- Show Notes
On this episode of Stay Tuned, “The Fate of the World in 2020,” Preet answers your questions about:
— What constitutes impeachable conduct
— The authorities that Chief Justice John Roberts can assert in Trump’s impeachment trial
— Reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t have the votes to block impeachment witnesses
The guest this week is Ian Bremmer, the Founder and President of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk and research firm. Bremmer is also the president of GZERO Media, which features short videos, podcasts, and explainers to help break down complicated global issues, and is an Editor-at-Large and Foreign Affairs columnist at TIME Magazine.
REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS
- “John Roberts Can Call Witnesses to Trump’s Trial. Will He?,” New York Times, 1/27/20
- “Rebuke From Roberts Signals His Limited Role in Trump’s Senate Trial,” New York Times, 1/22/20
- “McConnell Says GOP Doesn’t Have Votes to Block Impeachment Witnesses,” Wall Street Journal, 1/29/20
EURASIA GROUP TOP RISKS:
- “Top Risks for 2020,” Eurasia Group, 1/6/2020
- “Top Risks for 2019,” Eurasia Group, 1/7/2019
- “The Fate of the World in 2019,” Stay Tuned with Preet, 1/8/2019
- Klaus Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Currency/Penguin Random House, 2017
- “Ian Bremmer reveals what business and political leaders are discussing behind closed doors in Davos,” Eurasia Group and Business Insider, 1/24/2020
- “Climate Change Takes Center Stage at Davos,” New York Times, 1/20/2020
- “Trump Focuses on Economy at Davos, Seeking a Counter to Impeachment,” New York Times, 1/21/2020
- “Greta Thunberg on Averting a Climate Apocalypse: Davos 2020,” World Economic Forum on Youtube, 1/21/2020
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY:
- Donald Trump Tweet about Bremmer, Twitter, 5/27/2019
- Bremmer’s tweet apologizing about the quote, Twitter, 5/27/2019
- “A political scientist caused confusion when he made up a Trump quote. The president noticed,” Washington Post, 5/27/2019
- “Mattis says Iran downing a US aircraft should be met with retaliation,” Military Times, 12/3/2019
- “Zuckerberg talks Warren ‘existential’ breakup threat in leaked audio,” Axios, 10/1/2019
- “After Contentious Interview, Pompeo Publicly Accuses NPR Journalist Of Lying to Him,” NPR, 1/25/2020
- “Prince Charles: We need a new economic model or the planet will burn,” CNN, 1/22/20
- Ian Bremmer, “How the Trump Administration’s Israel-Palestine Peace Plan Will Change the Middle East,” TIME, 1/28/2020
- “A Large Blank World Map,” Wikimedia Commons
- “Is it Appropriate to Undo Two Shirt Buttons at Work?” Wall Street Journal, 12/11/2014
- Watch: 2020 Grammy Awards
- “Alicia Keys honors Kobe Bryant in moving Grammys opening speech,” LA Times, 1/26/20
As always, tweet your questions to @PreetBharara with hashtag #askpreet, email us at [email protected], or call 669-247-7338 to leave a voicemail. Sign up to receive the CAFE Brief, a weekly newsletter featuring analysis of politically charged legal news, and updates from Preet.
Preet Bharara: Hey, Stay Tuned listeners. On Wednesday, February 5th, I’ll be live in New York city with GOP Political Consultant Rick Wilson to talk about my book, Doing Justice, which just came out in paperback. Of course, there will be plenty of other things to discuss, too. Get your tickets before it’s too late at symphonyspace.org. That’s symphonyspace.org.
Preet Bharara: From CAFE, welcome to Stay Tuned. I’m Preet Bharara.
Ian Bremmer: I think that there is a pretty high likelihood that we will go through elections in November, and there will be a winner and we will not know if that person is going to be president in 2021. There’s a relatively high likelihood of that.
Preet Bharara: That’s Ian Bremmer. He’s the founder and president of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk and research firm. Bremmer is also the president of GZERO Media, which features videos, short explainers, and podcasts that help break down complex geopolitical events. In 2001, Bremmer launched the world’s first global political risk index, a list of stability ratings for emerging market countries, and each year, Eurasia Group publishes their list of the Top Risks Threatening Our World.
Preet Bharara: Bremmer joined me last year to talk about the top risks in 2019 and now, he’s back to talk about this year, 2020, which places the upcoming presidential election as the most pressing global threat. He’ll tell us why. We also talk about the technological decoupling of the US and China, the atmosphere at the recent world economic forum in Davos and Bremmer’s Twitter spat with President Trump.
Preet Bharara: First, let’s get to your questions. Stay tuned.
Adam: Hi, Preet. My name is Adam from Chicago. Love the show. My question for you is about semantics. The president has been impeached on articles of obstructive congress and abuse of power, but still I hear political commentators and Republicans say that or they debate that those are not impeachable, but the president has been impeached on those counts.
Adam: So, my question is, what is the semantics here? Because I could easily see Adam Schiff saying something like, “Well, he’s been impeached for those, so they are obviously impeachable,” but I take it to mean that those political commentators and Republicans are saying that he shouldn’t be convicted on those. So, what is the proper wording for something that is impeachable and has yet to be determined for whether or not it’s convicted. Help me out with your wording here. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.
Preet Bharara: Hey, Adam. Thanks for your question and I think you get right to the heart of it in terms of semantics. I think a lot of people conflate the two things, confused the two things, impeachment and conviction. Of course, the parallel that people make to ordinary criminal practice is that impeachment is just the first phase and the same with an indictment or the bringing of an accusation through a grand jury is the first phase in a traditional criminal case.
Preet Bharara: The most important part then is the judgment that’s rendered or not rendered in the trial phase. In fairness to the people who call certain kinds of conduct unimpeachable, not withstanding the fact that President Trump has been impeached by a very, very lopsided vote on partisan lines in the house, in fairness to those people, I guess they could say, “Yeah. We understand that, as a fact, he was impeached, but it’s not conduct for which he should have been impeached.”
Preet Bharara: So, they can still maintain their opposition to it. In fact, a huge number of house Republicans by their vote said it was an unimpeachable conduct, but, yes, I think you’re correct that when people are making these arguments now that were in the Senate phase, the trial phase, that what they’re meaning to say is that this conduct does not rise to the level of conviction and removal.
Preet Bharara: Just to go back to a point that I think bears repeating as many times as one is able to repeat it because it’s a fundamental defense of Donald Trump put forward by a lot of his supporters, his lawyers, and in particular Alan Dershowitz, that one reason this conduct is not impeachable or not conduct for which he should be convicted and removed is that the articles of impeachment have to set forth an explicit crime, like something from the criminal code.
Preet Bharara: For a lot of reasons that we’ve discussed on Stay Tuned and on The Insider podcast, that is not so. Among other things, by the way, the people who are saying, “Well, you can’t actually have impeachment or even conviction on the idea of abusive power,” they may be forgetting that there were articles of impeachment both against Nixon and against Clinton that were styled as abuse of power, and didn’t set forth an actual criminal violation.
Preet Bharara: This next question comes in an email from Dave, who’s asking about a New York Times piece written by Neal Katyal, Joshua Geltzer and Mickey Edwards called John Roberts Can Call Witnesses to Trump’s Trial. Will He? Dave’s question is, “I would like to hear your thoughts on the article’s premise of John Roberts having much more powers to direct the trial than the public has been made aware of, and that the Senate needs two-thirds and not a majority to overrule him. If this is all true, it looks to be a game changer and puts John in the driver’s seat whether he likes it or not. Thank you.”
Preet Bharara: So, I think it’s an interesting article, and the three gentlemen who penned it are very, very smart people and very experienced people and have a lot of experience with constitutional law and with John Roberts. You may have seen that our very own Elie Honig, former colleague of mine from SDNY, wrote a piece on the powers of John Roberts can assert in the CAFE brief last week. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it at cafe.com/brief.
Preet Bharara: So, the way I think about this is not through a legal lens and there are arguments to be made as these folks have made that John Roberts can assert various powers if he wants, and there are varying arguments about what it would take to overrule John Roberts, but the fact of the matter is that it’s up to John Roberts to decide to assert various authorities that he arguably has and it’s not a clear slam dunk that he has those powers. I don’t think it’s a clear slam dunk that the Senate needs two-thirds to overrule him.
Preet Bharara: Remember, by the way, that the only precedent in the last century and a half for a trial of this nature of the President of the United States was 21 years ago when the presiding Supreme Court Chief Justice was William Rehnquist, who, by the way, incidentally, John Roberts clerked for after law school. Chief Justice Rehnquist in presiding over the Clinton impeachment trial, aside from the flourish of wearing certain stripes on his black robe, did not take an active role.
Preet Bharara: It does not seem to be in the temperament of John Roberts to assert himself in a major way and weigh in on a dramatic conflict about who should be called and the relevance of witnesses when the rules of the Senate provide for that being done by votes in the Senate. He doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’s going to take that kind of activist position, especially when the relevant precedent from 21 years ago of his mentor and former boss is one of being relatively reserved.
Preet Bharara: By the way, you’ve seen in the last week that there had been opportunities for John Roberts to assert himself and maybe derail the line of argument and he has not done so. As far as I could tell, aside from one post 1:00 AM admonition to the parties to be civil on the first day, he’s been pretty much quiet.
Preet Bharara: There’ll be another opportunity in the next couple of days during the question period to see if John Roberts is the kind of chief justice presiding at the Senate trial. He wants to assert himself a little bit more, well short of making a decision about relevance of future witnesses, but what’s going to happen over the next couple of days is it’s going to be Chief Justice Roberts reciting questions written by senators and putting them to the Trump lawyers and to the house managers.
Preet Bharara: Now, in an ordinary courtroom, you would expect a judge who is in command of the proceedings after asking a question penned by a senator and receiving a response that was less than adequate or off point or full of distraction, might ask a followup worded in his own language. I’ve seen judges do that at trial all the time. Will he do that? I doubt it. I don’t think Rehnquist did.
Preet Bharara: So, if you’re not going to see John Roberts taking an active role in policing the questioning and doing followup questioning, then with all due respect to these folks who’ve written about the power that John Roberts can assert, even if he is able, I don’t think he’s willing to assert it.
Preet Bharara: Remember, also, John Roberts may take seriously that the Senate has the sole power of impeachment. It’s really not a judicial process, and there’s also the embarrassment to himself and the institution of the court, arguably, if he does assert himself more and make some controversial decision and then does get overruled again and again and again. It’s not the kind of thing I think John Roberts wants to stick his neck out for, but I could be wrong.
Preet Bharara: I want to address one more issue with respect to the impeachment trial and it’s something that broke last night. Media outlets began reporting that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader announced to the caucus that he did not have the votes yet to forestall the calling of witnesses. As you may remember, there need to be, if all Democrats vote for witnesses or particular witnesses, they still need four Republican senators to join them. There’s a possibility that Mitt Romney will, especially with respect to John Bolton. It’s possible Susan Collins will, maybe Lisa Murkowski. If all those three vote for John Bolton, for example, they still need one more.
Preet Bharara: So, there was a lot of celebrating on the part of folks who think that a fair trial requires witnesses, and the polls show that 70% or 75% of Americans think the trial should have witnesses, and common sense tells you that every trial should have witnesses. History tells you that of all 15 impeachment trials ever held in the Senate, each and every one of them had witnesses.
Preet Bharara: Remember, impeachment trials don’t only occur with respect to the president, they can occur with respect to the lower officers, including judges, too. They just don’t get as much attention, but there’s always been witnesses. I would just caution people on how savvy and smart Mitch McConnell is and it may be in fact true that at the time he made those statements, he couldn’t be quite assured that he had enough Republicans in line to avoid witnesses being called, but it also could be a ploy that I’ve seen Mitch McConnell used before, both from a distance and up close to put the fear of God in senators in his caucus, who are thinking of straying from the pack and voting in favor of witnesses.
Preet Bharara: So, that knowing a vote on those things is not going to happen for one, two or three days, it gives the opportunity for people who are supporters of the President of the United States to put pressure on those senators to get in line. It’s rare that Mitch McConnell is not able to keep his folks in line. So, I don’t think, not withstanding that admission by Mitch McConnell yesterday, not withstanding common sense, and notwithstanding principles of fairness, I think it’s not a foregone conclusion, whatsoever, that we’re going to get a witness, not even John Bolton.
Preet Bharara: There are articles as I walked into the studio today that I looked at that suggested the White House is making a very, very strong argument to senators, not on principles of fairness, but in the interests of time and politics that they should vote against witnesses making the argument, as I understand it, that once they opened the door to a witness or to witnesses that the proceedings in the Senate will drag on for weeks or months approaching the time of the election because there’ll be protracted court fights about executive privilege and other things betting on the idea that senators who, especially those who were up for reelection in November of this year, don’t want that. They want this done. They want this finished and maybe it’s the lesser of two evils for them, even electorally, to take a bad vote, get it behind us and hope people have moved on to other things by the time we get to November.
Preet Bharara: Those are the arguments that are being made. I don’t know if they have forced or weight with respect to enough senators. Remains to be seen and maybe this will be answered before this podcast even airs, but I think it’s a very, very fluid situation with respect to witnesses.
Preet Bharara: Look, in the same way, by the way, it calls to mind a little bit. The final moments of the hearing for the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, there was this question about whether or not they should hear from someone else or not, and that the very last minute Jeff Flake, if memory serves, decided that they should extend the confirmation hearing.
Preet Bharara: At the end of the day, the vote was still the same as what people predicted. Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed and that may also happen here, that a vote for acquittal still seems all but assured, even if there’s a brief hiccup here in the plans of Mitch McConnell. Basically, the White House’s argument to senators is something like, “This is a Pandora’s box you’re opening and it may seem well and good and nice and logical to say as a matter of principle, there should be witnesses and maybe John Bolton to testify, but then we’re going to have a fight about Joe Biden, and then we’re going to have a fight about Hunter Biden, and then the Democrats and the house managers are going to fight over Mick Mulvaney, and some other people from the office of management and budget, the OMB, and it’s just going to be a mess. Y know what? You should avoid the mess and just shut this thing down.”
Preet Bharara: Of course, part of the mess is this question of a witness trade, which I’ve never heard of before. Obviously, in any normal proceeding, both sides have the ability to call witnesses and should call witnesses, but they need to be relevant. They’re not going to rehash here all the reasons why Joe and Hunter Biden are not relevant to the question of the guilt of Donald Trump with respect to the articles of impeachment and his state of mind because they’re not at all. Since going back to an earlier question, Chief Justice John Roberts is not asserting himself in any way, shape, or form on what is relevant or what is not at a trial. It doesn’t matter.
Preet Bharara: I mean, I heard Joe Manchin, who’s from West Virginia, where there are a lot of Trump supporters, openly consider the possibility of Hunter Biden being a relevant witness. So, these things are being decided not just on the merits, not just on the rules of evidence, they’re being decided based on political considerations and efficacy considerations. So, we’ll see.
Preet Bharara: I think the driving narrative of having a trial to decide the guilt or innocence of Donald Trump on these articles of impeachment with no witnesses being called looks absolutely terrible for the president and his supporters. I think that’s the reason why you’re getting some Republicans wavering, maybe not enough, maybe not any, but at least contemplating some middle road so they can make the argument to constituents that it was somewhat of a fair process and they could get on with it because it will look ridiculous if this trial comes to a close without hearing from John Bolton, and then John Bolton goes on his book tour in six weeks and says, “All these things that might’ve born on the guilt or innocence of Donald Trump, I think it just looks terrible, and they know it.”
Preet Bharara: Stay tuned. There’s more coming up right after this.
Preet Bharara: My guest this week is Ian Bremmer. He’s the president and founder of Eurasia Group, a risk research firm at the forefront of predicting global threats. He’s a busy guy. Along with assessing risk, he’s also the host of the podcast GZERO world with Ian Bremmer, an author and an editor at large and foreign affairs columnist at Time Magazine. Bremmer joins me to talk about the Eurasia Group’s Top Risks for 2020. What’s number one? United States politics, and it’s the first time that a domestic US issue has ever occupied the top spot. We also talked about the longterm risks of China’s economic ascendance, why war with Iran is probably not on the immediate horizon in his view, and why Trump might actually be a globalist. That’s coming up. Stay tuned.
Preet Bharara: Ian Bremmer, thanks for being back on the show.
Ian Bremmer: Preet, you’re my man.
Preet Bharara: That’s what they all say.
Ian Bremmer: No, they don’t all say that.
Preet Bharara: Let’s just see how the interview goes.
Ian Bremmer: Okay, fine. I mean, I’m back.
Preet Bharara: You are back. You are back. I mean, it took a year for me to get up the courage to have you back. So, you have your new Top Risks Report app. We’re going to get to that in a minute, but first, I wanted to ask you about where you’ve been recently. I understand that you have recently returned from Davos-
Ian Bremmer: Yup, yup, just a couple of days ago.
Preet Bharara: … where they have what’s called The World Economic Forum. So, can you describe what Davos is like because those of us who have never been, never been invited, wonder, are there fountains of champagne? Are there truckloads of caviar everywhere you go? What’s it like?
Ian Bremmer: It’s 3,000 people, delegates, who are all principals of their various organizations. They’re decision makers or in Davos parlance stakeholders, and they’re going there primarily because their time is their most valuable resource, and given that, they don’t care how much they pay to improve the efficiency of their time, and they get more done with that concentration of other stakeholders in five days than they can probably do in a month anywhere else.
Ian Bremmer: Having said that, and then there’s also a constellation of hangers on, who have an economy of being close to people who make decisions or in powered, and that’s an interesting thing that people that are outside the Congress Center but nonetheless find this very important. You try it. That’s a gray zone, gray economy. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Davos is that it’s been going on for 50 years now.
Ian Bremmer: For most of the history of Davos, the explicit ideology of the place, which is promoting globalization and globalism, so the idea that it’s good for everyone to take advantage of more and more open borders, free trade, free migration and free market, for 50 years mostly that has been a resurgent and increasingly dominant ideology that is clearly not true any more. It’s not true in part because the elites in the WEF are seen as increasingly nefarious by their own populations. It’s also not true because a lot of other countries out there, especially China, are building an alternative architecture to what the West is all about.
Ian Bremmer: So, that made this forum much more, let’s say, challenged in its self-satisfaction that I’ve seen for many years.
Preet Bharara: You say that with a smile. So, why do you go?
Ian Bremmer: Well, I go because if you’re in the kind of business that I’m in, which is trying to understand how the world works from a content perspective, you’re talking to a whole bunch of people that otherwise you’d have to travel an immense amount to get to see all of them, and also because so many of the people that are relevant to my business are there from a client perspective as well. So, I mean five days of Davos is really, there’s no other place like it.
Preet Bharara: In a good way, in a bad way, in a strange way, in a stimulating way, how much diversity of opinion is there?
Ian Bremmer: There’s less diversity of opinion than you’d like. I mean, these are people from Singapore, New York, London, Moscow. Heck, I was with the minister of finance from Zimbabwe, but who had a foreign Western advanced degree, who have vastly more in common with each other than they usually do with people that live five miles down the road in their own countries, and that is a big part of the problem that we have in the world today. So, it’s fascinating-
Preet Bharara: So, is that a criticism of the World Economic Forum?
Ian Bremmer: The World Economic Forum is a platform. Their ability to move the discourse is dramatically less. They tried to this year. They invited Greta Thunberg. She was there and she got a lot of attention. They put climate as the dominant issue on the public agenda.
Preet Bharara: How was Greta Thunberg received?
Ian Bremmer: Well, as a spectacle, mostly. Everyone was interested in swarming her and getting their photo of her and all of that kind of thing, but if you ask in terms of climate agenda, the average WEF delegate is much more aligned with Donald Trump than they are with Greta Thunberg, and that is an unfortunate reality, but one that needs to be remarked upon. That is less the fault of the WEF than it is the reality of what global elites and decision makers are all about, and why we’re in this pickle with climate to begin with.
Preet Bharara: So, Donald Trump went.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah, for a second time. Yeah.
Preet Bharara: How was he received and how was his speech in particular received?
Ian Bremmer: The only applause line he got was when he promised that he was going to be a part of this trillion tree thing. I think he liked it just because it’s a really big number. You know Trump. He doesn’t say trillion very often.
Preet Bharara: Sometimes he says gazillion.
Ian Bremmer: He could say gazillion, but that’s not a real number, but trillion, unless you want to talk about the US debt, it’s very hard to bring up trillions, right? So, this was exciting for him. He didn’t get applause, otherwise, but when you left the speech, and the speech was unremarkable. I mean, there was an enormous amount of exaggeration, but it was also basically on script. He didn’t ad lib. He didn’t do a lot of stuff on impeachment, all that. No, and no one talked about impeachment all week.
Preet Bharara: I was going to ask. That was not a big topic. It wasn’t even-
Ian Bremmer: It wasn’t a topic at all.
Preet Bharara: … at all.
Ian Bremmer: At all. No.
Preet Bharara: You also wrote that the attendees at the World Economic Forum this year we’re less hostile to or less perplexed by, or some other verb, Donald Trump than they were two years ago.
Ian Bremmer: Clearly true.
Preet Bharara: How has that come to pass?
Ian Bremmer: Well, one, because a lot of the statements he made about free trade, which really concerned them two years ago, they now see as either not having much of a fist inside the glove or having been resolved in their favor. US, Mexico, Canada, US, China, phase one, Japan, South Korea, even the EU, which is the proximate danger, both sides took a pretty significant step away over the course of the last few weeks for imminent tariffs, and that’s something. That’s probably the principal issue that most attendees would have a significant problem with Trump.
Ian Bremmer: They obviously like his tax policies. They obviously like his regulatory rollback. I mean, he’s been business friendly. You have more significant … If you go back to three years ago when he first became president, there were very few Democrats that believed that the US economy would be doing as well today as it is after three years of Trump. The beneficiaries of those sets of policies are largely the people that attend the World Economic Forum.
Ian Bremmer: So, I suppose it should not be surprising, even if it might be a little disturbing that most of them are much more comfortable with Trump winning a second term and believe he will than they would be certainly with Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but frankly, many of them, even some of those center but further left candidates that are plausible from the democratic side.
Preet Bharara: So, going back to what you were saying earlier about the lack of diversity there and how maybe the World Economic Forum is less relevant and less influential than it was because the domestic populations of some of the folks who go there have a different point of view than they might have a few years ago.
Ian Bremmer: Definitely.
Preet Bharara: Do we need a Davos?
Ian Bremmer: Do we? Who’s we?
Preet Bharara: The world.
Ian Bremmer: I mean, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to say.
Preet Bharara: Has it outlasted its influence?
Ian Bremmer: It certainly outlasted its monopoly global influence, right? I mean, that’s true. I mean, it was, in some ways, the organization that put out some of the ideas that were dominant among global thinkers for a long time that were received wisdom. I don’t think that’s true anymore. I think they’re aware of that, but let’s also recognize that no matter what the agenda of Davos may be, whether it’s climate or inequality or AI and the fourth industrial revolution, which was coined by Klaus Schwab, that term, which is also freighted with ideology, the people that are going there are actually most interested in making sure that their businesses are successful.
Ian Bremmer: Frankly, an organization that helps to ensure that the profitability and productivity of the private sector is high on balance is something that is good for the world if you also have global governance structures that are regulating those companies, those private sectors effectively, if you have social contracts that actually work.
Ian Bremmer: So, I mean, on balance, I want companies to do better as opposed to worse because companies that are doing worse are not thinking about how they can share wealth, how they can spend on things that will help the rest of the world. There’s going to be a lot less focus on climate when we’re down cycle economically than when we’re an up cycle economically. We need to understand that, but I think it’s broken as much deeper than just talking about the World Economic Forum. It’s much more a failure of governance. That’s what I would say.
Preet Bharara: Last question on Davos. Is it odd that Donald Trump seeks to go there with great fanfare given that he is, I believe in his own words by his speeches, anti-globalist, whatever that means, anti-elitist, whatever that means, and here you have a collection of arguably elitists, globalists?
Ian Bremmer: Well, he says he’s anti-mainstream media, too, enemies of the people.
Preet Bharara: He loves being on.
Ian Bremmer: He loves being on. He needs to be on. He needs to dominate every day. So, first of all, the fact that this is where the attention of the Western media is going to be concentrated the most for those five days means that if he’s not there, he’s not getting as much attention. So, it’s not, in any way, a surprise that it is important for him to be there. He may not like the elites, but he desperately craves their attention, their adulation, and frankly, to be one of them, right? So, I’m not surprised at all.
Preet Bharara: Desperately, right. I mean, that’s the weird thing, right? He desperately wants to be a part of these cultures and circles that sometimes reject him, including the mainstream media.
Ian Bremmer: Right. Again, he’s fundamentally much more of a globalist in both his history, his business activities, his media activities, and now his policies than people like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I mean, it may be that in terms of his personal character, his upbringing, his vulgarity, he’s not a Davos man. He’s doesn’t behave in the way one should act. He’s not good with tea sandwiches, right?
Preet Bharara: Maybe a point in his favor.
Ian Bremmer: Well, he’s more a Big Mac than tea sandwiches. Davos is more tea sandwiches than Big Macs because there isn’t a McDonald’s in Davos.
Preet Bharara: What are you?
Ian Bremmer: Well, I grew up in the projects and I’m glad that I’m not there anymore. So, I mean, you told me-
Preet Bharara: So, does that mean tea sandwiches or Big Mac or something in between? Shake Shack?
Ian Bremmer: I mean, something in between. No, no. I mean, actually, I want to eat healthy, frankly. I mean, it doesn’t have to be tea sandwiches, but I’m probably more like sushi, chicken soup. I mean, just I want to know where my food came from. Processed is not good from my perspective.
Preet Bharara: Sushi in the chicken soup?
Ian Bremmer: That could work.
Preet Bharara: Those are two different things.
Ian Bremmer: Those could be the same thing. I mean, there’s rice. If you want to put some fish on it-
Preet Bharara: Yes, you can.
Ian Bremmer: … but I’m not in any way surprised that Trump is aligned with Davos. I’m not any way surprised the Davos folks are more comfortable with Trump than they want to admit and that Greta was a nice shiny object, but at the end of the day is going to be a sad bump in the road for where the private sector and the public sector are speeding ahead.
Preet Bharara: Let’s get to the center.
Ian Bremmer: We’re not having fun. We’re talking very seriously and I feel like we need to be-
Preet Bharara: I’m going to have fun in a moment. I’m going to have fun in a moment.
Ian Bremmer: … going off piece of it since we’re talking about Davos. We need to hit some trees.
Preet Bharara: I have a few things to mock you about-
Ian Bremmer: Really? Okay.
Preet Bharara: … which I didn’t get a chance to last time.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. You’re mocking me. I’m going to have some stuff for you, too.
Preet Bharara: You have a lot of buttons on your shirt undone.
Ian Bremmer: For example, I have two right now.
Preet Bharara: That seems to be twice as many as necessary.
Ian Bremmer: That’s twice as many as you do.
Preet Bharara: It’s drive time with Ian Bremmer, callers. So, Top Risks 2020, just could you remind folks because maybe not everyone’s listened to the last episode from a year ago. Did you have a methodology? Do you pull these out of your butt? Do you have spies? Do you have metrics? I mean, you do a good job of setting forth some pros beneath each of these risks and they sound plausible to me, but how do you think about doing this very quickly? Then we’ll get to what you think the top risks are.
Ian Bremmer: Methodology is impact of risk, imminence of risk, likelihood of risk, the three of those things put together for the year.
Preet Bharara: Risk to whom? To what?
Ian Bremmer: Risk to the global macro environment, to the global macro economy, and the global macro political stability, those two things together. We have about 200 people in the firm. They spend months all putting together their ideas. Cliff Kupchan, who’s chairman of the firm and myself lead the process. It goes through a lot of iterations, cutting room floor.
Ian Bremmer: Most importantly is when it comes out. We would keep it on our homepage the whole damn year. At the end of the year, we go back and we see how we’ve done. I think it’s really important we do something like that. You have to hold yourself responsible.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. So, how did you you do? So, last year, you were a little, my recollection is you were a little bit of the view that lots of folks were overly scared, and being crybabies, and the country was great, and the world was great, and stop your whining, and everything’s going to be fine. I was a little bit more apprehensive about the world. You seem to be a little bit more apprehensive this year.
Ian Bremmer: I am more apprehensive looking forward to 2020, but I think for 2019, I think we were on the money. We were much less concerned to things like North Korea were going to blow up.
Preet Bharara: What was the number one risk last year?
Ian Bremmer: Number one risk. Well, the funny thing with number one last year was something we call bad seeds and we said there are lots of these big structural geopolitical problems that are being sown for a longer term harvest, but actually, there aren’t a lot of risks that are going to come out this year. So, it was the first time that the top risk of the year was a misdirection, was telling people that all the headlines out there really aren’t about this year.
Ian Bremmer: The fact that the markets were record highs at the end and the fact that you went through them all the report and not a hell of a lot happened, the fact that you go to Davos and everyone’s still comfortable, I mean, I’m deeply concerned about the longterm political trajectories of many things that are happening, not just in the US but in the world as a whole. In fact, more of the world as a whole, but not for 2019. I actually think we came up pretty well.
Preet Bharara: So, can we talk about one thing quickly that’s not in here?
Ian Bremmer: Yeah, sure.
Preet Bharara: That I’ve been starting to worry about because I’m one of these people who worries about dread diseases.
Ian Bremmer: I was going to say pandemics.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. So, the Corona virus, that’s very troubling to me and to my family and to a lot of folks. Can you say something about that?
Ian Bremmer: Yeah, definitely. So, I want to say something very broad about that, which is that even if the US-China relationship was good and it’s not, the fact that China is on track to being the world’s largest economy is assertively, it’s a good thing for China, it’s a really bad thing for the world in ways that should be obvious to people.
Ian Bremmer: Number one, it is a middle income economy, which means, for example, they need a lot more coal for energy. That’s bad for the climate, right? I mean, these are people that all, they don’t have cars yet. They want cars. They don’t eat meat yet. They want to have improved Western type diets. So, their carbon footprint is going to increase massively.
Ian Bremmer: We don’t trust their data. Their governance is bad. There are so many things. They don’t have rule of law. I mean, when the United States was at that level income, our governance was not very good. You just don’t focus more on higher hierarchies of Maslow’s triangle when you’re trying to get your people just basic food on the table and part of the global middle-class.
Ian Bremmer: The Corona virus is a big piece of this. I mean, the reason that it’s exploding in China is because they have a bigger economy with people that travel all over the country and all over the world, but a lot of their people still engage in practices, lack of health quality, lack of hospitals, lack of data, lack of political responsibility that befits a country that is not in the first world.
Ian Bremmer: So, that’s a serious problem. This same Corona virus was happening in Japan or the United States. First of all, probably wouldn’t have happened because they would have had much better ways to have stopped that disease from transmitting itself from animals to human beings. Secondly, if it happened, we’d have much better capacity to identify it, recognize it, and stop it, and we don’t with China.
Ian Bremmer: So, nevermind the fact that they’re communists, and they’re state capitalists, and they’re authoritarian. The simple fact that China is going to be the largest economy in the world means that our understanding of global governance is going to become worse, more risky, more problematic, more volatile, more uncertain. The Corona virus is a part of that, and part of the reason why our number two and number three risks in the world for 2020 this year are about China is precisely that reason.
Preet Bharara: Why do you have two?
Ian Bremmer: Because one of them has to do with the decoupling of the US and China technological systems from each other, and those are global ramifications. That’s the rise of a virtual Berlin wall determining, will the UK still use Huawei 5G? As a consequence, will the so-called special relationship breakdown with the US and very much the more limited possibilities of a US-UK trade deal and other countries?
Preet Bharara: So, the risk is what then?
Ian Bremmer: Well, one is that globalization follows a very different trajectory, which means constraints on the possibility of global market exposure, global growth, all of that, and the growth of a global tech war, where we each want to kind of undermine the other side, where the third risk, which is about US-China relations has more to do with the constellation of other things that the US and China find problematic about each other, human rights with the Uyghurs, Hong Kong, Taiwan, East China Sea … So, we could have squished them together and made them one massive risk about US-China constellation that we thought that would be too complicated, frankly.
Preet Bharara: You needed 10.
Ian Bremmer: We could have had another one. I mean, believe me, there were other risks that hit the cutting room floor about that.
Preet Bharara: So, with respect to the-
Ian Bremmer: I mean, South Africa is not in here, could have been easily. They were 11.
Preet Bharara: With respect to these two different risk categories relating to China, how do you explain how that matters to the average American?
Ian Bremmer: Well, I mean, as you saw from Mike Pompeo the other day, the average American doesn’t care about Ukraine. Can’t find it on a map. He doesn’t think that NPR can find it on a map, which was a lie, and I know that woman, but that’s beside-
Preet Bharara: Do you carry around unmarked maps? Who does that? I mean, does that mean … Do you know Mike Pompeo?
Ian Bremmer: I’ve met him. I don’t know him. Yeah.
Preet Bharara: Did he give you a geography quiz?
Ian Bremmer: He did not. Though I’ve been in the White House before where they’ve showed me maps and I’ve asked them.
Preet Bharara: He definitely buttons all the way up to the top.
Ian Bremmer: You think?
Preet Bharara: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ian Bremmer: See, I would say of the people that would definitely button all the way to the top, I would put Mike Pence at the top of my list there, right? I think everything is buttoned when it comes to Mike Pence. I think the buttons on things don’t even usually have buttons when it comes to Mike Pence.
Preet Bharara: Yes. He’s got ceremonial buttons.
Preet Bharara: Hear more of my conversation in just a moment.
Preet Bharara: Should you have had a reference to the Corona virus and this being another consequence of the state of affairs infrastructure-wise and governance-wise in China because that’s the kind of thing that gets people’s attention. These longterm global skirmishes about technology is hard for people to get, but they understand when people go to the hospital and die.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. I think the issue is that China creates, whether it’s around cybergovernance or around pandemic modeling or it’s around even a big sudden series of bankruptcies that they weren’t aware of, couldn’t handle or have been secretive about, I mean, simply put China’s going to be outsized on these risk lists for these systemic reasons. We weren’t aware that Corona virus a few weeks ago was about to show up on the field.
Ian Bremmer: I’ll say one thing that should be surprising to people is right before this report came out, Soleimani was assassinated, and yet Iran is not a top risk here. It’s a red herring.
Preet Bharara: Well, I want to come back to ironic because you call Iran a red herring.
Ian Bremmer: I did.
Preet Bharara: You see, it’s right up here at the top of my notes. See this? I have Corona virus.
Ian Bremmer: That’s a ballsy call, right? That’s a ballsy call. I mean, who’s asking?
Preet Bharara: Yeah. I mean, it could be a shitty call.
Ian Bremmer: I don’t think so. I think it was right on the money, my friend.
Preet Bharara: We’re going to go through that, but we’re going out of order here.
Ian Bremmer: Okay. I didn’t know you had an order. You didn’t tell me you had an order.
Preet Bharara: We started with two and three because you mentioned China.
Ian Bremmer: You started with Davos.
Preet Bharara: Okay. So, we skipped the first risk, risk number one.
Ian Bremmer: … which is the one that is most aligned with you.
Preet Bharara: Well, my interests. I know it’s aligned with me, but it’s the first time you’ve picked a risk like this. The other things on the list are things like, as we talked about two China risks, India, very clever. India gets modified.
Ian Bremmer: Modified.
Preet Bharara: It’s very clever. Do you come up with that?
Ian Bremmer: No. I didn’t, actually.
Preet Bharara: I didn’t think you did. You’re a smart guy. I don’t think you have the puns in you. You have climate change on here. You have climate change on here. You have Shia Crescendo, discontent in Latin America, Turkey. I also care about Turkey, but number one is domestic American politics.
Ian Bremmer: It is. Yeah.
Preet Bharara: What’s going on?
Ian Bremmer: Well, you know what’s going on.
Preet Bharara: I want you to tell us what you think is going on. My folks know what I think because I tell them every week.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. You tell every week.
Preet Bharara: Every week, but you referred to … Let’s look at page one. You say generally about all things, 2020 is a tipping point, and then in that context, in that frame, you refer to the greatest risk, number one risk. It’s entitled rigged with an exclamation mark followed by a colon, which is an odd-
Ian Bremmer: I know.
Preet Bharara: It’s not a good look.
Ian Bremmer: It’s not a good look. It’s true.
Preet Bharara: Two punctuation marks next to each other.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. I could have just done-
Preet Bharara: Then you have Rigged!: Who governs the US? There’s a lot of-
Ian Bremmer: I almost threw an Oxford comma in there.
Preet Bharara: That’s very promiscuous with your … but you don’t have a series.
Ian Bremmer: Because that could have pissed off everyone.
Preet Bharara: You don’t have a series.
Ian Bremmer: You don’t need a series to put an Oxford comma. It’s a beautiful thing. You could upset people.
Preet Bharara: It’s a very promiscuous usage of punctuation in a short title.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. You wouldn’t have gone there?
Preet Bharara: I wouldn’t have gone that way. No.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. No, but when I think about you, I don’t think about a promiscuous use of punctuation. I don’t. It’s the one button thing as opposed to two button thing. That’s it. You’re more careful.
Preet Bharara: So, did Trump write this headline?
Ian Bremmer: No.
Preet Bharara: Rigged!
Ian Bremmer: No, but that was the idea. The idea was it was supposed to look a little bit like a Trump tweet.
Preet Bharara: Rigged. Hoax. So wrong.
Ian Bremmer: You saw when when he said-
Preet Bharara: You do a Trump impression?
Ian Bremmer: Did you see when he sent me that thing and he sent me the-
Preet Bharara: We’re going to come to that.
Ian Bremmer: Oh, gees!
Preet Bharara: I’m saving that up. Your hugest, most massive screw up of the year. We’re going to talk about it, Mr. Ian Bremmer.
Ian Bremmer: Oh, I love it. I love it. Okay. Good.
Preet Bharara: Your Twitter fiasco.
Ian Bremmer: So wrong, Ian.
Preet Bharara: Your Twitter fiasco. We can talk about it now before we get to the series.
Ian Bremmer: No. Let’s go with this. I don’t want to distract you.
Preet Bharara: We’re foreshadowing. We will talk about the time that Ian Bremmer was tweeted at by the President of the United States because you screwed up. You screwed up, Ian.
Ian Bremmer: There you go.
Preet Bharara: I think you apologized for that screw up, but we’ll come back to that in a minute.
Ian Bremmer: I didn’t think that’s where you’re going, but that’s okay.
Preet Bharara: What is the risk with respect to domestic politics here and why is it such a big deal in your mind because you didn’t think so last year?
Ian Bremmer: Right. Last year, I did not think the Mueller investigation was going to lead to anything. I thought the way it was structured, you were not going to be able to show that Trump personally was involved in the Russian effort to engage and influence the undermining 2016 election. He had a lot of people around him that certainly did like Manafort who is now in prison, but I wasn’t really worried about that.
Ian Bremmer: This impeachment process I think is significant. I think it’s meaningful. In fact, I’m on the record of saying, my personal view is the president should indeed be impeached for abusing power-
Preet Bharara: Well, he was impeached.
Ian Bremmer: … and should be convicted.
Preet Bharara: … and removed
Ian Bremmer: … and removed. I believe that, yes.
Preet Bharara: The fact that that’s unlikely to happen because that-
Ian Bremmer: No, it’s likely to happen. It’s not going to happen.
Preet Bharara: It’s not? Okay. It’s not going to happen.
Ian Bremmer: Yes.
Preet Bharara: This is maybe an odd, and frankly, I don’t know how to formulate this question, if it were likely to happen, how would that affect your perception of the risk in item one?
Ian Bremmer: It would go down. It would go down.
Preet Bharara: It would go down because you would have, what? You’d have Michael Pence as buttoned up Michael Pence as the President of the United States.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah, but for whom rule of law is not going to be an issue. I mean, there’d be many policies he might put in place that you might not like that I might not like. The point is-
Preet Bharara: So, is this is a way … Aren’t you indirectly saying or directly saying that the existence of Donald Trump in the office of the presidency presents perhaps the most massive global risk in 2020?
Ian Bremmer: Because of this upcoming election, yes, in a way that I have not believed that it has put forth such an annual risk for the last three years. Yes.
Preet Bharara: So, what do you mean by that?
Ian Bremmer: What I mean is that impeachment is about to be broken as a constraint on the US executive, especially this executive in the run up to the 2020 elections. I mean, he will be acquitted despite having clearly abused power in an effort to tilt the election in his favor. He is then running for election. He will continue-
Preet Bharara: That’s never happened before.
Ian Bremmer: That’s never happened before. I also believe that the election is likely to be close. If I thought it was going to be a landslide in either direction, I would be less concerned about the US as a risk.
Preet Bharara: Part of your concern is that large swaths of the public, 40% to 45% no matter what happens-
Ian Bremmer: Either way.
Preet Bharara: … will not find the election to have been legitimate.
Ian Bremmer: Correct.
Preet Bharara: That is the destabilizing thing.
Ian Bremmer: That’s right. That combined with just how dysfunctional Congress will be in reaction to that, I think that there is a pretty high likelihood that we will go through elections in November and there will be a winner, and we will not know if that person is going to be president in 2021. There’s a relatively high likelihood of that, and that’s clearly never been the case for-
Preet Bharara: Like Bush v. Gore.
Ian Bremmer: Worse than Bush v. Gore because-
Preet Bharara: Why worse?
Ian Bremmer: Because Bush v. Gore, I mean, even though it went to the Supreme Court, it was about a couple hundred votes in Florida, the process, the concerns were fairly tightly defined. Both Bush and Gore were on the sidelines waiting for the outcome for the Supreme Court. Even though the vote was a partisan vote by the Supreme Court, Gore was prepared and Bush would’ve been prepared to accept the outcome either way. So, he conceded, Bush became president. Gore never got over it personally, but the country moved on. The ability for that to happen this time around I think is much lower.
Preet Bharara: So, let’s play it out in both directions. Trump loses. We’ll talk about to whom he loses, if that matters in your analysis or not. Trump loses. He doesn’t go quietly into the night. Do you think there’s a chance like Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, said when he testified in front of the Congress that he’ll try not to leave at all?
Ian Bremmer: I certainly think he will use every mechanism available to him both-
Preet Bharara: To remain in office even if he loses-
Ian Bremmer: A tight election, by a tight election, in a tight election. I think that yes he would actually try to use … He will certainly say that it’s rigged. He will say it’s illegitimate. He will talk about votes being miscast, being stolen.
Preet Bharara: All the dead people voting.
Ian Bremmer: He’s already said that for the last election, he’ll say it again. He said he’s really won the popular vote last time around. He’ll say it again. I expect he would talk about external intervention from the Ukrainians, conspiracy theories that he and others around him have already been promoting, I mean, all of those things. If it’s close, you could easily bet that he’s going to do that.
Preet Bharara: It’s not just him saying and doing those things. You’re starting to get whispers of people in the electorate who, if they believe that to be true, have been saying some kind of scary things like, “We’re glad we have the guns.” Do you think there’s a possibility of significant violence in the country?
Ian Bremmer: Unlikely. I don’t. I mean the United States is I think much more resilient than that and I think the number of people that are politically really engaged in the US, irrespective of which way it goes, is lower than in a lot of other places. Complacency’s comparatively high. Our voting turnout is comparatively low. A lot of people talk big, but there’s not that much terrorism in the US. I mean, again, antisemitism is up in ways that are really worrying, but total levels of murders in the United States, gun violence is actually down, right?
Ian Bremmer: So, no. I’m not seriously worried about that, but some one off issues of political violence that responds? Yeah. I would expect you to see some of that. Some more hate crimes with it? Yeah. I would expect to see some of that.
Preet Bharara: So, suppose he leaves, separate from casting aspersions on legitimacy of the election, I think he’s got about 77 days between the election and the inauguration of the next president, something like that. Are you concerned about other things that he may do during that time that will add to a global risk?
Ian Bremmer: I’m worried more about all of the efforts he will take to de-legitimized the outcome. It’s more about that, especially because I think he’s very unlikely to “wag the dog”. This is not a guy who was inclined in any way to use or abuse military power to get the Americans involved in wars to help him.
Preet Bharara: Right, because you don’t think he abused his military power by ordering the strike on Soleimani.
Ian Bremmer: In no way do I think that.
Preet Bharara: You have coined this new phrase, pet the dog.
Ian Bremmer: Pet the dog.
Preet Bharara: Wag the dog, which sounds dramatic. What is pet the dog?
Ian Bremmer: Pet the dog is that Trump’s orientation to the extent that he’s likely to abuse executive power for his personal interest against that of the national interest. The US is not about getting into wars. It is about-
Preet Bharara: Building hotels.
Ian Bremmer: … formulating deals, whatever those deals might happen to be, even if he’s giving away the store against the interests of the United States to show that he’s the best deal maker ever and the potential of him to work North Korea in ways that actually undermine US interest longterm, but show that he’s the guy that deserves the Nobel. He tried that with the Taliban and the invitation of them on the 9/11 anniversary to Camp David.
Ian Bremmer: I could see him doing that with the Iranians, even though the Iranians aren’t prepared for negotiations right now. Certainly, he would like to have such negotiations to the extent that Trump is going to do something really extraordinarily unusual in the foreign policy side.
Ian Bremmer: A lot of people on MSNBC have said, “He’s going to bring us into war.” I think the likelihood of that is actually extremely low, but it’s quite possible that he would try to create deals that really longterm aren’t good for the Americans.
Preet Bharara: Right, and that’s an assessment based on his track record so far, statements he’s made or an assessment of his psychology.
Ian Bremmer: I think it’s a little of both, but I think the one that I count on the most is track record. It’s what he’s actually done and what he has tried to do and not been able to do when constrained by adults in his administration. So, I mean, it’s interesting. He’s tried to pull troops out of the Middle East. Historically, he’s had a hard time with that because a lot of people like Former Secretary of Defense Mattis, Former National Security Advisor McMaster, others, have really stopped him from doing that.
Ian Bremmer: You remember when the drone was taken out, that Global Hawk drone, $130 million drone, looks like a big bomber by the Iranians. Mattis was serving as Sec Def at the time and was trying to convince Trump personally, and I spoke to Mattis about this, to send escort fighter jets with those drones going forward to surveil Iran so that the Iranians wouldn’t hit the US anymore. Trump refused to do it. Why? Because he didn’t want to get sucked or dragged into a war.
Ian Bremmer: I’ve seen this consistently from Trump over Syria, over Libya, in just a bunch of … on Venezuela pushing back from Bolton. It had been every place that you actually get a download from Trump’s personal intervention when there are debates among his people. It’s been, “I don’t want more wars. I want to pull our troops out.”
Preet Bharara: Let’s go back to the election. We’ve already hypothesized for the purposes of this conversation that Trump loses. Does it matter to whom he loses? Is there a difference between Bernie Sanders becoming the next president versus Amy Klobuchar or someone like that?
Ian Bremmer: Well, one, there’s obviously a policy, set of policy implications, right?
Preet Bharara: Right, but for your purposes in talking about global risk and stability and everything else, and legitimacy of the election.
Ian Bremmer: Less than you think. So, first of all, I don’t see the Democrats having 60 seats in the Senate. I think that institutions massively constrained what individual executives can actually get done. So, I worry less about the impact of a Sanders or a Warren administration on the trajectory of the country than perhaps a lot of people in the business community do, right?
Ian Bremmer: I mean, a lot of people will go nuts, “Oh, my God! If Warren becomes president …” Facebook, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said that one was an existential threat to Facebook. I mean, I think he’s lying, right? I think he’s actually lying intentionally, but if he’s not, I mean, my God, the ignorance is extraordinary, right? I mean, it just shows a complete misunderstanding of how America works.
Preet Bharara: Will the world be in any way worse if Facebook went away?
Ian Bremmer: Well, sure. I mean, a lot of people would lose jobs, right? I mean, it’s a billion people that are presently-
Preet Bharara: A billion?
Ian Bremmer: Well, yeah, a billion people plus that are connected to a Western multinational corporation that suddenly went away gives the Chinese a much greater opportunity to fill that space and to have not only companies that monetize just as effectively or even more, but will also have that data go up towards an authoritarian state capitalist country and create more of a surveillance culture from the government and weaken the ability of Western liberal democracies to flourish over time.
Ian Bremmer: So, yeah, I mean, you don’t … That’s the interesting thing is that on the one hand, Facebook is really bad for our democracies. On the other hand, our tech companies are bulwarks against the Chinese from a national security perspective. So, how do you deal with both of them simultaneously?
Preet Bharara: A conundrum.
Ian Bremmer: It’s a really problem paradox. Yeah. It’s really problematic.
Preet Bharara: Because you don’t love the state of affairs right now with these huge social media companies, the power they have, the ability they have to choose not to police things that are on their platforms that affect elections.
Ian Bremmer: Right. I worry very deeply that all of the people that focus on how problematic the social media companies and tech companies are for US democracy aren’t talking at all about what the Chinese are doing globally. There’s a Venn diagram with people worried about China and people worried about social media and US democracy or Western democracy. There’s virtually no overlap between the two circles of the Venn diagram. That’s a really bad place to be because it means you’re going to get horrible policies.
Preet Bharara: What should it be? The overlap should be extensive.
Ian Bremmer: It should be extensive. Yeah, maybe not complete, but it should be more than 50%, absolutely.
Preet Bharara: So, now, suppose-
Ian Bremmer: Well, that was fun. Now, there was an off-ramp that we actually stayed on for a while because of the one that you liked. See, if it’s an off-ramp you don’t like, then you want to go right back on.
Preet Bharara: I’d get right back on the road.
Ian Bremmer: You’d dip your toe and you’re like, “Too cold for me,” but you like some off-ramp.
Preet Bharara: It’s not about cold.
Ian Bremmer: So, you have to tell me-
Preet Bharara: You’re mixing metaphors now. Is it a pond? You don’t dip your toe in the off-ramp.
Ian Bremmer: That’s what you-
Preet Bharara: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Ian Bremmer: All I’m saying is that you need to give me better guidance for when an off-ramp is really meant to be an extensive diversion.
Preet Bharara: No. It’s organic.
Ian Bremmer: It is?
Preet Bharara: The conversation.
Ian Bremmer: Because sometimes you take off-ramps and you end up seeing the largest chair in America because the place you otherwise never go, right? It’s like, “Oh, my God! There’s the largest chair in America,” and you [crosstalk 00:47:31] That’s Bangor, Maine.
Preet Bharara: Yes.
Ian Bremmer: Have you been there?
Preet Bharara: Yes.
Ian Bremmer: You have?
Preet Bharara: Yeah.
Ian Bremmer: So, you should open another button in your shirt.
Preet Bharara: It’s cold in Maine.
Ian Bremmer: Did you see how organic that was?
Preet Bharara: That was very organic. I want to go back to your-
Ian Bremmer: What was the name of the blue ox? What was it? What’s the name?
Preet Bharara: Babe.
Ian Bremmer: Good job. Okay. Good.
Preet Bharara: Babe the blue ox.
Ian Bremmer: There you go.
Preet Bharara: Are you to test for my Americanness?
Ian Bremmer: Yes. Well, I don’t have a map. I don’t have a map that doesn’t have names on it, so I thought I would try something else.
Preet Bharara: We should probably spend more time on that map.
Ian Bremmer: We should because I could point out Ukraine. Let’s be clear.
Preet Bharara: I might be close. I mean, now, I’ve gone back and checked and I’ve studied maps. I was talking to somebody who I can’t mention, but a significant figure on Cable News with whom we were chatting before going on air. I’m like, “Yeah. We should maybe do some practice with the maps in case the secretary of state puts a map in front of you,” but I definitely would not have picked Bangladesh.
Ian Bremmer: You can’t mention that because?
Preet Bharara: because I don’t know.
Ian Bremmer: It’s a simple thing. I mean, that’s not-
Preet Bharara: Executive privilege.
Ian Bremmer: Really? Wow. If you don’t like it-
Preet Bharara: Of course, attorney-client privilege.
Ian Bremmer: I see, because I think the easy way to remember Ukraine is just look the Black Sea and there’s a bit that juts into it. That’s Crimea. That’s where the base is. So, whatever is attached to that, that’s actually Ukraine. I mean, it’s not that hard, right? Plus, it’s big.
Preet Bharara: Geography Today with Ian Bremmer.
Ian Bremmer: That’s right.
Preet Bharara: So, don’t you think that it means that Mike Pompeo has at the ready these maps and this is a thing that he does on a regular basis to try to humiliate-
Ian Bremmer: He’s probably done it more than once. He’s done it more than once.
Preet Bharara: … to try to humiliate people.
Ian Bremmer: He’s done it more than once, yeah, but you’d think that … I’m surprised it works. I mean, NPR is not the first place you’d go to whip out a map and say, “Where the hell is Ukraine?” I mean, I’m not going to get a high return on that. You could try that with CNN, the mainstream media, but you wouldn’t do that with NPR. Those people actually are bookish.
Preet Bharara: Right, but look, there’s generalized lack of knowledge in America about the world. You are in a small subset of human beings in America who know a lot about the world at your business and you travel the world, but I saw, you saw this, right? They did a survey of Americans asking them to find Iran on a map, and some people picked areas in the Midwest of America.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah, but some people picked areas that were literally in the middle of oceans, which implies-
Preet Bharara: So, what’s that about?
Ian Bremmer: It implies that people are trolling the response to the survey-
Preet Bharara: So, you don’t buy it.
Ian Bremmer: … and we should take them less serious. I don’t buy that people are actually picking Ohio for Iran or Indiana for Iran.
Preet Bharara: Do you do surveys like this?
Ian Bremmer: Not that would have notably stupid answers like that. No, we don’t.
Preet Bharara: All right. I mean, how important is it for us to know about what’s going on in the world?
Ian Bremmer: It’s important, but I also think that the fake information that’s put forward, and the persistence of a large minority of people that actually want to undermine the entire process really makes these conversations more challenging to have.
Preet Bharara: So, now, assume Trump wins. There’s still going to be, and it’s a close election, tens of millions of people who will think based on lots of things, including their experience with interference by Russia in the 2016 election, that it’s not legitimate. Is that universally more problematic than one in which there is a feeling of illegitimacy with a democratic president?
Ian Bremmer: I’m not sure. I’m honestly not sure because on the one hand, Trump is more of a wildcard in what he can do to rile up his base and his unwillingness to play by the rules and rule of law. On the other hand, the Democrats will probably have a whole bunch of legitimate reasons to feel like this election has been stolen from them. The polarization in the US is really extensive on both sides. So, I think both are problematic. I don’t know that I’d want to necessarily call one out as more.
Ian Bremmer: I think the issue is that when you get to an environment where half of the population actually thinks that the election is rigged and something needs to be done about it, the potential for Black Swan events to occur from either side is greater. The response and resilience to a crisis is lower. The willingness of other countries to try to take advantage of that uncertainty is higher.
Ian Bremmer: So, I’m more concerned about how the country responds to an unfortunate sudden escalation that no one anticipated in the middle of this unprecedented crisis. I mean, we’ve not had an election that will have gone this badly, that will fail this badly since 1876.
Preet Bharara: You see it in the report. That was the election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrats Samuel Tilden.
Ian Bremmer: Correct.
Preet Bharara: As you say, was one of the most hostile controversial campaigns in American history, and you think this will be worse.
Ian Bremmer: I think it’s going to be … I mean, I said since, it’ll be the worst since 1876. Remember, we were coming off civil war. There was reconstruction. The election failed and there were 20 delegates that both Democrat and Republican party were convinced that they actually deserved and won and the only way you could get an election outcome was for acceptance by the Democrats of Rutherford Hayes to win and in return, troops had to be taken out of the South, ended the reconstruction.
Ian Bremmer: So, it was an extra legal deal that needed to be cobbled together right before inauguration to get to America being able to govern itself again. In other words, rule of law broke down in that process. We’ve not seen anything remotely like that in this country since.
Preet Bharara: In reading your assessment of the number one risk, I’m feeling a sense of not hope and the reason is with respect to some risks, presumably there are thing … and these aren’t their longer term, there are things that you can do. You can hope that there will be solutions or that there will be a new kind of leadership to deal with these issues with China or some of the other things you mentioned, but I don’t see anything that can be done between, you tell me, between now, end of January and November to minimize this risk you’re talking about of half the country thinking the election is illegitimate, unless it’s a landslide victory. I guess it’s the one out-
Ian Bremmer: That’s right. That’s what you want.
Preet Bharara: … is a landslide victory.
Ian Bremmer: That looks unlikely. That looks unlikely, but I will tell you that if this top risk we’re not looking at this year, but we’re looking at 2025, so there’s a five-year risk horizon, this US risk would not have been number one. In other words, I do think that whether it’s a period of weeks or months, we will find our way through this. Institutions will work again. We will get back to not governance as usual, but governance.
Ian Bremmer: So, I think the likelihood of this actually breaking American institutions is actually fairly low. It leading to widespread violence beyond what we saw in 1968 stuff that you see historically in Paris, for example, I think is relatively low. I’m not that worried about that longterm, but I do think, again, because you asked me at the beginning what’s the methodology, part of it is imminence, likelihood, and impact. The United States is the world’s largest economy. It’s the only consolidated superpower in the world. So, anything that affects it even for a short period of time has outsize importance on this list.
Preet Bharara: Can you do an off-ramp?
Ian Bremmer: Yes. Is it a short or a long off-ramp.
Preet Bharara: I don’t know. Let’s see how it goes.
Ian Bremmer: Okay. Good.
Preet Bharara: I saw you over the summer and this is not long after your big Twitter fiasco and I gave you some grief, but I think you deserved it. So, in May of 2019, and you have an active Twitter account.
Ian Bremmer: I do.
Preet Bharara: You have far fewer followers than I have, but it is active.
Ian Bremmer: What are you? Half a million? Similar?
Preet Bharara: A million two.
Ian Bremmer: There you go. Ooh, you know exactly. Yeah, a million and two.
Preet Bharara: That’s not exactly.
Ian Bremmer: A million and two.
Preet Bharara: I have 1.2.
Ian Bremmer: Oh, 1.2. that’s even more than a million two. 1.2, that’s pretty good. Yeah.
Preet Bharara: I thought you knew numbers.
Ian Bremmer: No. I have punctuation issues, but you can’t describe numbers. It’s okay.
Preet Bharara: That might affect your followers, your punctuation. If you use enough punctuation, it looks like you’re trying to curse like in the old comics.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. That’s fair.
Preet Bharara: Ampersand. So, you tweeted. This is a cautionary tale.
Ian Bremmer: It is.
Preet Bharara: I’ve seen other people do this, too.
Ian Bremmer: It is. This is Memorial Day, I think it was Monday. Yeah.
Preet Bharara: Since you’re a friend of mine and you’re in the studio, I’m going to give you some grief about it.
Ian Bremmer: I’m more than happy. It’s fine.
Preet Bharara: So, you tweeted a quote that you attributed to President Trump when Donald Trump went to North Korea. By the way-
Ian Bremmer: He was in Tokyo at the time, by the way, just letting you know. Just be accurate about it, but, yeah.
Preet Bharara: Oh, I’m sorry. Trump, yeah, he was in Tokyo, and you did a thing that also in a different context and a whole other dimension, Adam Schiff has gotten in trouble for and that is comically trying to paraphrase the president in a way that in the modern world people sometimes think must be a verbatim-
Ian Bremmer: Quote.
Preet Bharara: … quote. You said, you tweeted, without saying just kidding, “Kim Jong-un is smarter and would make a better president than sleepy Joe Biden,” and people loved that tweet.
Ian Bremmer: As a quote from Trump.
Preet Bharara: As a quote from Trump.
Ian Bremmer: I wrote that as a quote, as if he had actually said that. Yes.
Preet Bharara: You know what? This is the unified field theory of your flaws. Also, a punctuation problem, right?
Ian Bremmer: Yes. Yes, clearly.
Preet Bharara: Right?
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. Yeah, the quotes were problem. The quotes were problem. Yeah.
Preet Bharara: I think the number one global risk for Ian Bremmer is crappy punctuation.
Ian Bremmer: No, I’ll tell you what I thought the biggest problem was, is that I wasn’t actually on Twitter after I posted it.
Preet Bharara: So, you couldn’t do damage control. You posted it-
Ian Bremmer: I had no idea that it was a problem.
Preet Bharara: You posted it and then you went to a massage.
Ian Bremmer: I posted it and I was in Nantucket for the weekend. It was Memorial Day weekend. I was just screwing around, and that was a mistake. So, when I came back on eight hours later-
Preet Bharara: So, the tweet went viral because all these people thought, “Oh, my God!”
Ian Bremmer: Thought it was real.
Preet Bharara: “Our idiot president, what has he said now?” Part of the reason for that, and this is a compliment to you, is you are a significant voice. You have hundreds of thousands of followers and people thought-
Ian Bremmer: Not 1.2, though.
Preet Bharara: Well, not.
Ian Bremmer: I mean, to be fair. I mean, if you had done that, Jesus!
Preet Bharara: I mean, maybe in 2021, well, because I don’t make errors like that. I make other kinds of errors, but that don’t make that kind of a flow. I would say this when I was in office all the time. I like to learn from other people’s mistakes. So, I thought deeply about this error of years, but people thought that you must be telling the truth and it must be a direct … I’ve seen other people do it. Then it’s too bad you didn’t have a book you were selling at that moment.
Ian Bremmer: It’s true. I did not.
Preet Bharara: Because otherwise, this would have been a bonanza for you.
Ian Bremmer: I would have done well. Yeah, of course.
Preet Bharara: So, you meant it, and just Trump tweeted at you, “Ian Bremmer now admits that he made up a completely ludicrous quote attributing it to me. This is what’s going on in the age of fake news.” Oh, look. “People think they can say anything and get away with it, which is kind of rich. Really, the libel laws should be changed to hold fake news media accountable.” First of all, are you in the news business?
Ian Bremmer: No.
Preet Bharara: Are you in the fake news business?
Ian Bremmer: No. I’m in the analysis business-
Preet Bharara: Okay.
Ian Bremmer: … but it’s fair enough.
Preet Bharara: So, just tell me as a person. You’ve told me privately, but now, say it to the millions of people who will be listening to this podcast.
Ian Bremmer: Sure.
Preet Bharara: What’s it like to be tweeted at by the president in that way?
Ian Bremmer: I mean, I was surprised, obviously, but he tweets at all sorts of people all the time. I’ll tell you that before he tweeted at me, I had said, as soon as I realized, I got back online and saw that people were actually writing about it, people that were important like Ted Lou has a million followers, stuff like that.
Preet Bharara: Congressman.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. I know Ted Lou, right? Acting as if it were true.
Preet Bharara: You know a lot of people, by the way. Give me small off-ramp from the-off ramp.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: You do tend to mention that you know these famous people. Is that like a Davos thing?
Ian Bremmer: No. It’s relevant to the story. I mean, I’m not someone who brings up, “Oh, when I was talking to X the other day,” and just dropping the name, but I mean, here, you’re asking me specifically how this process went and the reason that I took it down. So, I came online eight hours, 10 hours later and saw that there were notable people out there that had written about my tweet-
Preet Bharara: Amplifying it.
Ian Bremmer: … as if it were a fact, amplifying it. So, I took it down immediately. I wrote, “This was meant as a joke. My apologies.” It was completely ludicrous. Part of the problem, of course, it’s harder to tell what’s completely judicious with the president certainly because the president actually the next day said something that was pretty similar to what I had actually made up.
Preet Bharara: He said worse things.
Ian Bremmer: He said worse things.
Preet Bharara: He said worse things.
Ian Bremmer: Still, I’m not Trump, and I neither have his followership, nor am I a political figure. So, the rules apply differently to me, right? I mean, he can go out and do all sorts of things that aren’t applicable to other people. So, the right thing to do was own it, apologize, and move on.
Ian Bremmer: To be fair, when he then tweeted at me, it got a lot of attention, but it’s very clear that that news cycle blows over in a matter of hours. So, I mean, if you ask me did it have any impact on what I do or who I am, right? No, not at all. The funny thing, what I thought you were going to … I had forgotten about this. I swear to God. I thought you were going to ask me about when Trump sent me a copy of one of my articles a couple months ago.
Preet Bharara: Oh, no, but why don’t you talk about that, too?
Ian Bremmer: You remember that, right?
Preet Bharara: Yeah.
Ian Bremmer: You saw it. So, I mean, he reads Time Magazine and I wrote a piece.
Preet Bharara: He was robbed as man of the year.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. It happens, but he has had covers before as you know, and he’s also made up one in the past, which is funny, which no one does. So, anyway-
Preet Bharara: Have you been in the cover of Time Magazine?
Ian Bremmer: I have, but not as the subject. I’ve just written a bunch of covers. So, it’s a little different.
Preet Bharara: News media.
Ian Bremmer: I mean, I write for them every week. Yeah, I mean, it’s a big well-known … I write for them in part because, internationally, it has a huge followship and I really want my stuff to have more global resonance.
Preet Bharara: So, he reads something.
Ian Bremmer: So, he reads something. Apparently, he does read Time most weeks. He reads New York Times all the time, too, stuff like that. He saw the piece. It was about the RCEP trade deal and I was arguing in the piece because I believe that Trump leaving the Trans Pacific partnership, which Obama didn’t get done, but Trump then left, was one of the biggest strategic mistakes, missed opportunities that we’ve had in last few years. I wrote that RCEP getting larger was China taking advantage of that.
Ian Bremmer: So, he rips out that page. He writes on it, “Ian, so wrong. Many more opportunities to work with,” or something like that, “Donald Trump.”
Preet Bharara: In Sharpie.
Ian Bremmer: In Sharpie. You could still smell the Sharpie on the page. I mean, and I didn’t go close. I mean, you could smell the Sharpie just when you took it out. He had it couriered over to my office. Apparently, he was kind of bemused by it. It’s funny. You do get the sense. I did not feel when he wrote that tweet at me before or when he sent me that piece. It wasn’t out of malice. It was gamesmanship and amusement. This is what he does. It’s an act.
Preet Bharara: Like a shifty shift or good glory. All that is an act.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. The funny thing is I take my work really seriously. I don’t take myself that seriously. So, I mean, I’m not the kind of person who if you troll at me, it’s going to devastate my day or my week. If the president does that and he’s the President of the United States, I would rather him read my stuff than not read my stuff.
Preet Bharara: Do you have other Twitter rules? We talked about Twitter last time.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. Yeah.
Preet Bharara: I think that was part of the discussion. Who’s more responsible for Trump being president James Comey or Twitter.
Ian Bremmer: I said Twitter.
Preet Bharara: You said Twitter.
Ian Bremmer: I definitely said Twitter. Yeah, because I mean, not only does he have more followers than other people that are running, but, also, I mean, the amplification of those followers, both from trolls and from bots and also from really effective folks that are politically aligned with him in social media, I mean, just vastly greater than anybody else has. I think that really matters. Plus, it’s not just the US. I mean, Bolsonaro in in Brazil, that’s how he won. Certainly, I think that Salvini in Italy, I think that’s how we won.
Ian Bremmer: I mean, there are these figures that are tapping into tribal identities and social media is great at giving people what they want and tribal identities are the most visceral types of identities people have. So, people that do that well really succeed on Twitter. My pin tweet is, “If you’re not following people you don’t agree with, you don’t like, I’m happy to help.” I’m the anti-tribal guy on Twitter. I mean, I’m trying to create my own non-tribal tribe.
Preet Bharara: The other phrase you’ve used to describe what may be happening after the election this year is an American Brexit. What did you mean by that?
Ian Bremmer: I meant that after Brexit happened, one of the big problems that led the UK to just eat itself for three plus years was that so many people believed the outcome was the illegitimate. It wasn’t just they couldn’t figure out what Brexit was, it was, “This vote should not have happened. We need to do over. We don’t know what we just actually voted for.” It was the fundamental question of legitimacy of the outcome, right? That is precisely what I think could happen in the United States is that people aren’t going to agree on what happened during the election.
Preet Bharara: Speaking of UK, I don’t mean to call you out and I apologize for sandbagging you with this, but there seems to be an enormous emission here.
Ian Bremmer: What?
Preet Bharara: I don’t know if you can explain it to me and to the public.
Ian Bremmer: This is going to be funny. I can tell already.
Preet Bharara: How do you know it’s going to be funny?
Ian Bremmer: Because the wind up was too big. Yeah, you did that. You telegraphed it.
Preet Bharara: So, Meghan Markle and the Prince withdrawing from the monarchy. Could you please justify why that is not among the top risks because that seems unforgivable to me?
Ian Bremmer: I’m really glad that the Brits are finally focused on deep arguments that don’t matter because that’s where they should be as a people, as a nation, as a great nation. They’re very good at getting worked over and worked up on things that don’t matter. I’m going to tell you about that.
Preet Bharara: Why is that? You spend a lot of time in London, right?
Ian Bremmer: I do. We have a big office there. I’m going there a couple weeks. Yeah.
Preet Bharara: There is one, in all seriousness, I’m not saying it should be on the list, and maybe you can explain your views on what the future holds for Israel, which time and memorial has always been a hotbed of controversy and risk of conflict. What’s going to happen?
Ian Bremmer: I think it’s important to recognize that Israel Palestine is much less of an issue today for most of the players in the Middle East than it has been 10 years ago.
Preet Bharara: What about for the Palestinians?
Ian Bremmer: The Middle East is much less of an issue for the US than it was 10 years ago. We don’t need the energy, for example. If you ask people in the region what their priorities are, it’s Iran, it’s Yemen, it’s ISIS, it’s Syria, it’s Iraq. It isn’t Israel, Palestine, which mean that the Palestinians not only are getting more and more screwed, but their options are getting more constrained. I think that it is certainly true that Trump is nothing close to an honest broker between Israel and Palestine. In fact, no American presidents have been since Carter really, but he is an honest broker between the Israelis and the Gulf Arabs, which is geopolitically more important.
Ian Bremmer: So, I think one of the most interesting things that will come out of the peace plan is the possibility that the Gulf Arabs will respond constructively. By the Gulf Arabs, you’re referring to?
Ian Bremmer: The Saudis, the Amaradis, the Bahrainis, Oman, even Qatar, even though there’s a fight internally there, plus, of course, countries like Egypt and Jordan, Morocco, countries that matter in the region. So, I think it’s interesting that the geopolitical realities in the Middle East have shifted irrespective of whether President Trump or somebody else and they’ve shifted against the Palestinians. They’ve shifted geopolitically against the Iranians, and that creates an opportunity.
Ian Bremmer: I think that this effort to put the peace plan forward right now is also linking to the fact that everyone’s worried about Iran and the Palestinians are getting the short-end of the stick. So, they’re certainly not going to accept this outcome, but there could be movement geopolitically in the region on the back of all of this.
Preet Bharara: So, what do you think will be in five years on that?
Ian Bremmer: I think that there will be more normalization of relations between Israel and a bunch of Arab states. The United States will have less of a role in the Middle East and there’s an open question as to whether any Palestinian government will be able to unlock the aid that is potentially on offer to them, as well as a road towards a two-state solution.
Preet Bharara: Going through a couple of others, we’re running out of time. You mentioned Greta Thunberg was at Davos. Number seven on your list of global risks is you call it politics versus economics of climate change. What’s your assessment there?
Ian Bremmer: The economics are becoming more costly. The world is actually snapping back with the resource limitations that exist, as well as the extreme climate conditions that are causing real issues not just in people living in equatorial Africa or South Asia, but even in Australia, in California, Indonesia, but the politics from governments are still very incremental. They’re still no where close to being able to effectively respond to this, and that is creating geopolitical friction. It’s leading some private sector actors to start taking matters into their own hands, particularly because their publics, their consumers are prepared to hurt them on brand if they don’t.
Ian Bremmer: Microsoft was a big announcement, for example, that they’re going to go not only carbon neutral for each year by 2030, but carbon negative by 2050 for the entire history of their firm, which is really important. It’s really interesting that they’re doing that because the people, when I was at Davos last week, the people that were most excited about the Microsoft announcement were the Indians and the Chinese because their interest in climate is not how much they emit today. It’s not how much they meant per capita. It’s how much they’ve emitted historically to the planet compared to that of the United States and Europeans.
Ian Bremmer: If Microsoft is saying that’s the right way to look at it and the other private sector does it, that gives them a lot better capacity to really try to press what equity needs to be in handling climate change. Now, here’s the problem. The people in Europe for the green parties and AOC and Bernie Sanders who are really promoting green new deal have absolutely no interest in responding that way. They’re only focused on domestic responses.
Ian Bremmer: What they need is a Green Marshall plan. That would be equitable, but that’s not where the dark green left is in the US and Europe. So, we’re heading for a very-
Preet Bharara: They’re in the dark green left?
Ian Bremmer: Yeah. Yeah, as opposed to just light green or moderate green, the people that are really committed to spending a lot of money to responding, but they’re not committed to spending any money to responding to the problems that are much more legitimized longterm to the Chinese, the Indians and others in emerging markets, developing markets. I think that from a global perspective, that should be really addressed by these people. It’s so interesting that the far left in the United States is really only far left on equity when it comes to Americans, and their real interest in the rest of the world is pretty limited. I have a problem with that.
Preet Bharara: It’s a complicated question of where people’s concerns should be domestically or otherwise. It’s a little bit like on the planes. We used to be able to smoke on planes. There’s a smoking section, a non-smoking section. There’s really no non-smoking section.
Ian Bremmer: Because you’re just dealing with that, of course.
Preet Bharara: Because it’s air.
Ian Bremmer: It’s air.
Preet Bharara: If you had the first row behind the non-smoking section, you’d be behind the smoking section, there was a lot of secondhand smoke. So, it seems like we’re a little bit in a world in which people are assuming you can have smoking sections and non-smoking sections.
Ian Bremmer: That’s another reason you should undo another button, by the way, smoking sections on planes in the ’70s.
Preet Bharara: Global warming.
Ian Bremmer: No, just nobody in that position was only unbuttoning one button. I mean, that’s pretty clear.
Preet Bharara: Oh, no. There were a lot of buttons. There were a lot of buttons. You also want me to put my shirt collar over my blazer?
Ian Bremmer: No, no, no, no. I mean, you could do that, but you need a different shirt for that.
Preet Bharara: A different shirt and a different personality.
Ian Bremmer: No, no. I think your personality would work for that. I’m telling you, I think we could have that happen. You know neuro-plasticity, right?
Preet Bharara: Yeah.
Ian Bremmer: So, the brain will adapt to you actually changing your fashion.
Preet Bharara: Say something hopeful about the future.
Ian Bremmer: You’ll still be here.
Preet Bharara: You got to do better than that.
Ian Bremmer: Really? That’s pretty helpful. I will also still be here.
Preet Bharara: Okay.
Ian Bremmer: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: On that note, Ian Bremmer, thanks for being on the show again.
Ian Bremmer: Preet, always a pleasure, my friend.
Preet Bharara: The conversation continues for members of the CAFE Insider community. To hear the Stay Tuned bonus with Ian Bremmer and get the exclusive weekly CAFE Insider podcast and other exclusive content head to cafe.com/insider. Right now, you can try a CAFE Insider membership free for two weeks at cafe.com/insider.
Preet Bharara: I want to end the show this week by talking about something that everyone experienced on Sunday. Like all of you. I was heartbroken, shocked, and dismayed to learn about the untimely death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, and not just him, also his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people in a helicopter crash. It was a terrible thing and the loss was felt deeply by so many people, not just in this country, but all over the world because of the kind of player Kobe Bryant was, and because of the kind of person he was, and because of the magnitude of the loss.
Preet Bharara: As I think President Obama wrote, “Kobe was just undertaking the second phase of his life, which promised to be as significant as the first phase.” So, whenever greatness is lost exceptionally early, it causes a lot of sadness. So, that afternoon, notes of mourning came in on social media, on television, in newspaper articles, and lots and lots of people expressed themselves, but I have to tell you that evening when I tried to relax and not do any work and maybe escape a little bit from news and politics and all this other stuff that we talked about on the podcast every week, I turned on the Grammy Awards.
Preet Bharara: Bear in mind that the Grammy Awards are supposed to be about fun and largely an escape, but, of course, there was no avoiding recognition of the loss of Kobe Bryant, and for among other reasons, the actual Grammy Award ceremony was occurring in “the house that Kobe Bryant built”. When the host of the Grammy Awards came out, Alicia Keys, she addressed what everyone was thinking and feeling and mourning about right away.
Preet Bharara: I’ll tell you when bad things happen, you want to hear good words spoken, and it’s not always clear what you need to hear. The best and most genuine people know how to speak from the heart, know how to say what people need to hear. It must’ve been a crazy afternoon at the Grammys with all the scripts, and the jokes, and the intros, and the songs, and the pieces all planned and preplanned and rehearsed for days and weeks probably, and all that was upended by the untimely death of Kobe Bryant.
Preet Bharara: Alicia Keys said, better than anyone else that day, what we all needed to hear.
Alicia Keys: I know that we’re going to do what we’re here to do. I know that we’re going to all join together and do what we do in happy times and challenging times. We’re going to sing together, we’re going to laugh together, we’re going to dance together, we’re going to cry together. We’re going to bring it all together. We’re going to love together.
Preet Bharara: I’ll say also for all the talk about how artists and athletes and others should stay in their lane and they don’t have important things to say, on Sunday night, when it came to grace, and unity, and empathy, and, yes, a certain kind of leadership, it came from a recording artist. It came from Alicia Keys. Then she ended her remarks about Kobe Bryant by saying …
Alicia Keys: We’re going to make sure that we are celebrating the most powerful energy, the most beautiful thing in the world, the one thing that has the power to bring all of us together, and that’s music.
Preet Bharara: Amen.
Preet Bharara: Well, that’s it for this episode of Stay Tuned. Thanks again to my guest, Ian Bremmer. If you like what we do, rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about news, politics, and justice. Tweet them to me at Preet Bharara with the hashtag Ask Preet or you can call and leave me a message at 669-247-7338. That’s 669-24-PREET or you can send an email to [email protected]
Preet Bharara: Stay Tuned is presented by CAFE. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior audio producer is David Tatasciore, and the CAFE team is Julia Doyle, Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Calvin Lord, Sam Ozer-Staton, and Geoff Isenman. Our music is by Andrew Dost. I’m Preet Bharara. Stay tuned.