Rank #1: Marianne Williamson Would Like to Clarify
Marianne Williamson, the self-help author associated with the New Age movement, has never held political office. But the race for the Presidency, she thinks, is less a battle of politics than a battle of souls. In her appearance in the July Democratic debates, she said that President Donald Trump is bringing up a “dark psychic force.” “The worst aspects of human character have been harnessed for political purposes,” she tells David Remnick. Williamson sees herself as a kind of spiritual counter to Trump, reshaping our moral trajectory. And she does have policies, which include repealing the 2017 tax cut and an ambitious plan for slavery reparations, and also tapping some surprising people for her Cabinet. Campaigning on her credentials hasn’t been easy: she’s had to debunk some myths and clarify some statements. She is not an anti-vaxxer, she insists—she apologizes for her earlier remarks on the subject—or a medical skeptic. “I’m Jewish,” she says, “I go to the doctor.” She does not, she says, even have a crystal in her home. “I know this sounds naïve,” she complains, but “I didn’t think the left was so mean. I didn’t think the left lied like this.”
Rank #2: The Politics Behind the Anti-Vaccine Movement
Around the world, the number of measles cases is on the rise. Public health officials in the United States have put some of the blame on "anti-vaxxers," who believe that vaccines have destructive side effects and choose not to vaccinate their children. In some communities, school systems have made vaccinations mandatory, touching off political battles over personal and religious liberty. Nick Paumgarten joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the political lessons of the movement for the wider "war on science."
Rank #3: James Comey Makes His Case to America
In a long career in law enforcement, the former F.B.I. Director James Comey aimed to be above politics, but in the 2016 election he stepped directly into it. In his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey makes the case to America that he handled the F.B.I. investigations into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and Donald Trump’s campaign correctly, regardless of the consequences. Even after being fired by President Trump, the former F.B.I Director says he doesn’t dislike the President; he tells David Remnick that what he feels is more akin to sympathy. Trump “has an emptiness inside of him, and a hunger for affirmation, that I’ve never seen in an adult,” Comey says. “He lacks external reference points. Instead of making hard decisions by calling upon a religious tradition, or logic, or tradition or history, it’s all, ‘what will fill this hole?’ ” As a result, Comey says, “The President poses significant threats to the rule of law,” and he chides Congressional Republicans for going along with the President’s aberrations. “What,” he rhetorically asks Mitch McConnell and others, “are you going to tell your grandchildren?” Nevertheless, Comey remains hopeful about the resilience of American institutions. “There isn’t a ‘deep state,’ [but] there is a deep culture,” he believes. “It is [about] the rule of law and doing it the right way,” and it serves as “a ballast” during political turmoil. David Remnick’s interview with James Comey was taped live at New York’s Town Hall on April 19, 2018.
Rank #4: Bob Woodward and an Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed Show Trump Isolated and In Peril
Bob Woodward's book about life inside the Trump White House won't be published until next week, but an excerpt published in the Washington Post this week portrays Trump as erratic and ignorant, and quotes top officials describing measures they've taken to limit the President's destructive impulses. Similarly, an Op-Ed in the New York Times this week, written by an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration, describes a cabal of "unsung heroes" that acts to thwart parts of Trump's agenda and his worst impulses. In response, Trump reportedly worried to a friend that he could trust no one but members of his own family. Susan B. Glasser joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the revelations of Woodward's book and the perils facing a President who values personal loyalty above all else.
Rank #5: What is Robert Mueller’s Endgame Against Donald Trump?
Recent developments in the Mueller investigation, in the cases against Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn, provide some answers to two key questions: Did President Trump or anyone in his inner circle conspire with Russia to interfere with the 2016 Presidential election? And, did Trump obstruct justice by trying to shut down the Mueller inquiry? Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss where the investigations by Mueller and in the House of Representatives are headed.
Rank #6: Will Trump Survive Mueller?
Washington is abuzz with rumors that the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report is coming soon. We know that Donald Trump’s Presidency depends on its contents. But with all the headlines of the past two years—this one brought in for questioning, that one indicted, this one coöperating—it can be hard to keep track of what this is really all about. We asked the staff writer Adam Davidson, who has been reporting on the Mueller investigation since the beginning, for a refresher on the basic facts—the broad strokes of what we’ve learned so far. Both parties are strategizing to position themselves for the unknown. But Jeffrey Toobin believes that, unless the report contains a major, unexpected discovery, its findings will have little impact on Trump’s Presidency or on his future. Toobin debates with The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent, Susan B. Glasser, about the lessons of Bill Clinton’s impeachment and Richard Nixon’s resignation.
Rank #7: Trump Asks, “How Did We End Up Here?” We Suggest: “Follow the Money”
On Tuesday, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, was convicted on multiple counts of tax and bank fraud. Also on Tuesday, Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty to violations of campaign-finance law, which may directly implicate the President as an unindicted co-conspirator. Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what Manafort’s and Cohen’s legal troubles tell us about Trump’s history of corrupt business deals, and how to anticipate the disclosures to come.
Rank #8: How Michael Cohen’s Testimony Signalled the True Beginning of the Many Cases Against Trump
This week, in an open hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime consigliere, implicated the President in multiple felonies, and gave the world a hint of what to expect in investigations into the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Administration. Adam Davidson joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the fallout from Cohen’s testimony, and growing pressure on congressional Republicans as they continue to defend the President.
Rank #9: Elizabeth Warren vs. Wall Street
As Senator Warren’s presidential candidacy gathers momentum, the Democratic establishment is nervously reckoning with the leftward drift of the party. Warren has a reputation for progressive policy ideas, but she is distancing herself from Bernie Sanders-style democratic socialism. Instead, she is casting herself as a pragmatist who has reasonable plans to reform education, health care, and a financial system that advantages the very rich. Sheelah Kolhatkar joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Warren's critique of 21st-century capitalism, and voters' concerns about whether she could beat Donald Trump.
Rank #10: How Long Will Trump's Economic Boom Last?
President Trump has taken to boasting about overseeing, as he said recently, "the best economy in the history of our country." But trade wars loom and the deficit continues to grow. John Cassidy joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the good news and bad news about the American economy, and how the Administration's policies may affect the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election.
Rank #11: HBO’s “Our Boys,” a Brutally Truthful Depiction of the Effects of Hate Crime
In 2014, a pair of crimes shocked Israelis and Palestinians. The first was the abduction and murder of three Israeli boys by a Hamas-linked group. Then there was an act of reprisal—the torture, burning, and murder of a Palestinian teen-ager named Mohammed Abu Khdeir—by Israeli right-wing extremists. Even by the standards of this conflict, the killings were shocking.
“Our Boys,” a co-production of HBO and the Israeli Keshet Studios, examines the forces that led to Abu Khdeir’s killing. It is not for the faint of heart, David Remnick says, but the series is as complex and deep a portrayal of the conflict as he has ever seen. Remnick spoke with two of the creators: Hagai Levi, an Israeli Jew, and Tawfiq Abu Wael, a Palestinian living in Israel. Abu Wael tells Remnick why he resisted pressure from activists not to participate in an Israeli production.
Rank #12: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the 2020 Presidential Race and Why We Should Break up Homeland Security
It’s hard to recall a newly elected freshman representative to Congress who has made a bigger impact than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her primary victory for New York’s Fourteenth District seat—as a young woman of color beating out a long-established white male incumbent—was big news, and Ocasio-Cortez has been generating headlines almost daily ever since. Practically the day she took her seat in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez became the hero of the left wing of the Democrats and a favored villain of Fox News and the right. She battled Nancy Pelosi to make the Green New Deal a priority, and has been involved with a movement to launch primary challenges against centrist or right-leaning Democrats. Like Bernie Sanders, she embraces the label of democratic socialism and supports free college education for all Americans. She has called for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She joined David Remnick in the New Yorker Radio Hour studio on July 5th, just after her trip to the border to examine migrant-detention facilities. Remnick and Ocasio-Cortez spoke about why she courted controversy by referring to some facilities as “concentration camps”; why she thinks the Department of Homeland Security is irredeemable; and whether Joe Biden is qualified to be President, given his comments about colleagues who supported forms of segregation. “Issues of race and gender are not extra-credit points in being a good Democrat,” she says. “They are a core part of the ... competencies that a President needs. . . . Where are you on understanding the people that live in this country?”
Rank #13: Jane Mayer on the Revolving Door Between Fox News and the White House
Donald Trump has made no secret of his great admiration for Fox News—he tweets praise of it constantly—and his disdain for other, “fake news” outlets, which he regards as “enemies of the people.” But the closeness between Fox News and the White House is unprecedented in modern times, Jane Mayer tells David Remnick. In a recent article, Mayer, a staff writer since 1995, analyzes a symbiotic relationship that boosts both Trump’s poll numbers and Rupert Murdoch’s bottom line. “I was trying to figure out who sets the tune that everybody plays during the course of the day,” Mayer says. “If the news on Fox is all about some kind of caravan of immigrants supposedly invading America, whose idea is that? It turns out that it is this continual feedback loop.” Mayer pays particular attention to the role of Bill Shine, the former Fox News co-president and now former White House deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine resigned days after Mayer spoke to Remnick. In his tenure in the Administration, Shine helped create a revolving door through which those who craft the Administration’s political messaging and those who broadcast it regularly trade places. She also discovered that Shine was linked to the network’s practice of intimidating employees who alleged sexual harassment at work.
Rank #14: An Insider from “The Apprentice” on How the Show Made Donald Trump
A number of people have been credited with the political rise of Donald Trump—Roger Stone and Steve Bannon among them—but perhaps the most influential is Mark Burnett, the English reality-TV producer. After the massive success of his show “Survivor,” Burnett could have made virtually anything, and he chose “The Apprentice.” His task was to make a New York real-estate developer who was a fixture in the tabloids into a national celebrity, a tycoon, and a decisive leader with unerring judgment. The staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe interviewed a number of people who worked on shaping Trump’s image on “The Apprentice,” including the supervising producer Jonathon Braun. Braun told Keefe that Trump’s quick, instinctual decisions complicated the work of the show’s editors, who would often have to recut the episodes to find material that seemed to justify those decisions. And Braun argues that the White House and the news media now often play the same role that the “Apprentice” crew did: isolating Trump’s most coherent statement within a long string of improvised iterations.
Rank #15: How Mitch McConnell is Prolonging the Shutdown, and What He Did to Turn the G.O.P. Into the Party of Trump
The government shutdown is entering its fifth week. Although recent polls indicate that a majority of Americans oppose President Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border, he refuses to consider a federal budget unless it includes money for the wall, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that he will not consider any legislation that the President would not sign. Alec MacGillis joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how McConnell led the way in turning Republicans into the Party of Trump, and how democracies become captive to minorities who thwart the will of the public.
Rank #16: Mike Pompeo’s Circuitous Journey to Trump’s Cabinet
Mike Pompeo is the last surviving member of President Trump’s original national-security team. Pompeo entered the Administration as the director of the C.I.A., but, after the sudden end of Rex Tillerson’s tenure as Secretary of State, Pompeo was elevated to the position of America’s top diplomat. All this despite the fact that Pompeo had no diplomatic experience, a résumé that includes exaggerations, and a history of criticizing Trump. Since the 2016 election, though, Pompeo has rebranded himself as a strong advocate for the President, and has come to embrace Trumpism alongside many other former critics in his party. Susan B. Glasser joins Eric Lach to discuss Pompeo’s journey from traditional California Republican to staunch Trump ally, and what it says about larger trends within the Republican Party.
Rank #17: With Rod Rosenstein Leaving the Justice Department, What’s Next for the Mueller Investigation?
With the departure of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, following the ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump will soon be rid of the two men he holds responsible for the Robert Mueller investigation. Jeffrey Toobin joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what to expect from the confirmation hearing for William Barr, Sessions’s likely successor, and what Barr believes about Presidential powers.
Rank #18: Can President Macron Outwit President Trump?
This week, President Trump hosted his first state dinner, in honor of Emmanuel Macron, the French President. Macron spoke with Trump about the Iran nuclear deal, and gave a speech before a joint session of Congress explaining his differences with current U.S. policies on the Middle East and on climate change. Lauren Collins joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Macron set out to disarm Trump, and to persuade him to think more like a European.
Rank #19: The Sackler Family, Purdue Pharma, and the Lawsuits Threatening Opioid Manufacture
Purdue Pharma, the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company owned by the Sackler family, brought OxyContin to market in 1995. The Sacklers dismissed warnings that the drug was addictive and unleashed a well-funded marketing campaign to sell it to doctors. Since then, Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers have been sued thousands of times for the role they played in the opioid epidemic, and now some fifteen hundred civil cases against the company and its founders have been bundled together into a multi-district litigation that could cost the Sacklers billions of dollars. Patrick Radden Keefe joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma participated in the proliferation of opioids and what the new round of lawsuits may mean for the company’s future.
Rank #20: Despite the "Helsinki Humiliation," Republicans Stay Loyal to Trump
This week, at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Trump again expressed doubt about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The next day, following a torrent of criticism, Trump claimed he had misspoken. Though some Congressional Republicans expressed disagreement with Trump's statement, none have meaningfully challenged his position on Russia. Evan Osnos joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Congressional Republicans' refusal to turn on Trump contribute to America's ongoing vulnerability to Russia attacks and undermines the basic premise of governance in this country.