tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg March 26, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm EDT
♪ >> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: michael morell is here. he is one of our nation's leading national security professionals. he most recently served as the cia's deputy director and twice as acting director. i am pleased to have him back at this table. welcome, sir. michael: it is great to have you back. charlie: it is good to be back. let me start with this. house intelligence chair alleges spy agency abuse. wall street journal, g.o.p. lawmaker sparks new battle over trumps by claim. new york times, g.o.p. leader puts new spin on wiretaps. take me through this. unpack this. i don't think most understand what the republican chairman of
the house intelligence committee is saying. michael: sure. charlie, this is complicated. but let me start with the bottom line. this in no way validates the president's claim that he was or his associates at trump tower were the target of surveillance by the obama administration. it doesn't even come close to validating. not even close. what did the chairman say to the media and apparently to the president? he said he had a dozen intelligence reports that somebody gave to him. he did not get them officially from one of the agencies. somebody gave them to him and said, "i think there is a problem here. take a look at these." a dozen intelligence reports that he said involved incidental collection of u.s. persons, incidental collection about trump transition team members. that is what he said he saw. he also said he was troubled that some of the names he saw were unmasked. we will talk about what all of that means. charlie: ok. michael: let's start with what incidental collection is. there are two types of incidental collection. in one type of incidental collection, where you are collecting on two foreign intelligence targets talking to each other. so, make it up. foreign minister of china and foreign minister of russia talking to each other. and in their conversation, they talk about a u.s. person. that is incidental collection on
that u.s. person. ok. that is one type. there is another type of incidental collection which is where you have a legitimate foreign intelligence target in a conversation you collect, but in that conversation they are talking to a u.s. person. so a foreign intelligence target on one end of the phone and a u.s. person on the other end of the phone. that is also considered incidental collection. incidental collection happens all the time. obviously, foreign officials in their conversations are talking about americans. charlie: is that what we think happened with michael flynn? michael: i think michael flynn was the second type. charlie: that's what i mean. michael: but incidental collection happens all the time. the first question, and there are really three agencies where this happens. it happens at n.s.a. most
frequently. it happens with the f.b.i. in their signals intelligence collection, and sometimes with the central intelligence agency. when it happens, it is very easy, it is usually very easy to see that it is a u.s. person. the name, phone number, context of the discussion. they actually mentioned the person's name, so it is easy to see they are talking about a u.s. person or talking to a u.s. person. so the first judgment the collecting agency has to make is, is there information here of intelligence value we need to disseminate? if the answer to that question is no, then all of that is discarded. but if the answer to that question is yes, there is intelligence value in this conversation, either about a person or with a person, then they disseminate that. i know nsa best when it comes to these procedures. that decision about whether to disseminate incidental, information that includes incidental collection is a
rigorous process at nsa it is not just one person making the decision. it is one person recommending it be disseminated and then check off, check off, check off at higher levels. the decision to disseminate that is a significant one. with regard to the kind of incidental collection where the u.s. person is talking to the foreign intelligence target, you can only, even if you decide to disseminate, you can only disseminate what the foreign intelligence target was saying. you cannot disseminate what the american citizen, the u.s. person was saying. you can only say, "the russian ambassador in a conversation with a u.s. person said the following." you can't say, "and in response, the u.s. person said xyz." you can't do that. there are two cases and only two cases where you can disseminate what a u.s. person said. it is rare. it is when they admit they have conducted a crime, so yesterday i robbed a bank, i shot
somebody. or they say they are going to commit a crime, so they pose an imminent threat. i'm going to conduct a terrorist attack tomorrow. in that case, this incidental collection specifically about the u.s. person can be turned over to the f.b.i. to take action to prevent or solve a crime or prevent a crime. but that is it. that is really rare. so when a u.s. person, very important for viewers to understand, when a u.s. person is caught up in intelligence collection in a conversation with a legitimate intelligence target, almost never does something that person said get disseminated. the next big issue here is called masking. chairman nunes focused a lot of
this yesterday. what is masking? masking is when you have incidental collection, for most u.s. persons, you cannot use their name. so you do not say, the russian ambassador in conversation with michael morell or the russian ambassador and some other russian talking about michael morell, it cannot use the name. you have to say "u.s. person." if there is more than one, you say u.s. person one and two. that is the way it gets disseminated. there is an exception to that. i think what the chairman had might be the exception. the exception is the most senior u.s. officials. and i think also senior officials in the transition, including the president-elect. the most senior officials do not get masked. when two foreign officials are talking about the u.s.
president, that does not get masked into u.s. person one or two. they disseminate it with the president of the united states or i would bet, the president-elect of the united states. i bet that is some of what chairman nunes saw. charlie: do you think that might have been what president trump might have seen that caused him to form the belief he articulates? michael: it is possible because he was receiving intelligence reports when he was the president-elect. he was getting a briefing as often as he wanted one. we know he was not getting it every day but as often as he wanted one, so maybe he saw some
of those. maybe he saw some about general mattis or rex tillerson or michael flynn. maybe he saw those. maybe that led him to think somebody is surveilling us. no, it is incidental collection. when you have one of these intelligence reports in front of you and you have got these masks, u.s. person one and two, u.s. person three, the most senior officials in our government, people at my level and above when i was in government, the deputy level and above, can ask n.s.a., the f.b.i., c.i.a., depending on who produced the information, they can ask for that information to be unmasked. so, i could say to n.s.a., i need to know who that u.s. person is. u.s. person one, i need to know that, and i need to know it for the following reasons. charlie: to unmask somebody if you are the deputy director of the cia, you better have a good reason. michael: or higher, you have to have a good reason. in the case of n.s.a., because they do this more than anybody, there are only 20 people at the national security agency who can approve an unmasking request. and it is taken very seriously.
michael morell wants us to unmask this name. here is why he says he needs it. answer yes or no. there has got to be a good reason. when something does get unmasked, when you do tell michael morell whom u.s. person one is, you do not tell anybody else. there is not this broad distribution of the unmasking chairman nunes implied yesterday. it goes to only the person who made the request. here is what is interesting. people in the transition who were receiving intelligence reports and maybe they see intelligence target talking to u.s. person one or talking about u.s. person one, and they are talking about how to approach the trump administration. if you are the head of the trump transition, you might want to know who u.s. person one or two is.
you can ask through your briefer who comes to see you every day. and n.s.a. will make a determination. i am not saying this happened. but it is not impossible some of the unmasking was at the request of the trump transition. charlie: why is this coming forward now? michael: i think there is a political answer to that. and there is a tactical answer. the political answer is the president is under fire for claiming that the obama administration surveilled him. charlie: the f.b.i. director said he had seen no evidence of that and every other intelligence official. michael: i think chairman nunes is trying to help the president out, he's hanging ou there a little. that is the political motivation. the tactical one is someone put the reports in front of the chairman and said we think this is significant. there's all these reports out there with the names -- charlie: and that person likely
came from? michael: it is not 100% clear to me who disseminated these reports. it is possible it is n.s.a. it is possible it is c.i.a. the chairman said it was fisa reporting, which i think takes you to n.s.a. or the f.b.i. charlie: meaning somebody used that in a request. michael: what a fisa is just to be clear, fisa is if the intelligence community wants to collect in the united states either against a foreign government or foreign person or a u.s. person who they think
might be an agent of a foreign power and they have some evidence that they are an agent of a foreign power, that requires a fisa warrant. that requires the intelligence community to go to the fisa court to make an argument for why they want to do that. collection overseas against foreign nationals does not require a fisa warrant. charlie: who would do that here, the fbi mostly? or the nsa? michael: both. charlie: but not the cia?
michael: c.i.a. on rare occasions. charlie: the other complaint, and john mccain has made this point as well, is rather then bring it to the house intelligence committee, he went right to the white house. michael: so i think, i think he took it to the white house and media. i think he had a responsibility, but i think he acted inappropriately. i think what he should have done and what practice says he should have done is number one, he should have gone back to the relevant agency, whether the fbi or cia or nsa, to go back to the relevant agency and said, i was given these. how do i think about these? are there any more like these? help me understand these. that should have been step one. step two should have been to take that answer and share it
with the entire committee before taking any action of briefing the president, let alone the media. charlie: you said in the beginning this has nothing to do with whether president obama's administration bugged trump tower. michael: so what the president said was that he and his associates were actually the targets of surveillance, that the surveillance was targeted on them. that is what he said. and the president of the united states personally approved it, which is ridiculous. presidents do not approve things like that. that is what he said. this collection, based on the chairman's own words, was not targeted at any u.s. person. it was targeted at a foreign national and there was u.s. person information incidentally collected. that is why the incidentally collected is so important. charlie: the impact in terms of how people have characterized it has raised questions about the independence of the house intelligence committee. john mccain said, for example, that the committee needs a select committee. michael: i think the chairman has done himself damage.
the chairman is supposed to be running an objective, nonpartisan investigation into the trump campaign's ties to russia, specifically whether or not they cooperated, conspired with the russian campaign to interfere in our election. that is what he is supposed to be doing. and when he does something like this that looks so political, he undermines the credibility of what he is doing. that is why people like john mccain are reacting to this the way they are. i too from the very beginning, i have believed we need a commission to look at this. the commission -- charlie: a 9/11 commission or something else? michael: i would think in a perfect world it would be a 9/11 commission. that will not happen because it requires a presidential signature on legislation. i think the best we can hope for would be a joint inquiry of congress where it is a congressional inquiry, but joint with a select committee. charlie: like the watergate committee? michael: yes. yes. so what would that, what would that commission or committee look at? i think number one, the first thing they would look at is, what did the russians actually do? the intelligence community has a view on that. but we may not fully understand everything they did. or how they did it. charlie: what do you think they did? michael: let me tell you what
the intelligence community said they did. and then i will tell you what i think. what the intelligence community said in a declassified document during the last weeks of the obama administration, the intelligence community said the russians did three things. number one, the one everybody knows about, which is they used cyber espionage to steal emails from the -- charlie: democratic committee and john podesta. michael: from the d.n.c. and john podesta and turned the most damaging material over to wikileaks and other organizations, damaging from the perspective of secretary clinton. charlie: they have suggested it was the russian government that did it and did it at the direction of vladimir putin? michael: yes, at the direction -- charlie: that is what the f.b.i. is suggesting. michael: they said it clearly, at the direction of vladimir putin. initially with the intent of undermining our democracy, raising questions about our democracy, undermining secretary clinton, who vladimir putin hates.
but it evolved towards a preference for donald trump. so eventually to actually help donald trump. it looked like when she was going to win in early october, late september, early october, to undermine her presidency should she become president, to weaken her. all of that was his intent. so that is the first thing they did. the second thing they did which most people have not heard about, don't fully understand, which i think was actually more powerful at the end of the day, is the use of social media to both create fake news and amplify fake news. news that was damaging to secretary clinton. so for example, when the secretary slipped on september 11 in new york, there were several hundred thousand tweets within a few minutes coming out of eastern europe and russia
raising questions about whether she was fit to be the president of the united states. charlie: where do you think they came from? michael: they came from russian intelligence and their use of proxies. a large number of proxies to push out social media. this use of social media as a weapon against our democracy went over a very large period of time right up until the end of the election. it impacted the polls. you could see the impact on the polls. charlie: let me talk about a couple of things. we have had people beyond the testimony from mike rogers and james comey, the head of dni,
clapper said he had seen no evidence of a collusion. there has been some clarification of that. do you know what he meant? michael: i think i know what he meant. but let me do just one more thing. the third thing the russians did is they tried unsuccessfully to get into the vote counting machines. unsuccessfully. i believe had they been successful, they would have tried to tamper with the vote. this was not just a test run. charlie: they were unsuccessful because it was more difficult than they thought? michael: absolutely. to answer your question, in this big russian campaign -- charlie: in an interview, he said i have seen no evidence of the fact the obama administration tried to bug trump tower. michael: right. so there are -- in this big russian campaign to try to influence the outcome of our election, there is a question. the question is, did anybody in the trump campaign know about
this or assist it, conspire with the russians in any way? that is the big question. charlie: that is why it is an ongoing investigation. michael: that is what director comey said is being investigated right now by the f.b.i. it is also being investigated by the two intelligence committees. it is also being investigated by a whole bunch of reporters. so what i say, charlie, is that, is that there are lots of things that have to be investigated. roger stone's apparent knowledge -- not apparent -- roger stone's knowledge that information about john podesta's emails was about ready to come out. he knew about that a week ahead of time. charlie: he is going to be in the barrel. michael: he is going to be in the barrel. things that roger stone did, things that paul manafort did. charlie: he said that is not what he meant at all.
michael: it was pretty clear to me. pretty clear to me. paul manafort, it now appears he made a major proposal to the russian government to assist them in their information campaign domestically and overseas. right, and he said he did not have anything to do with the russians ever. there are all sorts of things to investigate here. and that is what i call smoke. that is what i call smoke. charlie: but do you see any fire? michael: i personally have not seen any fire. right, and what jim clapper told me on "meet the press" was that jim clapper did not see any fire up to january 20 when he walked out the door. that he did not see any evidence of collusion on this questions we just talked about. charlie: and saw no evidence of any attempt too.
michael: just because there is an investigation, some people in the last few days have said jim comey admitting there is an investigation into this must mean there is some evidence. right? not the case. a counterintelligence evidence has a pretty low standard to get started. charlie: donald trump before and since he has been president, there has been this question of his relationship with the intelligence community. all of the intelligence community. he has raised questions about the competence and leaking and whether they are acting in the national interest. how is that relationship today, because you know these people? michael: so my understanding is that it is getting better. it is much better. so the things -- most of the things you're talking about happened during the transition. and most of the things you're talking about happened in
response to the intelligence community's judgment putin was trying to help him and hurt secretary clinton, and he did not like that message. all right? charlie: and donald trump did not like any insinuation that because of that he might not have won the election. michael: right. exactly. that is what he did not like. so he pushed back against that by raising questions about the effectiveness, credibility of the intelligence community in general and the cia in particular. that is what happened. he should not have done that, but that is what he did. that caused a big morale problem. but since becoming president, and by the way, during that transition period, he wasn't interacting much with his daily briefer. he was not taking many daily briefings. he did not seem to be paying attention. things are different today. my understanding is he is not receiving it every day, but he is receiving it regularly, up to three times a week. that he is putting considerable time into it. the cia director is in the room,
along with a briefer, that the president is listening and the president is asking questions. so i think things are getting better. charlie: is there a among national security professionals -- because of outstanding academic performance at west point and because of what they know about his positions in congress and because of the way he has handled the cia or is that going too far? michael: i think when mike pompeo came to cia, i think the people at cia had a question about him. the question about mike was, this guy was really political as a congressman. this guy beat the crap out of us on benghazi. this guy raised real questions about our integrity with regard to benghazi. this guy was a major critic of secretary clinton on the emails. and so there was a question, would he bring that partisanship
into the c.i.a.? charlie: and the answer is so far? michael: he has not. he knew going in that he would have to deal with that problem. i think he has dealt with it effectively. i don't think there's anybody in cia who thinks -- charlie: he is the best person to bring respect between the intelligence community overall and the trump administration so that they trust each other, and so that if the intelligence community makes a recommendation, the president believes it. michael: yes. yes. that relationship is very important for that reason. charlie: the dossier produced by
the former british intelligence operative. michael: yes, chris steele. it is still out there. i am sure it is input into the fbi investigation. the fbi is probably looking at it for leads. charlie, when that came out, i read it three times. charlie: all 28 pages was it? michael: i don't know how many memos over a long time, each memo two or three pages, it was a lot. i read it three times. and i said to myself, can i tell anything from this? does this tell me anything? and my answer was no, i cannot tell if there's anything in here that is true. and i really cannot tell if there's anything in here that is false. why? why? because i did not know who the sources were. chris had written source a, b, c, so i did not know who the sources were. and number two, i did not know how the source acquired the information. so if you are my source and you
give me a piece of information, you may be a very reliable source. you may tell me exactly what you know. you answer my questions fully. you have been working for me for 20 years. you give me one piece of information and i say where did you get this? and you say i actually saw this memo as it was going to the prime minister. i can take that to the bank. but the next day, you might give me another piece of information and i say, where did you get this? and you say, i heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend. and i say, i cannot believe that. so i did not know who the sources were, and i did not know how those sources acquired the specific information listed. so, i cannot tell what is true and not. i simply cannot make any judgment about it at all. charlie: what worries you right now most of all about the presidency of donald trump and the relationship with the
intelligence community in general? michael: so the thing that i am most worried about is that in a crisis, whether it is a crisis here at home, the bombing of the federal building in oklahoma city, or a terrorist attack here, or some significant event overseas, outbreak of the war that might involve u.s. forces, when a crisis happens, what the president says really matters. and in order for it to have the right effect both overseas and at home, the president has to be credible. the president has to be credible. and when he hurts himself by saying things like, "president obama spied on me" when everybody knows that is not true. that undermines his credibility.
when we get into a crisis, i do not want to have a situation where people at home or abroad are questioning whether they can believe the president of the united states and what he is saying. charlie: thank you for coming. michael: good to be here. charlie: i should note in full disclosure, michael morell was an advisor to the hillary clinton campaign and is a consultant also to cbs news. we will be right back. stay with us. ♪
♪ charlie: kati marton is here, a journalist and author. she's written eight books, including a national critics' choice award finalist. her latest book is called "true believer: stalin's last american spy." i'm pleased to have her back on this program. welcome. kati: thank you charlie, it's great to be back. charlie: tell me who this is. kati: he is a mysterious figure from the cold war who was used by stalin to basically try to destroy the american system. many parallels with what is going on today in terms of russian attempts to undermine washington at the highest levels. he was an idealist who was captured by a faith at an early age, and it became like a drug, communism, hard-core stalinism. and he set out to do good in the world and ended up doing
terrible damage, all in the name of this faith. destroying his family first of all, and then tried to destroy his own country, all for stalin. charlie: there is also this. your parents who were journalists in hungary. kati: it is a strange intersection. the reason the story of noel field has not been known until now, although he played a huge role in the cold war, was because stalin did not want him ever to talk to western media after the torment he had been through, which i'm sure we will get to, the torture. but my parents were the only journalists who ever found him in his hideaway in budapest my hometown, during the chaos of the hungarian revolution and surprised the man and his wife who asked for political asylum in hungary, afraid to come back to america because he had been unmasked as a soviet spy by then.
and so, the only existing interview with field was one that my parents did. and i was the fortunate beneficiary of that. a lot of pain went into that. charlie: did you discover that or had you known about this for a long time? kati: i had heard, when my father was freed from two years of maximum prison, the same prison field was in, he told us that as his jailer was leading him to his cell, the jailer said, congratulations, you got the v.i.p. cell recently vacated by an american agent. the v.i.p. cell did not mean a cell with a danube view, it meant more surveillance than any other. this name noel field. the name stuck in my head as a little kid. flash forward many years and i am reading arthur schlesinger's memoir and up pops his name. noel field.
and i thought, is this the same "noel field" my father spoke of? i started researching. i found his surviving family members who also were in the dark about what happened to this man who disappeared behind the iron curtain. charlie: what happened to him? kati: what happened was he was kidnapped by stalin's goons while he was serving the k.g.b. but when stalin needed at the end of his life, advanced paranoid, needed to get rid of his perceived rivals, he decided to use this american who knew all of the communist big shots in the soviet empire because they were all working for the same cause, he had him kidnapped from his hotel in prague, drugged, and tortured into confessing that he was not k.g.b., as he was, but c.i.a., and all of his comrades who
stalin wanted to liquidate were also c.i.a. so in one blow, stalin was able to execute all of these people through the confession of this one american. charlie: clearly, that was an act of -- how would you describe what it was for noel field? he had no choice or he believed? kati: he was a true believer, as the title says. he became such a passionate servant of this terrible, destructive ideology, and had made so many sacrifices. he had given up a lucrative, promising career as a diplomat in the state department. he betrayed his country. and his own family did not know he was an agent. and he was a product of that
time in washington, much like today, where people were searching for an answer to every problem. and the problems were abundant. 10 million unemployed from the depression, and a washington that just prior to f.d.r. launching the new deal was really starved of ideas, and capitalism seemed to have failed. and here was communism selling a bill of goods that this generation, many of the best and brightest, believed. moscow picked out those that were vulnerable to seduction. they had talent scouts searching for people who seemed somewhat alienated and idealistic, and yet positioned for big careers. charlie: what happened to this man? kati: absolutely crushed by this
man who never told them he was working for stalin, and in fact tried to lure them into the craft of espionage. the heroine of this saga who i loved writing about, writing a book is like a marriage, you have to like the subject. noel field is not the most lovable guy. he is complex and interesting. but his daughter, erica wallach, was a force of nature. adopted daughter. her children were very helpful to me. i could not have done this because this is very much a human drama, i could not have done this -- and yes, of the cost of total belief and sort of abdicating reason. i thought the comparison would be made to isis, the recruitment of vulnerable young people to isis.
but then along came all of this news of moscow again manipulating our affairs. one of the cast of characters in "true believer" is alger hiss, who was a close friend of noel field and tried to recruit him into the soviet military. by then, noel field was working for the k.g.b., political. but there is not a shadow of a doubt after you read this book that alger hiss was a spy, and a pretty good one, too. charlie: because of the effort to recruit. >> and other things. my father had the same interrogator in prison as noel field. it was through this interrogator my father learned a great deal about alger hiss. i also found letters in the secret police archives where i worked in both moscow and
budapest, letters between hiss and field that made it absolutely crystal clear that alger hiss was indeed a spy. charlie: how long did it take you to write this? kati: this is my ninth book. i average 3.5 to four years. this was four years and a lot of time spent in archives. call me strange. don't call me strange. [laughter] kati: i enjoy archival work because a lot of it is tedious, but then you find something others have missed. it is very rewarding. charlie: congratulations. kati: thank you so much for talking to me about it. thank you. ♪
♪ ethan: good evening. i'm ethan bronner filling in for charlie rose. venezuela, with more proven oil reserves than saudi arabia, was once one of the richest countries in the world. governed for the past two decades by the socialist party and ravaged by corruption and inefficiency, it is now on the verge of collapse with spreading hunger, rampant crime, and triple digit inflation. how bad will it get? is there a solution? how should the trump
administration react? joining me in new york is chris sabatini, professor of latin american studies at columbia university. and michael mccarthy, a research fellow at american university's center for latin american studies. i'm pleased to welcome them to the program. chris, you're in the studio with me. i will start with you. speak about how it got so bad, given all of the wealth and talent venezuela was famous for at one time. >> it was a confluence of issues. in 1998 when hugo chavez was elected, the two-party system that dominated venezuela for almost 30 years had basically imploded. you had an outsider candidate, a lieutenant colonel who had staged a coup earlier, came to power promising to clean up the system. he did in the sense he completely did away with the old system. in doing so, he also doubled
down on venezuela's oil wealth, which is considerable. over the course of his patronage-driven, very socialist-oriented economy, he basically consolidated the economy around oil. today, 96% of venezuela's exports are based on oil. that was fine when oil was $120 a barrel. today, it is around $40 a barrel and the country is hurting. ethan: beyond that, there are questions of institutions being able to withstand the kind of corruption that came in with that. >> he broke down the barriers between the semi-state-owned oil company and the government and raided its coffers, which also meant he did not invest in infrastructure and development. production has been declining. the central bank had been raided. he has corrupted and undermined democratic institutions. the supreme court is firmly under his control. the electoral commission is
firmly under his control. it has been stripped of power. ethan: michael, a little less than a year ago, you wrote in "the washington post" that venezuela is a powder keg. you said there is widespread social disorder triggering instability throughout the continent. is that right? is that still true or has something shifted and why? >> great question. i think it is accurate to say in 2016, the biggest fear those of us who follow venezuelan politics had was the potential of the country exploding in terms of social unrest. there were a number of episodes of instability on a citywide basis. however, the government hunkered down, deployed the armed forces to repress these protests, and it managed to hold onto power.
at the end of 2016 when the opposition managed to mobilize millions of the population on behalf of the recall referendum, the government blocked that effort which set the stage for what people thought would be a clash in the last couple of months of 2016. but lo and behold, an international supported dialogue process began immediately. that cooled the street down and de-escalated the situation in 2016, and it came to an end. i would describe the venezuelan population today as in a state of depression. they moved through the stages of grief with regards to the death of the recall referendum from mourning, to anger, to bargaining. now i think we are in a situation of depression where it does not feel like there is a sense of possibility or hope about political change. that helps explain why, at the
beginning of 2017, it has been quite a bit calmer on the streets of venezuela despite the fact the country is experiencing a recession marked by hyperinflation -- i should say depression marked by hyperinflation and severe shortages. ethan: this dialogue that you say calmed things down was promoted by the united states government under president obama. i think the dialogue has collapsed. i would be eager to hear from both of you whether you think the dialogue was the right policy. >> first, i want to compliment michael on what he said. it is a powder keg. he is absolutely right. it may seem depressed now, but what has happened in venezuela is dis-articulation of very -- the very institutions and rules that could have mediated and provided some exits. you have a hyper polarized situation. 90% of families are food insecure. they are not getting enough. they do not have medicines
coming in. people are waiting in long lines. there is a boiling cauldron of discontent. the institutions are not there to mediate it. the government has postponed what would have been a constitutional referendum and elections for governors. you don't have any exits very the hope was there could be dialogue. the problem was the united states and later the vatican intervened. also the union of south american multilateral organizations tried to foster dialogue. but there were no rules to the dialogue. they were holding the government unaccountable for basic rules and rights they were violating. there are over 100 political prisoners not being released or even on the table for discussion. ethan: let me go back to something you said. michael said a year ago it was a powder keg and now it is in a state of depression. you say it is a powder keg. it seems there is a difference between whether it is about to
blow or too depressed to do anything. is it your sense the streets could explode in venezuela? >> i think they could. the problem is the situation economically and socially has become so dire. people are pursuing basic human needs. people are scrounging in garbage to get food. people are starving. poverty is at 80%. they are pursuing basic survival needs now. that does not mean there is not deep-seated discontent and a level of repression from the government that should they begin to protest and take to the streets, i don't know where it will go. ethan: before we get to the dialogue, back to you, michael, on this question. when you spoke of moving from powder keg to depression, the impression you gave me was it is not about to explode. do you feel it is? did i misunderstand you? >> i think your analysis of my review of 2016 is correct.
i think at this point, venezuela opposition's leadership has a gigantic challenge in front of it which is to somehow get over the sense of demoralization that exists in the venezuelan population and create a sense of belief again. ethan: that brings me to ask you whether the dialogue approach was a problematic one from your perspective. >> i think there needs to be some nuancing in terms of how we understand the dialogue's negative effects in-country in terms of taking away the opposition's main resource at that time in october/november which was street mobilization. that is to say the opposition accepted a request from the vatican to not lead a march that was going to culminate in a rally in downtown caracas. the vatican had made the request because it seemed likely such a
rally would result in violence. the opposition basically took a step back. one could argue it was a mistake to call off the march completely. but you could also understand why the vatican made that request since its position for participating was that there be some peace in terms of political conflict. the problem is the vatican was not able to deliver. at this point, they have somewhat disengaged from the process. and there is a real problem because in-country, it is a problem of firepower in venezuela. how do you create a new equilibrium in which the opposition can in some way match force with the government? it is going to be very difficult. ethan: do you think the obama administration's desire to improve its relationship with cuba and take cuba out of the
freezer caused it to have a shortsighted view of what to do in venezuela? >> i think there are two answers to that question. part of the issue of not applying sanctions was in part driven by the state department and the career foreign service who wanted to pursue dialogue who had serious doubts about the opposition. it was not just obama administration policy. i think the obama administration made the calculation cuba was a lesser national security threat than venezuela was. did that mean they trimmed their sails a little bit on being more aggressive on venezuela? that is possibly true. but i do not think they were linked as directly as you might think. >> i generally agree with chris. i do not think there is much of a cost to sort of sanctioning venezuela. there is not much of a cost for hitting the country in that regard.
it does not have any support for example internationally really. democrats in congress are no longer willing to listen. liberal democrats are no longer willing to listen to the government's claims. you have a bipartisan consensus about the importance of sanctions for standing up for universal human rights. i think although there was the close sequencing, december 17, obama announced normalization. december 17, 2014, he announces normalization talks with cuba. the day after, he signs a bill from congress which resulted in the sanctions in 2015. there is a connection. the point is that venezuela, for the moment, is something where we are trying to rally the troops. but there still is not a consensus about what to do. right? no one is talking about the real value of the most aggressive
action, which would be sanctioning venezuela's oil exports, right? as you mentioned in the run-up, that would hit the government where it hurts. but that seems unlikely because of the precedent it would set. we are not talking about a crisis that threatens vital u.s. national security interests. so it is a very difficult crisis to manage. we do not really have that many great options. the real point here is to argue that there are great costs for disengaging. we have made significant progress in ratcheting up pressure. there still remains a great amount of work to figure out a solution to this highly complicated problem. ethan: that is a great way to end it. i want to thank both of our guests tonight. ♪
♪ >> from new york city, i'm jonathan ferro with 30 minutes dedicated to fixed income. this is real yield. ♪ big reflation trade becoming unhinged? -- vote on wall street has the vote in congress has wall street on edge. opec meets and the fed chair speaks with trot -- prime minister theresa may kicks off brexit negation -- negotiation's. we look ahead to next week. we spark with a big issue, is reflation trade deflating? >> i believe the reflation trade is average.