Juan González

Media Giant Sinclair, Under Fire for Forcing Anchors to Read Trumpian Screed, Is Rapidly Expanding

While Sinclair Broadcast Group is not a household name, it is one of the most powerful TV companies in the nation. It owns 173 local TV stations across the country, including affiliates of all the major networks. And it’s attempting to grow even larger by purchasing Tribune Media—a $3.9 billion deal currently under regulatory review. Sinclair has been widely criticized for its close ties to the White House. But Sinclair is facing new scrutiny after it ordered news anchors at scores of its affiliate stations to recite nearly identical “must-read” commentaries warning of the dangers of “fake news” in language that echoes President Trump’s rhetoric. The commentaries reached millions of viewers last month and drew widespread attention after the website Deadspin published a video over the weekend showing side-by-side comparisons of the broadcasts from 45 Sinclair-owned stations. We speak to Andy Kroll, senior reporter at Mother Jones magazine.

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'The Battle for Paradise': Naomi Klein on Disaster Capitalism & the Fight for Puerto Rico’s Future

Six months since Hurricane Maria battered the island of Puerto Rico, the island is the site of a pitched battle between wealthy investors—particularly from the technology industry—and everyday Puerto Ricans fighting for a place in their island’s future. The Puerto Rican government has pushed for a series of privatization schemes, including privatizing PREPA, one of the largest public power providers in the United States, and increasing the number of privately run charter schools and private school vouchers. For more, we speak with best-selling author and journalist Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” Her latest piece for The Intercept, where she is a senior correspondent, is “The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Ricans and Ultrarich 'Puertopians' Are Locked in a Pitched Struggle over How to Remake the Island.”

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Overthrow: 100 Years of U.S. Meddling and Regime Change, From Iran to Nicaragua to Hawaii to Cuba

As special counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, we take a look back at Washington’s record of meddling in elections across the globe. By one count, the United States has interfered in more than 80 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000. And that doesn’t count U.S.-backed coups and invasions. We speak to former New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer, author of “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.”

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As Student Outrage Builds, Gun Manufacturers Continue Targeting 'Next Generation of Shooters'

In Parkland, Florida, students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday afternoon for the first time inside their school since February 14, when a 19-year-old former student named Nikolas Cruz walked into the school and opened fire with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, killing 17 people. This comes as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill today after a one-week vacation. Congress is facing massive pressure to pass gun control measures amid the rise of an unprecedented youth movement, led by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who survived the mass shooting. President Trump has reiterated his calls to arm teachers with concealed weapons. For more, we speak with The Intercept’s investigative reporter Lee Fang, whose recent piece is entitled “Even as a Student Movement Rises, Gun Manufacturers Are Targeting Young People.”

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Robert Reich: Morality and the Common Good Must Be at Center of Fighting Trump’s Economic Agenda

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump made a promise to the American people: There would be no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Well, the promise has not been kept. Under his new budget, President Trump proposes a massive increase in Pentagon spending while cutting funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Trump’s budget would also slash or completely eliminate core anti-poverty programs that form the heart of the U.S. social safety net, from childhood nutrition to care for the elderly and job training. This comes after President Trump and Republican lawmakers pushed through a $1.5 trillion tax cut that overwhelmingly favors the richest Americans, including President Trump and his own family. We speak to Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. He is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent book, out today, is titled The Common Good.

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As Deadly Flu Sweeps Country, Koch-Backed Group Fights Paid Sick Leave Policies Nationwide

This week marks 25 years since Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which gave employees in the U.S. the right to unpaid time off to care for themselves and family members. A decade later, San Francisco became the first city to approve paid sick leave. Today some 14 million workers in 32 municipalities and nine states have paid sick leave policies. On Thursday, Austin city councilmembers will vote on an ordinance that would make it the first city in the South to require paid sick leave from private employers. But the measure is facing strong opposition from a Koch brothers-backed lobbying group called the National Federation of Independent Business, which is fighting paid sick leave policies across the country. This the same lobbying group that led the opposition to the Affordable Care Act. For more we speak to Gregorio Casar, the Austin city councilmember who introduced the paid sick leave measure. When he first won election in 2014, he was the youngest councilmember in the city’s history. He is the son of Mexican immigrants.

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When Deportation Is a Death Sentence: The Fatal Consequences of U.S. Immigration Policy

As the battle over the DREAMers and DACA heats up in Washington, we look at a stunning new piece in The New Yorker titled “When Deportation is a Death Sentence.” It looks at how an unknown number of men and women As the battle over the DREAMers and DACA heats up in Washington, we look at a stunning new piece in the New Yorker titled “When Deportation Is a Death Sentence.” It looks at how an unknown number of men and women have been killed in their home countries after being deported or turned away by the United States. The article focuses in part on a Mexican-born woman named Laura. Despite living her whole adult life in Texas, she was deported to Mexico after a traffic stop. She warned a U.S. Border Patrol agent, “When I am found dead, it will be on your conscience.” Within a week of her deportation, she was murdered by her ex-husband. We are joined by the award-winning journalist and New Yorker staff writer Sarah Stillman. She is also director of the Global Migration Project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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The Whitewashing and Distortion of Rosa Parks and MLK’s Legacies

In February 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “The Drum Major Instinct" sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, two months before his assassination. On Sunday, 50 years later, the words of his sermon were used to in a Dodge Ram truck advertisement at the Super Bowl. The ad sparked widespread criticism for the obvious distortion of Dr. King’s message. But other revisions to civil rights history are often more subtle. For more, we speak with the author of a new book showing how the legacy of the civil rights movement in the U.S. has been distorted and whitewashed for public consumption. Professor and historian Jeanne Theoharis’s new book is titled “A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History.” She is also the author of the award-winning book “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks."

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Judge Says ICE Detention of Recently Released Immigration Activist Was 'Unnecessarily Cruel'

Last month, Ravi Ragbir was one of several nationally recognized activists to be taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was handcuffed and arrested during his routine check-in on January 11, prompting a mass protest that ended with 18 arrested, including two members of the New York City Council. Ravi was then quickly flown by ICE, in shackles, to the Krome Detention Center in Florida. As he faced imminent deportation to his native Trinidad, public outcry grew. Then ICE informed his lawyers that he would be brought back to detention in the New York City area. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest said Ragbir’s detention was “unnecessarily cruel,” and ordered ICE to free him. But he still faces deportation. For more, we hear from Ravi Ragbir himself, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

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'When They Call You a Terrorist': The Life of Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors

We turn now to a powerful new book, released today [Tuesday], that tells the story of one woman as she fights back against the impacts of social and racial injustice in America on her family. That woman is Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. The book, titled “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir,” is both an account of survival, strength and resilience, and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable. Patrisse’s story follows her childhood in Los Angeles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as her mother worked three jobs, struggling to earn a living wage. And it puts a human face on the way mass incarceration and the war on drugs hurt young black men, including her relatives and friends. Patrisse’s father was a victim of the drug war. He died at the age of 50. Her brother spent years in prison for nonviolent crimes stemming from his battles against mental illness. He was once even charged with terrorism after being involved in a car accident. The police would target Patrisse, too—raiding her house without just cause. In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Patrisse co-founded Black Lives Matter along with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. The movement began online but soon spread across the country. We speak to Patrisse and her co-author, asha bandele. asha is author of five books, including the best-seller “The Prisoner’s Wife.” She is a senior director at the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Remembering Black Lives Matter Activist Erica Garner's Unwavering Push for Justice After Her Father Died in NYPD Chokehold

We remember Black Lives Matter activist Erica Garner, who died Saturday after she fell into a coma following an asthma-induced heart attack. She was just 27 years old. Erica helped lead the struggle for justice for her father, Eric Garner, who was killed when police officers in Staten Island wrestled him to the ground, pinned him down and applied a fatal chokehold in 2014. His final words were “I can’t breathe,” which he repeated 11 times. In August, Erica gave birth to her second child, a boy named after her late father. Doctors say the pregnancy strained her heart. We feature Erica in her own words on Democracy Now!, and we speak with two people who were close to her: The Intercept’s Shaun King and The Root’s Kirsten West Savali, whose piece is headlined “Erica Garner: ’I’m in This Fight Forever.’”

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Glenn Greenwald: Is Facebook Operating as an Arm of the Israeli State by Removing Palestinian Posts?

Facebook is being accused of censoring Palestinian activists who protest the Israeli occupation. This comes as Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked reportedly said in December that Tel Aviv had submitted 158 requests to Facebook over the previous four months asking it to remove content it deemed “incitement,” and said Facebook had granted 95 percent of the requests. We speak with Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald about his new report for The Intercept headlined “Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments.”

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Trials Begin for 200 Anti-Trump Protesters and Journalists Who Were Arrested en Masse

The first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Trump’s inauguration is underway and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist and videographer based in San Antonio. The defendants were charged under the Federal Riot Statute and face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including inciting or urging to riot, conspiracy to riot and multiple counts of destruction of property. We get an update from Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee Chair for the National Lawyers Guild, and speak with defendant Elizabeth Lagesse, who is also a plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit which charges D.C. police mistreated detainees after their arrests at the inauguration.

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How Gutting Net Neutrality Poses a Direct Threat to Political Organizing

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai issued a major order Tuesday in which he outlined his plan to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet. Pai wants to repeal net neutrality rules that bar internet service providers from stopping or slowing down the delivery of websites and stop companies from charging extra fees for high-quality streaming. A formal vote on the plan is set for December 14th. We speak with Tim Karr, Senior Director of Strategy for Free Press, which is organizing support to keep the rules in place ahead of the vote.

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How Domestic Violence and Militarism 'Open the Floodgates' to Mass Shootings Like the Texas Massacre

The 26-year-old white man named Devin Patrick Kelley who allegedly killed 26 people Sunday as they attended church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, had a history of domestic violence. He was court-martialed on charges he repeatedly hit his wife and attacked his stepson. But after he was kicked out of the Air Force with a bad conduct discharge, officials failed to report his crimes to a federal database, so Kelley had no problem buying the gun he used Sunday. We look at the link between mass shootings and domestic violence with Soraya Chemaly, director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, and with Mariame Kaba, an organizer and educator who works on anti-domestic violence programs.

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What American Gun Control Advocates Can Learn From Australia

In the aftermath of the deadly shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock that left 59 people dead and 527 others wounded, we look at calls for gun control and how Australia worked to change its culture of gun violence after a massacre 20 years ago—and won. In April of 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 and wounding 23 others. Within 12 days of the attack, Australia’s conservative government announced a bipartisan deal to enact gun control measures. There has not been another mass shooting in Australia since. We speak with Rebecca Peters, who led the campaign to reform Australia’s gun laws after the Port Arthur massacre and is now an international arms control advocate and part of the International Network on Small Arms.

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Naomi Klein: Climate Movement Is Growing Even More Ambitious as U.S. Goes Rogue and Exits Paris Accord (Video)

The United States has refused to sign on to a G7 pledge saying the 2015 landmark Paris climate accord is "irreversible."

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Hear Hillary Clinton Defend Her Role in Honduras Coup When Questioned by Juan González

With the New York primary less than a week away, the race for the Democratic nomination continues to heat up. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will meet Thursday in Brooklyn for their first debate in over a month. We begin today’s show looking at Hillary Clinton and Honduras. Earlier this week, the former secretary of state publicly defended her role in the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. Since the coup, Honduras has become one of the most violent places in the world. Clinton was asked about Honduras during a meeting with the New York Daily News editorial board on Saturday. The question was posed by Democracy Now!’s own Juan González.

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Matt Taibbi and Bank Whistleblower on How JPMorgan Chase Helped Wreck the Economy and Avoid Prosecution

The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! segment. 

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN:Not only will Chase have to pay the largest settlement ever levied against a financial institution, but it has admitted in our statement of facts that its own employees, employees of Bear Stearns and employees of Washington Mutual made material misrepresentations to the investing public about a large number of residential mortgage-backed securities that they issued prior to the crash in 2008. This settlement is a major victory in the fight to hold accountable those who were responsible for that crash.

AMY GOODMAN: Soon after the JPMorgan Chase deal was reached, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder discussed the bank’s misdeeds during an interview with NBC News’ Pete Williams.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: It packaged loans that it knew did not pass its own stated due diligence test. We have a whistleblower who indicated that she expressed concerns about what the strength of these mortgage-backed securities were, and they put them out there to the market and said that they were perfectly fine, when in fact they were not.

PETE WILLIAMS: So, to be clear, you’re saying that JPMorgan’s conduct here contributed to the housing collapse?

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Not only the conduct of JPMorgan, it was the conduct of other banks doing similar kinds of things that led directly to the collapse of our economy in 2008 and in 2009.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: During that interview, Attorney General Eric Holder mentioned the role of an unnamed whistleblower from JPMorgan Chase who aided the Justice Department’s case against the bank. Well, until this week, that whistleblower, Alayne Fleischmann, a securities lawyer who worked for JPMorgan, had never spoken publicly about what she witnessed inside the bank. That changed yesterday when Rolling Stone magazine published a major new piece by Matt Taibbi headlined "The $9 Billion Witness: Meet the woman JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking."

AMY GOODMAN: In the article, Alayne Fleischmann criticizes not only JPMorgan’s banking practices, but how government regulators at the Holder Justice Department responded to the bank’s lawbreaking. Today, in her first televised interview, Alayne Fleischmann joins us here on Democracy Now!, along with Matt Taibbi, who has closely covered the financial crisis for years. His latest book, Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, has just come out in paperback.

And we welcome you both to Democracy Now! for the hour.

MATT TAIBBI: Thanks for having us on.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Alayne Fleischmann, start at the beginning. Why did you decide to come forward? And how did you end up at Chase?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Sure. For a long time, I was expecting it to come out. I’ve been talking to the government for two-and-a-half years now. And first it went through the SEC. Then it went through the Civil Division of the DOJ. And at some stage after watching all of these major banks have deals that actually the facts get wiped away, I started to feel that if I don’t come forward, there’s a real chance of that happening here, too.

In terms of JPMorgan Chase, I started there in March 2006 at sort of the height of the boom. When I started, everything seemed normal. I didn’t really realize some of the things that were happening in the background. And then things started to change in about May, a couple months after I had been there.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: Well, what—when you went to work there, what specifically was your job? And if you could walk us through how you began to realize the huge problem that the bank was a part of?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Sure. I started as what they call a deal manager. Basically, we coordinate between all these different groups when we’re bringing in these loans, that are then going to be sold to investors. I first noticed that there was a problem when they brought in a new person to do our diligence, which is just the review of the loans themselves to make sure they’re of good quality. As soon as he came in, we suddenly—this wall sort of came down between myself and the group that was doing this review, and you couldn’t get information that you would normally get. On top of that, there was immediately a sort of a no-email policy. He wouldn’t send emails, and we weren’t allowed to send him emails. He would actually come out and yell at you if you sent him an email.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the reason?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: It was never given, which was extremely worrisome, because normally the reason why you have a compliance and diligence department is to actually have written policies about what you’re doing, to be able to explain to people how you’re making your decisions. So it’s exactly the opposite of what you would normally expect.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: And when you say to review the quality of the loans, if you could—

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Sure, yes.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: —for people who are not aware—you were, in essence, certifying that these individual loans could be packaged into a group of securities to then be sold to investors in a huge package, right? But you had to go through every individual loan? Was that—

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Yeah, that’s pretty much what happens. It’s really that you’re taking the actual loan files, that was done between the lender and the borrower, and looking at them to make sure everything looks right. Does this person have enough money to pay off their loan? Do they have the sort of history where we think that they’re going to pay this loan? And if we find that they don’t, then we’re actually not supposed to purchase the loans, and certainly shouldn’t be selling them to other investors without at least telling them there’s something wrong with them.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what was the smoking gun for you?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Everything about—what really started happening—in particular, it became apparent in October—was that sometimes we had deals coming in where even though I wasn’t even the person looking at the loans, you could tell from where I was that something was wrong with them. The GreenPoint deal, which is what Matt talks about in his article, even when the loans came in, they were very, very old, which usually you try to actually pull these loans and sell them within two to three months—these loans were going back to close to the beginning of the year. If you work in the industry, you know immediately what that means, is either they couldn’t sell them, because the buyers were telling them they weren’t any good, or, even worse, they’d been sold and then had missed a bunch of payments, so they had actually been sold back to the originator. Any of those loans you wouldn’t normally sell to investors as regular loans.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: Now, Matt, you’ve referred in your article to these loans as basically selling old, beat-up used cars—

MATT TAIBBI: Right.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: —as if they were new. Could you explain that?

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, that’s exactly what Alayne is talking about. Essentially, what the bank was doing was they—you know, there are companies out there, these mortgage lenders, like a company that might be familiar to people is, like, Countrywide—in this case, it was an originator called GreenPoint—they would go out into neighborhoods, and during this boom period, they were giving mortgages to anybody and everybody with a pulse, essentially. They were especially low-income neighborhoods. They were offering these very advantageous loans to people, whether they could afford the houses or not. They were buying huge masses of these loans. And then they were—

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: They were called like "liar’s loans," or stated income where no one even checked whether the person had the income to actually pay it off.

MATT TAIBBI: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. That was the verbiage, "liar’s loans." The FBI warned that there was going to be an epidemic of these liar’s loans way back in 2004. The industry ignored these warnings. The government ignored these warnings. And there was this huge influx of these stated income loans, where people could just say that they made an enormous amount of money, and nobody would check.

So the bank buys all these loans, and then what they were doing is essentially throwing them into big pools, making hamburger out of them, and then selling that hamburger to pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds, all kinds of investors. Typically ordinary people were the people on the other end buying this stuff. They were investing in these securities, and often they didn’t even know it.

What Alayne was involved with was making sure that these loans were of good quality, so that pension funds, when they bought these securities, weren’t buying something that was going to blow up on them a year later. And what she found was that they were buying loans that were of very dubious quality, that were extremely risky, and that should not have been made into that hamburger.

***

AMY GOODMAN:  Last November, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared on NBC News just after the JPMorgan Chase settlement was reached. He was questioned by NBC’s Pete Williams.

PETE WILLIAMS: What about those who say, "Well, the message here is, if you do wrong, you just pay for it and move along"?

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: This was not simply something that JPMorgan simply signed a check and smilingly said, "This is a good deal for us." This inflicts pain on that institution.

PETE WILLIAMS: But is this, in essence, a sort of template? We can expect to see other settlements now?

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I certainly think that the way in which this case has been settled is a template of what we can expect, both in terms of getting maximum amounts of money and then using that money so that we get it to people who suffer the greatest amount—that is, either investors or homeowners.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Attorney General Eric Holder. Alayne Fleischmann, let’s take it back a step. When you started to alert your colleagues and your supervisors at JPMorgan Chase, what did they say?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Well, what happened was the transaction, at one point, just stopped. It turned out that 40 percent of the loans in this deal had problems with them. When we tried raising this issue with our superiors, what actually happened is they just started yelling at the diligence managers who were clearing the loans, sort of yelling, berating them, making them do reports over and over again. And it became clear that, although they wouldn’t say it, it was going to be like that until they would clear the loans. So what actually happened is these loans started being cleared, but basically just by sort of the brute force of what was going on there.

I raised it first with a managing director and an executive director, and couldn’t get any response. After that, I decided the best possibility would be to write a letter to another managing director that actually laid out everything I was seeing. I used the GreenPoint deal as an example, which is why the letter specifically says exactly who was doing what all over this deal. But it also lays out general problems in our diligence that the salespeople were being involved, which isn’t normal, and that there seemed to be a lot of pressure on diligence managers to clear loans that shouldn’t have been purchased or sold.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: And the importance of putting it down in a—

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: —putting all the facts down in a letter, what that meant inside the company?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Yeah. Well, what it used to be is that the way that you could stop these things from happening was, if you write a memo that lays out what’s happening, the management won’t go forward, because they realize that if they do, there’s going to be this evidence of what happened.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: There’s going to be a paper trail of the—mm-hmm.

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Yeah. The big worry with these settlements and the way they’re being done—and I’m not the only whistleblower in these cases—is that you have these emails and these memos, but nothing happens. A fine gets paid, and then all of the facts and who did what gets washed away. So, as a whistleblower, you’re thinking, "I did all of this, and the DOJ has all of this, but for some reason they’re not going forward on it."

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened when you went outside the company? How did you go outside?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Well, one issue I had is that although I warned not to securitize the loans, there was no way—I was blocked off, especially after I had raised complaints, from being able to see any of the data or the diligence process, which right there shows that something was wrong. So, after I left JPMorgan, I actually had no idea, for a full four years, that the loans had been securitized. On one hand, I was worried they would, but I really thought no one would ever actually securitize those loans.

MATT TAIBBI: This is an important distinction—

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Yeah.

MATT TAIBBI: —because Alayne had no idea that a crime had been committed until she had concrete knowledge that the loans had actually been resold to somebody else. They’re certainly allowed to buy as many bad loans and as many risky mortgages as they want. It’s not until they go to some investor and represent to them that these are, you know, AAA-rated securities or whatever, or highly rated securities, that they’re actually committing fraud. And so, she had no way of knowing that. Even after she was laid off from the company, she had no knowledge of what actually happened. So she couldn’t actually report the crime yet, because she only saw one half of the deal.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: And you were laid off in—at the beginning of 2008, right?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Eight, yeah.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: Yeah, actually before the crash. Already there was turmoil—

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: —in the home loan market, but there was not—the crash had not happened.

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Right.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: And so that the bank, when Jamie Dimon and other leaders later said that they had no realization that the market was tanking as fast as it could, at least your memos were certainly indicating to them that there were major problems in their portfolios.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, what’s funny is they actually said two completely opposite things. There was an article in Fortune magazine later in 2008 in which they report that Jamie Dimon, the CEO of the company, knew as early as October of 2006 that the industry was rife with underwriting problems, all the things that Alayne is talking about. The company was aware of this, and there are quotes in which the CEO is telling his subordinates, "We’ve got to get out of these investments, because this whole thing can go up in smoke." And then, meanwhile, so Chase is selling its own investments in these kinds of mortgages, but they’re taking these same mortgages and selling them to investors and not telling them that they have these concerns. Later, when they testify in front of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2010, Dimon said exactly the opposite. He said, essentially, "Well, we had no idea that these things were happening. We got caught up in the fact that housing prices were just going continually upward."

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the settlement. What happened next?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, so, the settlement happened in—I guess, a year ago about this month. And what’s interesting about it is, Alayne, by that point, had already talked to civil investigators in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, and she talked to some very talented lawyers there who seemed very anxious to press this case. And they were about to release a very detailed civil complaint against Chase in September of last year, and just hours before that press conference, when they were going to announce that, reportedly, Jamie Dimon, again, the CEO of Chase, called up the assistant attorney general, asked to renegotiate, and they canceled the press conference, and they went back into negotiations. And a few months later, they had a settlement in which they paid a lot of money, but none of the facts came out in that.

AMY GOODMAN: Just like if you were in trouble, you could make that call.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, I could call up—yeah, I could call up the mayor or the president and have a court case go away. I mean, that’s exactly what happened in this case, is they basically put in a phone call to the very top of the criminal justice system.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: And what happened to your contacts with the Justice Department, if you could talk about that, that process? How detailed did they want to get into the information that you had?

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Well, my first contact, it was actually after four years. I was working in Calgary, and I got a call from the SEC.

AMY GOODMAN: Because you come from Canada.

ALAYNE FLEISCHMANN: Yeah. He introduced himself as an investigator from the Enforcement Division. And as I sort of paused for a minute, jokingly, he then said, "You weren’t expecting to hear from me, were you?" And after that, they set up my first interview with the SEC, which was very short. It was only maybe an hour, hour and a half. They were only interested in one deal. And even though I kept bringing up GreenPoint and they had the letter that I had written, they weren’t actually interested in that. And the SEC settlement was based on that other deal.

And then, it wasn’t until later, about December 2012, that I first met with the DOJ investigators. And it was very clear that this was going to be very different. As soon as they walked in, you could tell they knew these securities up and down, and they were really anxious to go forward with it and felt very comfortable going forward with the case. So, in that meeting, it was a very detailed meeting, sort of hours of going through how the process works and what happened. And then I had an actual deposition in about May of 2013, where they nailed down a lot more of that.

And you could see at that stage—first, I got to find out for the first time ever how many of these loans had actually gone into—had been sold to investors in sort of one pool, and it was hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of them, with nothing actually disclosed about the problems with the loan. And then, second, I got to really see what their case was, and they clearly realized they had an incredible case there.

AMY GOODMAN: Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder suggested some banks are "too big to jail."

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large. Again, I’m not talking about HSBC; this is just a more general comment. I think it has an inhibiting influence—impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Taibbi, respond to what Attorney General Eric Holder has testified.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, again, I mean, it’s a crazy thing when the leading law enforcement official in the nation comes out and says, "Well, some companies are just so big that we can’t prosecute them no matter what they do." In that case, he was speaking—he was testifying in the wake of a settlement the government had entered into with HSBC, which is the biggest bank in Europe and the biggest bank in Great Britain, which had admitted to laundering over $800 million for a pair of Central and South American drug cartels. And if you can’t send someone to jail for laundering $800 million of drug money, you know, because the company is too big, clearly something is very seriously wrong. But yet, this became sort of the unofficial official policy of the Justice Department. And this greatly affected the way they dealt with companies like JPMorgan Chase, like Citigroup, like Bank of America. They tried to find a way to effect some kind of resolution that didn’t involve criminal charges, didn’t involve penalties to individuals, and also didn’t put the facts of any of what they had actually done out into the public.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: And in that vein, this is—you know, it’s the old Monopoly board game all over again, get out of jail free. Instead of paying $200 to get out of jail, you pay $2 billion to get out of jail. But the amounts of money that these governments are getting as a result of this—I mean, I just checked with the New York state comptroller. New York state alone, this year, is getting out of its bank settlements with Wall Street a windfall of $5 billion. That’s just New York state. Other states are getting their share, and of course the federal government is getting huge infusions. And so, they suddenly have all this cash. And then they also had this other stuff that you’ve talked about, which is consumer relief—

MATT TAIBBI: Right.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: —apportions. So, the governments actually get cash settlements, but then they supposedly negotiate additional money for the citizens, a consumer relief. Could you talk about that?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, OK, there’s a couple of things here. First of all, these settlements, they always come up with a big number, but the number is always actually—when you actually look at the accounting, it turns out to be smaller than they announce. In the case of the Chase settlement, the number they announced was $13 billion. But there’s a couple of really important factors here. One is that $7 billion of that—it’s $7 billion, right?—was tax-deductible, which means that all of us, American citizens, anybody who pays taxes, actually picked up the check for about $2.4 billion worth of the settlement. So we paid part of that settlement, which is crazy. I mean, the ordinary person, if we get a speeding ticket, we can’t deduct that when we go to pay our taxes. But these people cratered the world economy, and they get to write a tax deduction for it.

Four billion dollars of the settlement was what they call consumer relief. And what this really boils down to, I mean, there’s some loan forgiveness, where they’re allowing people to pay less principal towards their home loans, but mostly it comes down to letting people have a little extra time to pay off their payments. And it’s not always the bank that is actually doing that; it’s often the investors in those loans who are actually giving the relief. So, it’s not really the bank paying $4 billion. It’s just a number.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to President Obama speaking in September, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he would resign.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: He’s helped safeguard our markets from manipulation and consumers from financial fraud. Since 2009, the Justice Department has brought more than 60 cases against financial institutions and won some of the largest settlements in history for practices related to the financial crisis, recovering $85 billion, much of it returned to ordinary Americans who were badly hurt.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Taibbi, your response?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I mean, the first thing I would say is, OK, they brought a bunch of settlements and they collected a bunch of money, but there isn’t a single individual, in this entire tableau, who is actually individually paying any kind of penalty for any of these misdeeds. All of that money came out of the pockets of shareholders. No executives had to pay a fine. No executives had to do a single day in jail. There were not even charges filed against any individuals. And—

AMY GOODMAN: What was the actual crime you feel Jamie Dimon committed that you feel he should be in jail for?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I can’t stand here and tell you that Jamie Dimon committed a crime. But certainly there are people in these companies, and in cases like Alayne’s case, who would be targets of criminal fraud prosecutions, and probably at a lower level than Jamie Dimon. I think it would be hard to prove, although who knows? Because they didn’t try. In a normal drug case, what you would do is you would take everybody who was guilty, and you would try to roll them up the chain and see how far you could go. And that’s exactly what they did not do in this case. They didn’t aggressively go after everybody. They didn’t follow every lead. Instead, they just sort of went into a back room, decided on a number and made the whole thing go away. And yes, that is a kind of justice, it’s a kind of resolution, but I think it’s insufficient.

JUAN GONZÃ�LEZ: In fact, as you note in your article, after the settlement agreement with JPMorgan Chase, the stock of the company went up dramatically, the stock price of the company went up dramatically, and Jamie Dimon ended up getting a huge raise from his board of directors.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, yeah, in the first weeks after the settlement was announced, the market capitalization of JPMorgan Chase went up 6 percent, which translated into about $12 billion worth of value. So that’s most of your settlement right there. Actually, it’s more than almost—more than the entire settlement, if you look at it as a $9 billion settlement. And yes, Jamie Dimon, just a few weeks after being dinged for the largest regulatory fine in the history of capitalism, got a 74 percent raise by the board of—by the Chase board.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re going to break. When we come back, we’ll hear Senator Elizabeth Warren asking questions of Jamie Dimon about that raise. Stay with us.

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More Than 400 Arrested as Growing Fast-Food Workers’ Movement Strikes for Living Wage, Unionization

Fast-food workers fighting for a $15 hourly wage and union rights took to the streets in 150 cities across the country Thursday. More than 400 workers and their supporters were arrested during the strikes as they engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience by blocking streets during rush hour. To discuss this growing labor movement, we are joined by two guests: Ashona Osborne, a fast-food worker at Wendy’s who was arrested Thursday during the fast-food worker strikes, and before that in May during protests at the McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting; and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents two million workers in healthcare, public and property services and has been a major backer of the fast-food worker strikes.

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Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas on His New Work "Documented: A Film by an Undocumented American"

As comprehensive immigration reform has languished in Congress, undocumented immigrants have increasingly come forward to share their stories in order to call attention to the need for a change in federal laws. One of the leading voices has been Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. In 2011, he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in The New York Times Magazine. He chronicles his experience in the new film, "Documented: A Film by an Undocumented American."

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Internet For the 1 Percent: New FCC Rules Strike Down Net Neutrality, Opening Fast Lanes for Fees

Federal regulators have unveiled new rules that would effectively abandon net neutrality, the concept of a free and open Internet. The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission would allow Internet providers like Verizon or Comcast to charge media companies like Netflix or Amazon extra fees in order to receive preferential treatment, such as faster speeds for their content. If the new rules are voted on next month, the FCC will begin accepting public comments and issue final regulations by the end of summer. “What we’re really seeing here is the transformation of the Internet where the 1 percent get the fast lanes, and the 99 percent get the slow lanes,” says Michael Copps, retired FCC Commissioner. “If we let that happen, we have really undercut the potential of this transformative technology. This has to be stopped.” We are also joined by Astra Taylor, author of the new book, “The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

Juan González: Federal regulators have unveiled new rules that would effectively abandon net neutrality, the concept of a free and open Internet. The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission would allow Internet providers like Verizon or Comcast to charge media companies like Netflix or Amazon extra fees in order to receive preferential treatment, such as faster speeds for their content. Under the FCC’s proposal, broadband providers would have to disclose the terms they offer for the more rapid lanes and would be required to act in what it called a, quote, "commercially reasonable manner."

 Amy Goodman: Media reform groups like Free Press denounced the new rules, saying, quote, "Giving the green light to pay-for-priority schemes will be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls. These users will all be pushed onto the Internet dirt road, while deep pocketed Internet companies enjoy the benefits of the newly created fast lanes," Free Press said. In fact, this statement echoes what then-Senator Barack Obama said about net neutrality in 2007, when it was a key part of his campaign platform in the 2008 presidential election.

Sen. Barack Obama: I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality, because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out, and we all lose. The Internet is perhaps the most open network in history, and we have to keep it that way.

AG: That was November 2007.

Well, if the FCC approves the draft rules on net neutrality next month, it will then accept public comments and issue final regulations by the end of the summer.

For more, we’re joined in Washington, D.C., by the longest-serving member of the Federal Communications Commission, Michael Copps. He retired in 2012. He’s now advising the Media and Democracy Reform program. And here in New York, Astra Taylor is with us, author of the new book “The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age.”

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Juan, you also wrote your column in the New York Daily News, headlined "FCC Flip-Flop Could Turn the Internet into the Superhighway of the Rich."

JG: Yes, and actually, I called it maybe the Bo Jackson Turnpike, because when President Obama nominated the current FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, to take over the FCC, he referred to him as the "Bo Jackson of telecom," by referring to — Bo Jackson was an athlete who was an all-star in both football and baseball and was an all-star in both of those sports. And Wheeler is the only person ever inducted into both the cable industry hall of fame and the telecom hall of fame, because he was a lobbyist for both of those industries before he became the FCC chairman. And so it’s under Wheeler now, apparently, that the FCC is moving in this direction to create this superhighway for those who can pay on the Internet.

AG: Well, Michael Copps, you’re the longest-serving member in the FCC. You retired in 2012. Why do you see this ruling as a threat to equality on the Internet?

Michael Copps: Well, this is all about making sure that the Internet, which is the most transformative communications technology in all of history, really serves the people and consumers, and we are playing very fast and very loose with it right now and turning it into the playground of the few and turning it over to big companies, consolidated companies, that are able to exact tolls for content producers and their friends and the people who can afford to pay for those fast lanes. So, you know, they may say NBC News, with all of glitzy infotainment, or the other networks, the newsless news over here, they get the fast lanes; Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!, well, they can get the slow lanes over there. What you’re really seeing here is kind of a transformation of the Internet where 1 percent get the fast lanes and the 99 percent get the slow lanes. That’s not what the potential and the promise of the Internet was. This was to be our town square of democracy. This was to be our opportunity-creating technology to open doors to a more profitable future. And to shackle it now and to not have clear rules of the road going ahead to make sure that we all have access and that we’re not being ripped off and that these companies aren’t just managing scarcity for their own benefit, if we let that happen, we have really undercut the potential of this transformative technology. This has to be stopped.

JG: Well, Commissioner Copps, it’s amazing that this is occurring under President Obama, who himself admits that the Internet played a great role in his being able to cobble together the coalition that brought him to power in the White House, and who insisted that he would defend net neutrality.

MC: Yeah.

JG: Here’s Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler responding to concerns about the proposed rules and saying that "There is no 'turnaround in policy.' The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original Open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted." That’s what Wheeler said. And he later wrote on a blog post titled "Setting the Record Straight" about the proposed changes, "That," quote, "all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network;" and "That no legal content may be blocked; and That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity." That’s what Wheeler says. What’s your perspective on this?

MC: They’re going about this in entirely the wrong way, and the courts have even told them that. The FCC a couple of years ago passed some rather pallid network neutrality rules. I didn’t think they really got the job done, but the big companies took them to court anyhow. Right now — and the court threw them out, so we have no rules right this minute. Anybody can block content, slow down, speed up, favor who they want to favor and all the rest. The only way to get around that is to impose that part of the law that recognizes broadband as a telecommunications service. The court literally told the FCC, if you want to do this open Internet and Internet freedom, you should have classified broadband this way in the first place. But back in the early part of the century, under Chairman Powell and Chairman Martin, the commission got this silly idea, the majority, that they would call broadband something else, put it in another part of the law where there was no authority, and that’s where Chairman Genachowski resided, the rules that got thrown out, and that’s where Tom Wheeler right now is putting — pinning his hopes for network neutrality. And it’s not going to work, because the authority is not there.

AG: Financial analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities told CNBC why Internet service providers want to charge extra fees from content distributors like Netflix.

Michael Pachter: I’m certain that every Internet service provider ultimately is going to charge, because they can. I think that the ISPs view their proprietary networks the way that, you know, crude pipelines view their transportation as a valuable asset. It’s capital-intensive, and I think that they believe that they should be able to charge people to put stuff through their pipelines.

AG: That was Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities. Astra Taylor, author of “The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age,” respond.

Astra Taylor: Well, I think, first off, every time we refer to Wheeler, we should call him "former cable lobbyist Tom Wheeler" instead of dignifying him just by calling him the commissioner. Yeah, there is a sense that this is inevitable. I mean, I’ve seen in The Wall Street Journal, it’s "people are willing to pay; that’s the model we’re going to have." But we need to understand, you know, what’s driving this. This is not something that’s happening because consumers are demanding a faster lane on the Internet, because if you have a faster lane, you’re slowing down everything else. Cable companies, they make 95 percent profits on broadband already. They’re lobbying for these changes. Comcast’s lobbying budget went up from half a million to $20 million in 2011, so in the span of 10 years. And this is not something that is inevitable or necessarily going to benefit anyone except the incumbent players. So I think we’re — I think that we also need to think about how we describe this. "Net neutrality" is kind of such a dull term. I’ve seen many of my friends commenting online: "I’m trying to care about this issue." You know —

AG: Right. What exactly does it mean, "network neutrality"?

AT: It basically means that all data, all bits, should be treated equally. So, we had common carriage obligations for the telephone lines, where telephone land lines could not discriminate. They couldn’t deny anyone service. They had to serve all. But when broadband was reclassified, like Michael Copps just described, in 2005, ISPs went from being a telecommunications service to an information provider, and then they were — they don’t have the same common carriage obligations. So we need to reclassify and go back and acknowledge that in fact these are telecommunications services. So — but I feel like there’s something in the way we’re framing this, that we need to find a new term to talk about what it is they’re trying to do to the net. And some people have said a "payola Internet," "broadband discrimination," but something to get people to see what this change means and to care about it a bit more.

JG: Well, Commissioner Copps, as Astra was saying, that there are some people saying this is a done deal already. But you recall those phrases being used more than 10 years ago, when there was an attempt to consolidate media ownership.

MC: Yeah.

JG: And everyone was saying that was a done deal, too.

MC: Right.

JG: But then you went out into the heartland of America and began holding hearings that changed, really, the nature of the discussion. Do you think it’s time for something like that again?

MC: It is imperative. This is a real inflection point for the future of the Internet. The decisions that are going to be made by the FCC this year with regard to Internet freedom and with regard to further consolidation, like this ridiculous Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, are going to determine, almost, the future of the Internet for a generation. So, the future is now for the Internet.

And you are absolutely correct: The only way we’re going to put a stop to going down this road is citizen action. That happened in 2003 when Chairman Powell was trying to change the media ownership caps at the commission so that fewer and fewer behemoths could own more and more, gobble up more and more independent stations around the country. And there was a grassroots movement at that time, led by Free Press and Common Cause and others, concerned senators and congressmen. And I went out, and Commissioner Adelstein went out around the country. Three million people, thereupon, wrote to the Federal Communications Commission and Congress saying, "We don’t like these rules." Meantime, Powell had pushed them through with this majority at the commission. But you know what happened then, after those three million people spoke, was that the Senate voted twice, the U.S. Senate, to overturn those rules; the House expressed its displeasure; and then the courts sent those back to the commission saying they were inadequate. That’s what we need to do again right now.

And when I used to talk about media consolidation on — in radio and television, I think a lot of folks thought, well, the Internet is somehow exempt from that: It’s so dynamic that it’s exempt from what happened to radio and television and cable with all of the consolidation and gatekeeper control. Now people are beginning to realize: Wait a minute, this is happening to this wonderful new transformative technology, too. We can’t afford to let it go down that same road. What a horrible denial of the opportunity-creating potential the Internet it would be to cable-ize it. And, of course, who better to cable-ize the Internet than the biggest cable company in the United States of America, Comcast, as they seek to take over Time Warner Cable and already took over NBCU News.

But yes, you’re exactly right. This change, protecting the Internet, isn’t going to come from the top down. It was bittersweet to hear that quote. That was not the sound of an uncertain trumpet from the president. But fast-forward now five years, and we’re getting this sellout of the Internet and the Internet for the 1 percent. We cannot let that happen.

AG: Earlier this month, the European Parliament voted to protect the neutrality of Internet service providers toward websites. Telecom companies will be barred from blocking or slowing down selected services. The measure drew opposition from the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association. Its chairman, Luigi Gambardella, argued the move would restrict the number of services available to European customers.

Luigi Gambardella: We don’t see why we should limit the European Internet and restrict the European consumer to have access to new services. And also, we see that this is very dangerous to start to regulate the Internet, and maybe we will have a regulation of Internet in Europe which will be completely different of the regulation of Internet in the rest of the world.

AG: Astra Taylor?

AT: Well, I mean, there’s doublespeak in there, but he’s right: There might be a completely different regulation of — not necessarily regulation of the Internet, but regulation of access to the Internet in the U.S. compared to Europe, because we might choose this payola model, while the European Union has enshrined net neutrality. We’ve seen Brazil take a big step forward with its Internet Constitution enshrining net neutrality. So we are at this crossroads, where we might be going down one path while the rest of the world has stronger privacy protections, has net neutrality and is able to build on this technology and actualize its potential.

So I think if we’re to kind of change course, we have to recognize some of the factors. Sometimes people compare the fight for net neutrality to SOPA. But I think the power alliances are shifting —

AG: That was the so-called Stop Online Privacy [sic] Act, that was defeated.

AT: Yes, exactly. And a lot of the big technology firms came on board for that. And I think we’re seeing —

AG: Piracy.

AT: Yeah, against SOPA. And we’re seeing them be a little silent on this issue, because some of them have gotten so big in the last few years that they might benefit. They might see a competitive advantage in being able to use a fast lane and see it as a way of squelching competition. So it really is up to civil society right now to comment as much as they can around May 15th, around the time that these proposed rules are announced, and to flood our officials with — you know, make it loud and clear that we’re not the ones asking for this.

JG: Well, when you’re saying about some of the big companies, one of them, Netflix, immediately after the court decision in January that struck down the latest attempt by the FCC to establish open Internet rules, immediately cut a deal with Comcast to begin paying them extra to make sure that their video wasn’t being degraded.

AT: Yeah, exactly. And that shows you the power that these ISPs are amassing and why we should be so worried. If they can beat up Netflix, then they can beat up the rest of us, right?

AG: Michael Copps, you compare what’s going on now with Comcast’s attempt to merge with Time Warner. Talk about specifically that, because that’s happening at the same time.

MC: Well, this is amazing, and it all started with the big Comcast-NBCU merger a few years ago. And when they came into the commission, and I was there, and told me the dimensions and the extent of that merger, I was just about — breath taken away, because this was not just a cable company merging with another cable company; this was about broadband as well as broadcast, because they’re a huge provider of broadband. It was about old traditional media, and it was about new media, content and distribution. And it was just giving so much power to one specific company. And now they’re taking that footprint that they got by paying all those billions of dollars to buy NBCU, and they’re buying up Time Warner Cable and going to extend that footprint over an even wider swath of the United States of America. And the way I see the business plan, it’s kind of to ration scarcity, to make a profit from the scarcity, data caps, having people pay for faster lanes and slower lanes.

You know, what I really want people to realize is that this isn’t just about speeds and gadgetry and gimmicks. This goes to the heart of small-d democracy. If we’re going to give a company such tremendous power over distribution and content to slow down news, or maybe saying, "We don’t like that advocacy cause or that good government cause over here, so we’re going to — we’re going to block that," then we have taken this tool that could give us a wonderful new town square of democracy paved with broadband bricks and turn it into the same old same old that we have right now. And given the problems this country has right now, we can’t afford to go down that road. We need an informed public. We need open news. We need journalism, that these companies are also limiting.

It’s a sad — it’s a sad story right now. But we do have an opportunity here. With these new rules, people can see that they’re not going to get the job done. We can’t have rules that say, "Well, we’ll look on this at a case-by-case basis over some ambiguous term, 'commercially reasonable.'" We need to say "no blocking, no discriminating, no speeding up, no slowing down," and put it in that part of the law that allows the commission to do it, get it over and done with. Everybody will know what the rules are, and then we can go forward.

AG: Now, the rules will be actually laid out — we don’t even know exactly what they are — in May and then voted on. Michael Copps, we want to thank you for joining us, former FCC commissioner, retired in 2012. Astra Taylor, we’d like you to stay with us after break so we can talk further about your book, “The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age.”

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Wells Fargo Caught Forging Mortage Documents - Will We Finally See Jail Time for the Bankers?

A new internal report says the Justice Department massively overstated its successes in targeting mortgage fraud while in fact ranking it as a low priority for investigation. The Justice Department’s inspector general says despite playing a central role in the nation’s financial crisis, mortgage fraud was deemed either a low priority or not a priority at all. This comes as a recently revealed internal Wells Fargo document appears to guide lawyers step by step on how to fabricate missing documents to foreclose on homeowners. Wells Fargo is the country’s largest mortgage servicer and services some nine million home loans.

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Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

Juan González: A new internal report says the Justice Department massively overstated its successes in targeting mortgage fraud while in fact ranking it as a low priority for investigation. The Justice Department’s inspector general says despite playing a central role in the nation’s financial crisis, mortgage fraud was deemed either a low priority or not a priority at all. In one instance, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed to have filed lawsuits on behalf of homeowner victims for losses totaling more than $1 billion, but the actual amount was 91 percent less, around $95 million.

This comes as a recently revealed internal Wells Fargo document appears to guide lawyers step by step on how to fabricate missing documents to foreclose on homeowners. Wells Fargo is the country’s largest mortgage servicer and services some nine million home loans.

Amy Goodman: State and federal regulators are now focusing on the allegations in the lawsuit brought by Linda Tirelli, who joins us now. She’s an attorney representing clients being foreclosed on by Wells Fargo. Earlier this month, she discovered the Wells Fargo manual on how to produce missing documents to foreclose on homeowners. She’s a partner at the Garvey, Tirelli & Cushner law firm in White Plains, New York.

In Minneapolis, we’re joined by Kevin Whelan, campaign director for the Home Defenders League, a national movement of underwater homeowners and allies who organize to keep people in their homes and demand accountability.

Wells Fargo declined Democracy Now!'s interview request, saying they're in a, quote, "quiet period" pending the announcement of their quarterly earnings.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Linda Tirelli, let’s begin with you.

Linda Tirelli: Good morning.

AG: Can you describe this manual, how you got it and what it reveals?

LT: Absolutely. The manual that I have, it’s actually entitled the "Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Foreclosure Attorney [Procedure] Manual, Version 1." And it says on it that it’s last published 2/24/2012. Mind you, the national mortgage settlement agreement was announced a week prior, on 2/19/2012.

The way I obtained it, it was actually sitting right there on the Internet, of all things. A colleague of mine, through a Max Gardner’s Bankruptcy Boot Camp, which I am a member, an active member, gave it to me and said, "Hey, I found this online, and I know you’re doing a lot of Wells Fargo cases. Maybe you can use this."

Reading it, my jaw just dropped. As I see it, it’s clearly outlining procedures, not just for the $12-an-hour robo-signers that we’ve heard about all these years, but for the lawyers, who need to be held accountable to a much higher degree. It’s the manual for the lawyers to actually fabricate documents, as I see it, and request that documents that are lacking be fabricated by Wells Fargo. It’s absolutely appalling.

JG: Well, you know, we’ve had on Democracy Now! a couple of times the Brooklyn Supreme Court judge, Arthur Schack, who raised a campaign over — not only over the robo-signers in many cases that he had before his court, but also over the bank officials and the attorneys who participated in this fraud. And there have been several judges in different parts of the country who have raised these issues. How do you think this advances the whole issue of going after — of having the smoking gun to go after these companies?

LT: Well, I think that judges cannot make determinations based on suspicion. OK? This is the first and only internal document that I’m aware of that clearly outlines the fraud. And that’s how I put it in my allegations to the court. And we are very, very fortunate in New York to have a number of proactive judges who get it, but unfortunately, they’re few and far between across the country. My hope is that judges as wonderful as Arthur Schack and as great as many of our federal judges — I do appear mostly in federal courts — that they will be proactive, they will take this seriously and start to question Wells Fargo on their procedures.

AG: I want to read a bit from the Wells Fargo document. In this section called Note Endorsement, it says, quote, "If the blank endorsement is in the file for an original state, execute the endorsement, send the original document to the attorney, and complete the Z02 step." Can you explain what this means?

LT: Sure. I take that to mean that if there is actually an endorsement that exists, they need to endorse it. But as the party in —

JG: And by "endorsement," you mean?

LT: Sign it over.

JG: Oh.

LT: OK. But the question is: Do they have the authority to sign it over? Is it an authorized endorsement? Who’s signing it over? As the lawyer, I would need to know that before proceeding with a foreclosure. If it’s a document that needs to — if it was a note that needed to be endorsed, under a pooling and servicing agreement, which is followed by every securitized trust — and most of these loans, let’s face it, are owned by securitized trusts in some form or another — they should have been endorsed long before the foreclosure was ever started, at the time that it was actually acquired by the trust, or allegedly acquired by the trust.

AG: So this manual talks about how to fabricate a document —

LT: Absolutely.

AG:  — that you don’t have, that you need.

LT: That’s how I’m reading it.

AG: That Wells Fargo would need.

LT: Exactly. That’s —

AG: To foreclose on the house.

LT: Exactly right. That’s exactly how I’m reading it. I’m reading it to say that it’s not just, when there is a blank endorsement, fill in the blank. But sometimes when there — there’s actually a procedure in here, as I read it, for when there’s no endorsement, OK? Go ahead and endorse the note. Just request that the note be endorsed. And that’s what we call, in our area of law, a "tada endorsement." The bank produces a copy of a note, just for example, that has no endorsement on it, and then when we ask about it and say, "Gee, this note is not endorsed to your client. How is it that you’re — you know, you’re bringing foreclosure?" and they say, "Oh, here, use this version. Tada! Now we have an endorsement." And it’s always a rubber stamp, that you or I could go to Staples and purchase for $9.95.

JG: You also, one of your cases, came across a document which was purportedly from an official of Washington Mutual Bank in 2010, but Washington Mutual didn’t exist in 2010, because it had collapsed back in 2008.

LT: 2008, that’s right. That document was signed by Mr. John Kennerty in — who works for Wells Fargo, or worked for Wells Fargo at the time. And in this procedure manual, there’s actually a procedure for obtaining what’s called an assignment of mortgage, OK? So, basically, as I’m reading this procedure, it’s saying, "Gee, if you need an assignment, the attorney should request it through the document department, and then, magically, one will appear for you." And that’s exactly what we’re seeing. The people that work for Wells Fargo in these various departments, when they receive a request from an attorney, they take that as permission to actually sign something, without doing any research whatsoever. How is it, as you point out, we had anything assigned from in a company that ceased to exist two years prior? It just simply makes no sense. That document’s fabricated. And in that particular case, I will point out, the judge actually deemed that document to be a fraudulent document on record.

AG: I remember when Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur was standing on the floor of the House and telling homeowners, "Stay in their homes and demand that they produce the note. Produce the note." I wanted to go to Eric Schneiderman. Last May, the New York attorney — the New York attorney general announced plans to sue Bank of America and Wells Fargo for violating the terms of a settlement aimed at curbing foreclosure abuses. The $26 billion settlement was reached in 2012 between five major banks and 49 attorneys general. It provided basic protections for homeowners, such as requiring banks to notify them about missing documents within a certain time period. But Schneiderman said the banks had violated the terms of the settlement with impunity. At the news conference in May, he lifted a massive sheaf of papers to show the hundreds of complaints issued by homeowners against the banks.

Eric Schneiderman: Two of the participating servicers, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, have flagrantly violated their obligations under the settlement. I’ve sent a letter to the monitoring committee, the body that oversees the implementation of the national mortgage servicing settlement, notifying them of my intention to sue both Wells Fargo and Bank of America for noncompliance with servicing standards spelled out in the settlement. This enforcement action, which is the first taken under the settlement, is based on 339 individual complaints from New Yorkers against these two banks in just the last six months

AG: Linda Tirelli, can you explain what happened with this case?

LT: Yes. Well, first of all, I want to point out, and very much to Mr. Schneiderman’s credit, within four hours of the New York Post writing the article exposing this documents, within four hours, I received not only a phone call, but an email from Attorney Schneiderman’s office, and we had a long discussion about it. I also received the phone call and an email from the New York State Division of Financial Services. So I’m hoping that they are now launching new investigations.

Basically, to put — as I understand Mr. Schneiderman’s point, Wells Fargo was signing off on the national mortgage settlement agreement out of one side of its mouth. Out of the other side, they were republishing their manual to say, "Hey, we’re going to continue business as usual. All right? Throw some money at it. It’s done. Quiet down the homeowners. We’ll just continue business as usual." And that’s what we’re seeing. That’s exactly what we’re seeing.

JG: Kevin Whelan, from the Home Defenders League, can you put this in a national context of the mortgage crisis? Here we are now, six years into the home mortgage crisis that crashed the entire economy.

Kevin Whelan: Absolutely. Thanks you for having me, very much, today. We hear, every time there is an uptick in real estate prices in some parts of the country, that the foreclosure crisis or the mortgage crisis is over. And certainly, Wells Fargo and the big banks are back to making record profits and feel like everything is great. But foreclosures are still tearing apart many communities, particularly communities of color that were targeted for predatory and subprime lending. And one in five American homeowners is still underwater, meaning they owe more on their house than the house is currently worth.

So we’ve made the banks whole without effectively curbing their abusive practices to give homeowners the runaround, to use falsified documents and to rush toward foreclosure when there’s a perfectly good way to reach a different settlement. And they’ve not done enough to make homeowners whole, including doing principal reduction that they promised to do under
settlements.

AG: And can you respond to this latest news about the attorney general — the office making a low priority or no priority at all going after these mortgage lenders?

KW: Yeah, absolutely. The news is no surprise to people that have been fighting foreclosure in communities around the country. We work with 25 community groups in our at-large organization, so people can come find us at HomeDefendersLeague.org and get on a phone call and learn how to start a petition and fight for their homes. And people have been, you know, in cases all over the place, trying to stave off foreclosure.

We had a family in New Jersey last month, Paulette McQueen and her 86-year-old mom, who had missed one mortgage payment in 2010, went to Wells Fargo the next month with both checks in hand, and Wells Fargo wouldn’t take their money and started a three-year campaign to take their house. That was only resolved when people in 13 cities delivered petitions to Wells Fargo’s offices around the country. And they finally got a call back and are going to work out a solution to be able to stay in their home. It was a whole week before a sheriff’s sale.

So, it’s — you know, families that are facing this know both that the housing crisis isn’t over and that nothing has happened that’s on a deep enough or broad enough scale to make the banks fearful or sorry for either the harm they’ve done, or change their behavior in fundamental ways.

JG: Now, there are some localities, some local governments, that have tried — intervened themselves in trying to beat back the crisis of people being kicked out of their homes. Could you talk about some of those examples?

KW: Yeah, there — one thing that’s — we know there’s something to it, because the banks, led by Wells Fargo, are especially panicked and angry about the solution. But in Richmond, California — I think you had the mayor of Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin, on the show before — has been a city that’s led the way — and many more are going to follow — to enact principal reduction, meaning resetting loans to their current market value on the local level. And this is exciting because, while these federal agencies, like the Justice Department, are too often captive of the big banks, people can use democracy and win on the local level sometimes.

The concept for this particular program is that cities would work with other investors to buy the loans at their fair market value on the secondary market, which is pennies on the dollar of what these underwater loans are worth, and help refinance homeowners into new loans that have equity. And this is a concept that has gotten started in Richmond, but people are meeting even today in different cities around the country to spread this. And I think, not so much because it would cost them money as because it’s a chance for people to use the rule of law and democracy to impact the economy and impact banks’ behavior, banks like Wells Fargo have sued, unsuccessfully, and made all kinds of threats about redlining communities in order to try to stop it. People can go to FightingForeclosures.org and learn more about that particular plan and get involved in that campaign.

AG: Kevin Whelan, you’ve been arrested outside of Attorney General Eric Holder — outside the Justice Department, demanding more action. And yet, Linda Tirelli, we have this latest news that as — that the attorney general claimed to have filed lawsuits on behalf of homeowner victims for losses totaling more than a billion dollars. In fact, it was 91 percent less than this, at $95 million. What do you think should happen? Who gets prosecuted here, and who is let go free?

LT: I think that at this point, let’s face it, we’re never going to see a perp walk, as much as we’d like to see one, because this is illegal activity that we’re talking about. At the very least, I think now this document gives the New York attorney general free access to every attorney who’s ever followed this manual and hold them accountable, because it is illegal. And we are held, as attorneys, to a much higher standard. We have to do a certain amount of due diligence, and we cannot knowingly produce false documents and submit them into a court of law. Our entire judicial process is based on integrity. This document, as I read it, OK, is going to bypass the integrity of the entire system, and it becomes now the civil procedure rules according to Wells Fargo. And that’s the rules they’re willing to play by.

JG: And more importantly, the author of that document, right, who approved that document for all these lawyers to use.

LT: Exactly right, exactly right. And I want to point out that I actually introduced this document —

AG: We have five seconds.

LT:  — in a motion to reopen discovery after a trial, and my hope is that we will get discovery and get someone to a deposition table and get the answer to that.

AG: Before Eric Holder was attorney general, he was a senior partner at Covington & Burling. Among the banks they represented, the four largest: Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

LT: No shock there.

AG: Linda Tirelli, attorney representing clients being foreclosed on; Kevin Whelan of Home Defenders League, thanks so much for joining us.

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Years of American Hostility to Russia Sparked Crimea Crisis Former U.S. Ambassador Says

The standoff over Ukraine and the fate of Crimea has sparked the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on top Russian officials while announcing new military exercises in Baltic states. Meanwhile in Moscow, the Russian government says it is considering changing its stance on Iran’s nuclear talks in response to newly imposed U.S. sanctions. As tensions rise, we are joined by Jack Matlock, who served as the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. Matlock argues that Russian President Vladimir Putin is acting in response to years of perceived hostility from the U.S., from the eastward expansion of NATO to the bombing of Serbia to the expansion of American military bases in eastern Europe.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

Juan González: The Ukrainian government has announced plans to abandon its military bases in Crimea and evacuate its forces following Russia’s decision to annex the region. Earlier today, Russian forces reportedly released the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, who has been seized in his own headquarters in Crimea. At the United Nations, ambassadors sparred over the situation in Crimea. Yuriy Sergeyev is the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N.

Yuriy Sergeyev: The declaration of independence by the Crimean Republic is a direct consequence of the application of the use of force and threats against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, and, in view of Russian nuclear power status, has a particularly dangerous character for Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity, as well as for international peace and security in general. Accordingly, I assert that on the basis of customary norms and international law, that the international community is obliged not to recognize Crimea as a subject of international law or any situation, treaty or agreement that may be arise or be achieved by this territory.

JG: Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, defended Moscow’s move to annex Crimea.

Vitaly Churkin: [translated] A historic injustice has been righted, which resulted from the arbitrary actions of the leader of the U.S.S.R. at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, who, with the stroke of a pen in 1954, in violation of the constitutional norms, transferred the Russian region of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was part of the same state then. And he did this without informing the population of Crimea and, of course, without their consent. And nobody cared about the views of the Crimeans.

Amy Goodman: Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy warship, the Truxtun, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, conducted a one-day military exercise in the Black Sea with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies. And Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting this week with the heads of states of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, promising Washington would protect them from any Russian aggression. On Wednesday, President Obama addressed the crisis during an interview with NBC 7 San Diego.

President Barack Obama: We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine. What we are going to do is mobilize all of our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international coalition that sends a clear message, which is: The Ukraine should decide their own destiny. Russia, right now, is violating international law and the sovereignty of another country. You know, might doesn’t make right. And, you know, we are going to continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia as it continues down its current course.

AG: To talk more about the growing crisis in Ukraine, we’re joined by Ambassador Jack Matlock. He served as U.S. ambassador to Moscow from 1987 to 1991. He’s the author of several books, including "Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended." He recently wrote a column for The Washington Post headlined "The U.S. Has Treated Russia Like a Loser Since the End of the Cold War."

Ambassador Matlock, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the situation right now, what has just taken place, Ukraine now pulling out of Crimea.

Jack Matlock Jr.: Well, I think that what we have seen is a reaction, in many respects, to a long history of what the Russian government, the Russian president and many of the Russian people — most of them — feel has been a pattern of American activity that has been hostile to Russia and has simply disregarded their national interests. They feel that having thrown off communism, having dispensed with the Soviet Empire, that the U.S. systematically, from the time it started expanding NATO to the east, without them, and then using NATO to carry out what they consider offensive actions about an — against another country — in this case, Serbia — a country which had not attacked any NATO member, and then detached territory from it — this is very relevant now to what we’re seeing happening in Crimea — and then continued to place bases in these countries, to move closer and closer to borders, and then to talk of taking Ukraine, most of whose people didn’t want to be a member of NATO, into NATO, and Georgia. Now, this began an intrusion into an area which the Russians are very sensitive. Now, how would Americans feel if some Russian or Chinese or even West European started putting bases in Mexico or in the Caribbean, or trying to form governments that were hostile to us? You know, we saw how we virtually went ballistic over Cuba. And I think that we have not been very attentive to what it takes to have a harmonious relationship with Russia.

JG: Well, Ambassador Matlock, Americans often look at these crises in isolation, and some of the press coverage deals with them that way. But from your perspective, you argued that we should see the continuum of events that have happened from the Russian point of view — for instance, the Orange Revolution, the pronouncements of some of our leaders several years back, the crisis in Georgia a few years ago, and how the Russians are seeing the original good feeling that most Russians had toward the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union compared to now.

JMJ: Yes, that’s absolutely true. You see, in the Orange Revolution in Kiev, foreigners, including Americans, were very active in organizing people and inspiring them. Now, you know, I have to ask Americans: How would Occupy Wall Street have looked if you had foreigners out there leading them? Do you think that would have helped them get their point across? I don’t think so. And I think we have to understand that when we start directly interfering, particularly our government officials, in the internal makeup of other governments, we’re really asking for trouble.

And, you know, we were pretty careful not to do that in my day. And I recall, for example, when I was being consulted by the newly elected leaders of what was still Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania. They were still in the Soviet Union, and they would come to us. We were, of course, sympathetic to their independence; we had never even recognized that they were legally part of the Soviet Union. But I had to tell them, "Keep it peaceful. If you are suppressed, there’s nothing we can do about it. We cannot come and help you. We’re not going to start a nuclear war." Well, they kept it peaceful, despite provocations.

Now, what have we been telling the Ukrainians, the Georgians — at least some of us, officials? "Just hold on. You can join NATO, and that will solve your problems for you." You know, and yet, it is that very prospect, that the United States and its European allies were trying to surround Russia with hostile bases, that has raised the emotional temperature of all these things. And that was a huge mistake. As George Kennan wrote back in the ’90s when this question came up, the decision to expand NATO the way it was done was one of the most fateful and bad decisions of the late 20th century.

AG: I wanted to go to Vice President Joe Biden, who criticized Russia recently during his trip to Lithuania Wednesday.

Vice President Joe Biden: I want to make it clear: We stand resolutely with our Baltic allies in support of Ukrainian people and against Russian aggression. As long as Russia continues on this dark path, they will face increasing political and economic isolation. There are those who say that this action shows the old rules still apply. But Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior.

AG: And in a speech Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted what he called Western hypocrisy on Crimea, saying that the U.S. selectively applies international law according to its political interests.

President Vladimir Putin: [translated] Our Western partners, headed by the United States of America, prefer in their practical policy to be guided not by international law, but by the right of the strong. They started to believe that they have been chosen and they are unique, that they are allowed to decide the fate of the world, that only they could always be right. They do whatever they want

AG: Ambassador Jack Matlock, if you could respond to both Biden and Putin?

JMJ: Well, I think that this rhetoric on both sides is being very unhelpful. The fact is, Russia now has returned Crimea to Russia. It has been, most of its recent history, in the last couple of centuries, been Russian. The majority of the people are Russian. They clearly would prefer to be in Russia. And the bottom line is, we can argue 'til doomsday over who did what and why and who was the legal and who was not — I'm sure historians generations from now will still be arguing it — but the fact is, Russia now is not going to give up Crimea. The fact also is, if you really look at it dispassionately, Ukraine is better off without Crimea, because Ukraine is divided enough as it is. Their big problem is internal, in putting together disparate people who have been put together in that country. The distraction of Crimea, where most of the people did not want to be in Ukraine and ended up in Ukraine as a result of really almost a bureaucratic whim, is — was, I think, a real liability for Ukraine.

Now, the — we should be concentrating now on how we put Ukraine back together — not we, but the Ukrainians, with the help of the Europeans, with the help of the Russians, and with at least a benign view from the United States. Now, the American president and vice president directly challenging the Russian president and threatening them with isolation is going to bring the opposite effect. All of this has actually increased President Putin’s popularity among Russians. Now, you know, most politicians, they like to do things that make them more popular at home. And, you know, the idea that we are acting, you know, contrary to what Russians would consider their very natural interests — that is, in bringing an area which had been Russian and traditionally Russian for a long time back into Russia — they look at that as a good thing. It’s going to be very costly to Russia, they’re going to find out, in many ways. But to continue all of this rhetoric, I would ask, well, how is it going to end? What is your objective? Because it isn’t going to free up Crimea again or give it back to Ukraine.

I think it would be most helpful to encourage the Ukrainians to form a united government that can begin reforms. The proposals before, both by the EU and by Russia, would not have solved their problems. And they are not going to solve the problems by taking a government that basically represents one half of the country and making it work on the whole country. And all of this interference, both by Russia and by the West, including the United States, has tended to split Ukraine. Now, that is the big issue there. And we need to turn our attention more to it. And I just hope everyone can calm down and look at realities and stop trying to start sort of a new Cold War over this. As compared to the issues of the Cold War, this is quite minor. It has many of the characteristics of a family dispute. And when outsiders get into a family dispute, they’re usually not very helpful.

JG: Well, Ambassador Matlock, what would you, if you were counseling the president, urge him to do at this stage? Because obviously there are these pretty weak sanctions that have so far been announced. What would your advice be?

JMJ: Well, I think, first of all, we should start keeping our voice down and sort of let things work out. You know, to ship in military equipment and so on is just going to be a further provocation. Obviously, this is not something that’s going to be solved by military confrontations. So, I think if we can find a way to speak less in public, to use more quiet diplomacy — and right now, frankly, the relationships between our presidents are so poisonous, they really should have representatives who can quietly go and, you know, work with counterparts elsewhere.

But fundamentally, it’s going to be the Ukrainians who have to put their society back together. It is seriously broken now. And it seems to me they could take a leaf from the Finns, who have been very successful ever since World War II in putting together a country with both Finns and Swedes, by treating them equally, by being very respectful and careful about their relations with Russia, never getting into — anymore into military struggles or allowing foreign bases on their land. And they’ve been extremely successful. Why can’t the Ukrainians follow a policy of that sort? I think, for them, it would work, too. But first, they have to find a way to unite the disparate elements in Ukraine; otherwise, these pressures from Russia, on the one hand, and the West, on the other, is going to simply tear them apart. Now —

AG: Ambassador, on Wednesday —

JMJ:  — in the final analysis, if the —

AG: On Wednesday, the head of Ukraine’s First National TV was attacked in his office by members of the far-right Svoboda party, including at least one member of Parliament who serves on the parliamentary committee on freedom of speech. The attackers accused the station of working for the Russian authorities, after it aired a live broadcast of the signing of the agreement between President Putin and the de facto Crimean authorities. In a video posted online, the attackers are seen forcing the head of the channel to write a resignation letter. Heather McGill of Amnesty International condemned the attack, saying, quote, "The acting Ukrainian authorities must waste no time in demonstrating that basic human rights are protected in Ukraine and that nobody will face discrimination because of their political views or ethnic origin." Ambassador Matlock, can you talk about this attack and the role of these far-right-wing parties in the new Ukrainian government?

JMJ: Well, I’m not intimately informed about all of the details, but — and I would say that I think Russian media have exaggerated that right-wing threat. On the other hand, those who have ignored it, I think, are making a big mistake. We do have to understand that a significant part of the violence at the Maidan, the demonstrations in Kiev, were done by these extreme right-wing, sort of neo-fascist groups. And they do — some of their leaders do occupy prominent positions in the security forces of the new government. And I think — I think the Russians and others are quite legitimately concerned about that. Therefore, you know, many of these things are not nearly as black and white, when we begin to look at them, as is implied in much of the rhetoric that we’re hearing. And I do think that everybody needs now to take a quiet breath to really look at where we are and to see if we can’t find ways, by keeping our voices down, to help the Ukrainians in present-day Ukraine to get to a road to greater unity and reform that will make them a viable state.

AG: Jack Matlock, we want to thank —

JMJ: And I would argue that —

AG: We want to —

JMJ:  — they are better off without Crimea.

AG: I want to thank you very much for being with us. Ambassador Matlock served as the U.S. ambassador —

JMJ: Thank you.

AG:  — to Moscow from 1987 to 1991 under both President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, and he’s the author of a number of books, including "Superpower Illusions" and "Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador’s Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union," as well as "Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended."

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