the United States in the region to cultivate a foundation on which negotiations can take place. That will include holding both sides accountable for unjustified acts of violence, whether it be rocket attacks from Gaza, or disproportionate use of force from Israel. Palestinians and Israelis have the right—and deserve the opportunity—to live lives free from violence and depredation. In my administration, I will prioritize rebuilding the foundation for the best way to achieve that outcome: a two-state solution.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

O’Rourke announced that he would not attend the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March.

On Venezuela:

Venezuela has collapsed. The illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro has plunged the Venezuelan people into a nightmare of chaos and deprivation; more than four million of whom have fled because they cannot survive at home. As President, I will take urgent action to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and work with regional allies to support a lasting solution to Venezuela’s political and economic collapse. 
First, I will reverse the Trump administration’s politicization of humanitarian aid, which has prevented support from reaching Venezuelans who need it most, particularly women and children. By supporting the efforts of neutral humanitarian agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver life-saving food, medicine, and protection, we will ensure that aid reaches the most vulnerable. I will also immediately grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans already in the United States, something President Trump has refused to do.
Second, to foster a democratic transition away from the Maduro regime to Juan Guaido, the legitimate president under the Venezuelan constitution, I will support efforts by opposition and regime officials to negotiate a political settlement, while using targeted measures like asset seizure and supporting criminal indictments to increase pressure on regime officials. To reverse Venezuela’s economic collapse, I will lead an international effort to provide financial assistance to stabilize the post-Maduro Venezuelan economy and enable the Venezuelan people to rebuild their lives. 

Council on Foreign Relations interview

When In These Times asked O’Rourke’s campaign to comment on the Trump administration’s announcement that it would seek to install opposition leader Juan Guaido as president, the email bounced.

On Endless War:

In the Eyes of ‘the Blob’ and the Secret Intelligence Agencies

President O’Rourke might give pause to some policymaking elites, intelligence chiefs, and military leaders. Like Obama, he probably would not confront the national security system, but he also might not defer to it.

Research: Daniel Ortiz

Return to Insider’s Guide to the 2020 Democrats on War and Peace

Amy Klobuchar Supports European Alliances

Amy Klobuchar (Credit - Creative Commons)
Amy Klobuchar announces. (Credit Washington Post.)

On the Campaign Trail:

The “National Security” vertical of Klobuchar’s web site shows that the senior senator from Minnesota does not stray far from the Washington orthodoxy.

While her public statement on issues of war, peace and the secret agencies are not detailed, they indicate Klobuchar is a candidate of continuity, not change.

President Klobuchar would most likely pursue a foreign policy in the Obama tradition: global military intervention, preferably not with U.S. troops.

(Fun fact: Amy Klobuchar’s father Jim, whom she describes “as a newspaper man,” was the best-known sports columnist in the state of Minnesota for decades. She entered politics with name recognition.)

[Do you like Amy Klobuchar? Tell us why in the comments section. Or DM us @jeffersonmorley. We will publish your comments with minimal editing.]

On Venezuela: Supports Trump/Bolton

“I support the people of Venezuela standing up against Maduro, installing a new leader, and restoring democracy in Venezuela,” Klobuchar said in an email.

Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post
Defense donations only make up 0.1% of all campaign donations

This statement doesn’t explicitly address the crucial issue of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Sanctions are an interventionist strategy that seeks to bring down the Maduro government by making life increasingly difficult for the people of Venezuela. The anti-interventionist strategy is to pursue diplomatic solution without seeking to do further harm to the people of Venezuela.

On Hong Kong:

On Russia: Influenced by McCain and Graham

Klobuchar is hawkish on Russia.

… the United States must hold Russia accountable for its attack on the 2016 elections and its continued interference in our democracy.

Ahead of Today’s Election Security Meeting, Klobuchar leads letter Urging National Security Council to hold Russia Accountable, Improve Federal Coordination, and Support States

There is a lot to look at when you have, as I learned on my trip to the Baltics and Ukraine and Georgia with Senator McCain and Graham, Russia’s been doing this for a long, long time. And there is no question, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have told us they attempted to influence our election.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar On Investigating Trump And Russia
Amy Klobuchar
2020 Democratic Party Candidate Amy Klobuchar (Credit: Wikipedia)

Klobuchar’s reliance on two Republican hawks for guidance on Russia is another measure of how conventional her geopolitical views are.

On Israel: AIPAC Speaker

Klobuchar has addressed the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the past, according to AIPAC.

On Iran: Get Tougher

Preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is one of the most important objectives of our national security policy and I strongly advocated for and supported the economic sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table.  While the agreement is by no means perfect, I have concluded that it is our best available option to put the brakes on Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon and that is why I will support it.

Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Statement On Iran Nuclear Agreement

Klobuchar’s opinion of the Trump’s termination of the Iran nuclear deal: the United States should stay in the deal but get tougher with the Islamic Republic.

I also believe we should be negotiating a more comprehensive agreement moving forward that includes Iran’s ballistic missile tests and destabilizing activity that pose a direct threat to Israel, which we can do without withdrawing from the agreement.

Source: Twitter

This is the interventionist view, widely (but not universally) shared in the policymaking Blob: the United States need to coerce Iran.

The anti-interventionist view is: Iran’s military is tiny and weak, vastly inferior to Israel’s. Comprehensive arms control agreements in the Middle East are a good idea but is an illusion to think Iran will be bullied into them.

This is another indication that President Klobuchar would position herself to the right of President Obama, who pursued the nuclear deal and rejected the idea of including other issues as impractical.

On Bush: A Dishonest Administration

Whether it was their categorical (but false) assertions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or their repeated (but unsupported) claims of Iraq’s ties to Al Qaeda, or their frequent (but untrue) assurances that America would go to war only with broad international support, or their constant (but divisive) attempts to “spin” the war by going after those who disagreed with them, the Bush-Cheney administration did not give honest information to the American people. This conduct has not only damaged America’s credibility throughout the world, but also undermined the American people’s confidence in our own government.

Source: 2006 Senate campaign website, www.amyklobuchar.com, “Issues”

On North Korea: the ‘Dictator Next Door’

On Election Security:

In the Eyes of ‘the Blob’ and the Secret Intelligence Agencies:

President Klobuchar would probably be acceptable to policymaking elites, intelligence chiefs, and military leaders disenchanted with Trump. At least she is a politician who works within the system.

Research: Daniel Ortiz

Return to Insider’s Guide to the 2020 Democrats on War and Peace

Divided Democrats Agree: Russia Threatens the 2020 Election

Robert Mueller

The Democratic presidential contenders maybe divided on Medicare for all and decriminalizing border crossing, but they are agree on one thing: Russia is a threat to the integrity of the 2020 election.

Russia not a focus of the televised debate in Detroit on Tuesday, but most of the contenders have spoken on the issue since the July 24 Capitol Hill appearance of former special counsel Robert Mueller. And what they say is fairly consistent.

Warren: ‘Trump welcomed the attack’

Klobuchar: ‘Pass my election security bill’

Sanders: ‘I do not have an affinity for autocrats’

Bennet: ‘Democracy is at risk’

Biden: ‘Push back against Putin,’

Gillibrand: ‘They’re already doing it again’

Moulton: ‘We need a cyber wall’