• Transcript
  • Show Notes

Related Content: Listen to the bonus content for this episode here

On this week’s episode of Stay Tuned, “Risks Realized,” Preet is joined by Ian Bremmer, the founder and CEO of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk and research firm. They discuss America’s standing in the world, Bremmer’s prediction from January that Trump would contest the election results, and what it will take to bridge the political divide. 

In the Stay Tuned bonus, Bremmer talks about the conservative media landscape and the possibility of Trump running again in 2024. Plus, he explains his fascination with puppets. 

To listen, try the CAFE Insider membership free for two weeks and get access to the full archive of exclusive content, including the CAFE Insider podcast co-hosted by Preet and Anne Milgram. 

Sign up to receive the CAFE Brief, a weekly newsletter featuring analysis by Elie Honig, a weekly roundup of politically charged legal news, and historical lookbacks that help inform our current political challenges.

As always, tweet your questions to @PreetBharara with hashtag #askpreet, email us at [email protected], or call 669-247-7338 to leave a voicemail.

Stay Tuned with Preet is produced by CAFE Studios. 

Executive Producer: Tamara Sepper; Senior Editorial Producer: Adam Waller; Senior Audio Producer: David Tatasciore; Audio Producer: Matthew Billy; Editorial Producers: Noa Azulai, Sam Ozer-Staton, and David Kurlander. 

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

Q&A: 

  • Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Rachel Abrams, David Enrich, “Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits,” New York Times, 11/09/2020
  • “Jones Day Statement Regarding Election Litigation,” Jones Day, 11/10/2020
  • Michael Shear, Maggie Haberman, “Trump GSA Appointee Stands Between Biden’s Team and a Smooth Transition,” New York Times, 11/9/2020
  • C. Ryan Barber, “Meet Emily Murphy, the Trump Appointee Holding Up Biden’s Transition,” The National Law Journal, 11/09/2020

BREMMER’S STAY TUNED APPEARANCES 

  • The Fate of the World in 2020 (with Ian Bremmer), CAFE.com, 1/30/2020
  • The Fate of the World in 2019 (with Ian Bremmer), CAFE.com, 1/09/2020
  • Geopolitical Recession & Ruthless Leadership (with Ian Bremmer & Rahm Emanuel), CAFE.com, 3/19/2020
  • Cynthia Littleton, “David Letterman Says Regis Philbin Is ‘In the Same Category as Carson,’’’ Variety, 7/25/2020

CONTESTED ELECTION

  • Ian Bremmer and Cliff Kupchan, “Risk 1: Rigged!: Who governs the US?” Eurasia Group, 1/6/2020 
  • Trump’s speech refusing to concede election, The White House, 11/05/2020
  • Nahal Toosi, “Pompeo promises ‘smooth transition to second Trump administration’ as world leaders congratulate Biden,” Politico, 11/10/2020
  • Nate Cohn, “What Went Wrong With Polling? Some Early Theories,” New York Times, 11/10/2020
  • Bremmer Tweet on Polling Error, Twitter, 11/11/2020
  • “Trump Allies Explore Buyout of Conservative Channel Seeking to Compete With Fox News,” Wall Street Journal, 1/20/2020
  • The Merit Trap (with Michael Sandel), CAFE.com, 9/10/2020
  • Dana Mattioli, “Big Tech Companies Reap Gains as Covid-19 Fuels Shift in Demand,” Wall Street Journal, 10/29/2020
  • Nicole Via y Rada, “Republicans who have broken with Trump to congratulate Biden on his win,” NBC News, 11/10/2020

GEOPOLITICS AND THE ELECTION

  • Ian Bremmer, “America Is Too Divided to Reclaim Its Place on the Global Stage,” TIME, 11/05/2020
  • Helene Cooper, Maggie Haberman, Trump Fires Mark Esper, Defense Secretary Who Opposed Use of Troops on U.S. Streets,” New York Times, 10/09/2020
  • Adam Taylor, “Trump administration has record of criticizing foreign governments that declare victory in disputed votes,” Washington Post, 11/4/2020
  • Helene Cooper, “Milley Apologizes for Role in Trump Photo Op: ‘I Should Not Have Been There’,” New York Times, 6/11/2020
  • John Hodgman Tweet at Bremmer on ‘Coup Cosplay,’ Twitter, 11/10/2020

BRIDGING THE POLITICAL DIVIDE 

  • Bremmer Tweet on reaching out to Trump supporters, Twitter, 11/07/2020
  • Shawn Langlois, “Former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly taunts Joe Biden, tangles with critics,” MarketWatch, 11/09/2020
  • Megyn Kelly’s tweet, Twitter, 11/8/2020
  • Bremmer’s response to Kelly’s tweet, Twitter, 11/8/2020
  • Alexandra Villareal, “Tall order for Biden to fix immigration system after four years of Trump,” The Guardian, 11/11/2020
  • Robbie Gramer, “Trump’s Foreign-Policy Adventures Haven’t All Flopped,” Foreign Policy, 10/14/2020
  • “Barack Obama Speech at 2004 DNC,” C-SPAN, 8/18/2008

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION

  • “Pfizer and Biontech announce vaccine candidate against COVID-19 achieved success in first interim analysis from phase 3 study,” Pfizer, 11/09/2020
  • Heidi Ledford, “Why do COVID death rates seem to be falling?” Nature, 11/11/2020
  • Michael Crowley, “An Obama Restoration on Foreign Policy? Familiar Faces Could Fill Biden’s Team,” New York Times, 11/09/2020
  • Ian Bremmer, “How Joe Biden will differ from Trump on foreign policy,” Eurasia Group, 11/06/2020
  • Nic Robertson, “Saudi Arabia preferred a Trump win. Their fears of a Biden presidency may be well-founded,” CNN, 11/9/2020
  • Megan Specia, “Saudi Arabia Opens Airspace to Israeli Flights for First Time,” New York Times, 9/2/2020

On November 7th, four days after Election Day, Joe Biden pulled ahead of President Trump by enough electoral votes to project the election results in favor of Biden. Traditionally, that would lead to a concession by the other candidate, and the transition process would begin. Instead, with President Trump refusing to concede, the transition has plunged into chaos amid ongoing litigation and recounts.

Ian Bremmer, a political scientist and the CEO of Eurasia Group, predicted this exact outcome back in January, when his global political risk and research firm released their top risk report for 2020. The #1 risk? A contested U.S. election. 

Now, as Bremmer’s prediction unfolds and Trump and his supporters contest the legality of the election, Jones Day, the law firm representing Trump’s campaign, has come under fire for undermining the electoral process. Preet, while outwardly opposed to Trump’s efforts to undermine the election, weighs in on the validity of criticizing a lawyer for their client’s actions. He also describes the process by which a President can be removed from office after losing an election, even if they refuse to concede.   

Preet Bharara:

Let’s get to your questions. This question comes from Twitter user FunnyOnceADay. That could also describe a lot of people I know. The question is, “What are the possible professional repercussions for lawyers working with the Trump team right now?” Is, “And then I work to undermine democracy,” the kind of thing that one puts on one’s TV? #AskPreet. So that’s an interesting question that I struggle with as a lawyer, and as I think about the ethics of the profession, and also the business model of the profession. I presume that you, FunnyOnceADay, are asking the question because there has been some reporting on the Lincoln Project, a group of conservatives who were never Trumpers, don’t support the president, and have actively tried to get him defeated at the polls. They are working hard to bring negative attention to the fact that a very prominent national law firm named Jones Day has been representing the president and his campaign, and some of these efforts in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, to overturn the results.

Preet Bharara:

So it is received wisdom in the legal community, and I think in the country, and an important value, that everyone deserves representation. That’s certainly true in criminal cases, whether you can afford one or not. It’s an important legal tradition in this country not to conflate the lawyer for the client, or the lawyer for the client’s cause. Clients who have been unpopular, whether they have committed crimes, whether they’ve committed acts of terrorism, whether they’ve even committed acts of treason, like the famous case of John Adams representing a Redcoat back during the time of the Revolutionary War. That lawyers can honorably represent clients, even if they disagree with them, even if they dislike them. Many lawyers, in fact, dislike their clients.

Preet Bharara:

But here are a couple of things that I think about when you raise this issue. One is whether you can rightly criticize somebody, as a lawyer, for representing a particular client. That’s one issue. I think if a lawyer wants to represent someone, they can, and if a lawyer doesn’t want to represent someone, they can. People draw lines all the time, arbitrarily or not. Famous criminal defense lawyer Ben Brafman has been on the Stay Tuned program before. Basically will represent anyone, other than anyone who has been accused of a crime of terrorism. He’s represented murderers. He’s represented organized crime figures, but he draws the line there for a particular reason, and I think that that has to be respected.

Preet Bharara:

The question of whether or not people should go out of their way to malign a law firm, or malign a lawyer, because of a particular representation, I’m not sure how I feel about that. So, first, is the question of the representation itself, but I think second is whether or not a lawyer or a law firm is representing a client, whether odious or not odious, by bringing arguments that are dishonorable, or arguments that are false. In this context, the claim in arguments that are undermining democracy. I think that’s a more difficult question. So it may be the case, as we’ve been reading about, that Donald Trump has hard a time expanding his legal team and getting more people to represent him in some of these election matters. Not that people resist representing Donald Trump, because he, in some quarters, and in elite circles, if I may say that, is a controversial figure, but maybe it’s the case. They don’t see how they can make plausible arguments in an honorable way that befits their legal reputations in that elite community.

Preet Bharara:

The other distinction I’ll make, and maybe not everyone will make this, is a difference between the standards to which you hold private lawyers in private practice, versus lawyers who are acting in the public interest, and whose salaries we pay. So, for example, I always thought that, in the US Attorneys’ Office and the Department of Justice, you hold those lawyers to a higher standard. Everyone is supposed to be candid with accord, but particularly those lawyers, and particularly those lawyers should not be making specious arguments. Should not be making arguments they don’t believe in, even as they aggressively prosecute cases or aggressively defend lawsuits brought against the United States. Obviously, defense lawyers and private sector lawyers should aspire to do the same, because they’ve all sworn an oath, and they’re all officers of the court. But, in our system, they’re allowed a little more leeway. So, what private lawyers do is one thing, but lawyers who have worked, for example, in the Department of Justice, and, as another example, in the White House Counsel’s Office, I think should be held to a stricter standard. Repercussions for lawyers who have made dishonorable arguments and specious arguments that are laughable. Some of those kinds of arguments have been made by this White House Counsel currently serving.

Preet Bharara:

Whether or not law firms care about that in the future, I think they should consider it. I think they should weigh it in making employment decisions. But, overall, a campaign to denigrate a law firm, I don’t love it. I have mixed feelings about it, and I understand that other people may have a different view.

Preet Bharara:

This question comes in an email from Amanda, “Does it matter if the president refuses to concede? Is there a legal or legislative way to declare that the outcome of the election has been officially decided, independent of a concession? If there is, what is it?” So, that’s a good question, and I think one that’s been on lots of people’s minds. So, with respect to your first question, “Does it matter if the president refuses to concede?” I think it matters politically. I think it matters optically in a few ways. One, it makes the president look ridiculous. It makes the president look peevish. It makes the president look immature, but, of course, we knew all those things about the president already. If the question is, “Does it matter legally?” No, it does not. I think the Biden campaign, and President Elect Biden, and I say that very deliberately, has tried to make the point that whether you concede or not, the election results are what govern. When you ask, “Is there a legal or legislative way to declare the outcome?” Obviously, that’s going to happen on a timetable that Anne Milgram and I discussed, and that other people have been discussing, when the electors meet and there are certifications of votes in various states. That is formal and official. That doesn’t happen until sometime in December.

Preet Bharara:

If the question is, “Can Joe Biden get some kind of official declaration in the absence of a concession before that?” I think it’s unlikely. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter, except in one particular. That is for Joe Biden and his team to get access to the proper materials to conduct an appropriate transition process. Under our system, funding for staff and for offices, and the process by which transition takes place, generally happens in our system when whoever the head of the GSA is, the General Services Administration, makes a determination that the winner is evident. Most of the time, all doubt is erased when one party or the other concedes. Then you don’t have to worry about the count. Then you don’t have to worry about the official declarations. Then you don’t have to worry about the electoral vote. In this case, because of the absence of that, there’s a bit of discretion that the GSA Administrator has, Emily Murphy, to decide whether or not it’s evident. There’s political pressure not to say that it is evident, because the president refuses to acknowledge it, and most of the Republican senators in our country also refuse to acknowledge it.

Preet Bharara:

There has been some suggestion that Biden could go to the courts. I don’t know exactly what the legal theory would be, but since there’s some statutory and regulatory structure here, they could sue on the basis that it is evident who the winner is, and unlock those funds and unlock that office space. I think there’s some considerations that weigh against that, probably overwhelmingly. Probably very substantially. One is that takes time, and we only have a few weeks left until the inauguration, and obviously less time until these certifications happen, so it might be a futile cause anyway. If you bring such an action, you don’t want to lose. You never know what happens in court, given how much discretion the GSA Administrator has. It’s also probably the case that you don’t want to give any credit to the argument, which you may indirectly be doing by saying, “This is where they have a court case.” You don’t want to give credit to the argument that the president has not lost. So it’s an unfortunate situation while the president continues to have his tantrum, claiming he won when he did not.

Preet Bharara:

The last point I would make about why it matters that the president refuses to concede, it’s bad for the country. It’s bad for efforts to unify the country if he never concedes, because it allows people who don’t like Biden, didn’t vote for Biden, to kind of bathe in this discontent, not just over the fact that their preferred candidate lost, but also that he was robbed when, in fact, he was not.

      The Interview

Preet Bharara:

Ian Bremmer is my guest this week. He’s the founder and president of Eurasia Group, a global political risk and research firm. Ian is no stranger to Stay Tuned. This is his record setting fourth appearance. Today we discuss his ominous prediction from January that one presidential candidate would not accept the outcome of the election. We also talk about the divisiveness of our politics, America’s standing in the world, and what a Biden foreign policy doctrine might look like. Ian Bremmer, welcome back to the show.

Ian Bremmer:

Preet, so good to be back with you.

Preet Bharara:

May I bequeath an honor upon you?

Ian Bremmer:

Really?

Preet Bharara:

Yeah.

Ian Bremmer:

Okay, sure. We can start with that.

Preet Bharara:

You may not know what it is.

Ian Bremmer:

I have no idea. No, I don’t know.

Preet Bharara:

So I’ve been doing Stay Tuned for over three years. I’ve had a lot of guests].

Ian Bremmer:

That sounds about right. Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

You are now the most accomplished guest in terms of frequency on the show. You are the first person to be on this show four times. How do you feel about that?

Ian Bremmer:

Wow. That’s pretty awesome. I did not know that. I assumed that you had favorites that you kind of went back to the well frequently with.

Preet Bharara:

No, sometimes I have guests on because they’re annoying. I mean, you’re not one of them, but some-

Ian Bremmer:

I thought you were about to say that was me.

Preet Bharara:

Sometimes. I was trying to think what this makes you in sort of the pantheon of broadcasting. It occurs to me, you are to Stay Tuned kind of like what Regis Philbin was to David Letterman. Is that fair?

Ian Bremmer:

That’s pretty exceptional. That’s pretty on point.

Preet Bharara:

May he rest in peace. Can you do a Regis Philbin for us?

Ian Bremmer:

No. No, I can’t.

Preet Bharara:

No?

Ian Bremmer:

Because I never watched him. I know I probably should’ve, but I didn’t. He related, right, to an audience that was both awake and watching television at a time when you and I are not able to do that.

Preet Bharara:

I don’t know why you’re speaking for me in that regard.

Ian Bremmer:

Because misery loves company. It just is much better if we can immediately create this kinship. If we’ve been on four times together, people need to understand that the major reason for it is because of this odd couple type dynamic that we have.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. Well, good thing we didn’t have the tape rolling before this moment, because sometimes you’re-

Ian Bremmer:

Because you can tell people why you refuse to put your video on, because you’re dressed inappropriately for podcasts?

Preet Bharara:

Look, we’re in the middle of a crisis, Ian. People are probably wondering, why are they talking about this nonsense when there are very important things to talk about?

Ian Bremmer:

Because we need that.

Preet Bharara:

I will say, we do.

Ian Bremmer:

We need a little nonsense. We do. Over the course of this whole thing, we’ll do at least a little nonsense. It’s important to keep [crosstalk 00:12:03]

Preet Bharara:

No, I think it’s very important. Every once in a while, I get scolded for making a joke. By the way, that hell scape that you and I both participate in, called Twitter?

Ian Bremmer:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

That’s the place, I think, to be a little silly sometimes.

Ian Bremmer:

I completely agree. People take themselves way too seriously. Did you see that I dunked on myself last week, and it was awesome?

Preet Bharara:

No, I think I missed that.

Ian Bremmer:

Did you really?

Preet Bharara:

Well, remind me.

Ian Bremmer:

It’s because like half an hour after the election was called for Joe Biden, I put out this what I thought was kind of nice message. I don’t have it in-

Preet Bharara:

Oh, no. We’re going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about that.

Ian Bremmer:

Oh, we are?

Preet Bharara:

Yes.

Ian Bremmer:

Okay. Okay. So you saw it. You saw it.

Preet Bharara:

Oh, no. I 100% saw it. I didn’t know that you consider that dunking on you. No, we’re going to talk about that at some length.

Ian Bremmer:

Okay, fine. Oh, yeah. Good.

Preet Bharara:

Mr. Bremmer.

Ian Bremmer:

Fair enough. Fair enough. Good, Preet.

Preet Bharara:

We had you on at the beginning of the year because you do this report about risk, global risk. Then we had you on again at the beginning of the pandemic to see how this spreading deadly virus was affecting your assessment of risk in the world and in the United States. To remind people who may not have listened before, and will explain I was excited to have you on now, right after the election was called, was the number one risk that we have discussed before in your report was a close political election in the United States. We’ll talk about all the ways in which that will cause trouble. I guess my first question is I don’t want to assume anything. Was this election, in fact, close?

Ian Bremmer:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, if it had been a little closer, we’d be in very serious trouble right now. As you know, there are a lot of people out there that think we are in very serious trouble right now. I’m not one of them. I’m not alarmist, but the risk, the number one risk, it was called rigged. The idea was that you have a close election and the loser refuses to concede. That delegitimizes the process. That was back in January. You and I had that conversation. I mean, it’s pretty clear right now that we’re in fairly unprecedented territory, as one often says, when you’re looking at the Trump Administration, in the sense that the election has been called, but we’ve just seen the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, say, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump Administration.”

Ian Bremmer:

You’ve never seen a Secretary of State say something like that. You saw Trump’s speech that he gave, where he said, “I won the election.” No, he actually has not won the election. There are a lot of people out there that actually believe, a lot of Republicans out there that support Trump, that actually believe that this election was stolen away from him. That probably reflects some strength that Trump will have in the future when he’s no longer president, but it also causes problems for our institutions in the US.

Preet Bharara:

Can I push back on this issue of whether or not the election was close for a moment?

Ian Bremmer:

Of course. Yeah, sure.

Preet Bharara:

Play devil’s advocate?

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

It looks like, when all the votes are counted, that Joe Biden probably will have 306 Electoral College votes, and the popular vote by anywhere between five and seven million votes. Donald Trump won 306 Electoral votes last time and he called that a landslide. His supporters called that a landslide, which is-

Ian Bremmer:

So two things you’ve just done which are strange. One is you imputed consistency for President Trump, which is unnecessary. I mean, we know that. The second is you talked about the popular vote as if that’s a thing.

Preet Bharara:

Well, isn’t it a little bit of a thing?

Ian Bremmer:

I mean, I’d like it to be, but it has nothing to do with it.

Preet Bharara:

It would be a thing in the other direction. It would be a thing if Donald Trump had won the popular vote, and Joe Biden just eked it out in the Electoral College. It would certainly be a thing.

Ian Bremmer:

I mean, it’d be a thing in other countries. Right? I mean, other democracies, it’s frequently a thing. In the United States, as you know, it’s not as much of a thing.

Preet Bharara:

So what’s your definition of close? What’s your definition of close?

Ian Bremmer:

Well, when I say it’s a close election, what I mean is it has-

Preet Bharara:

Do we only mean contested, not necessarily close?

Ian Bremmer:

I mean both. It’s not close enough that the contestation can be effective, in my view, and that’s really important. But it’s pretty close. What do I mean by close? I mean it’s down to a few swing states. Right? That’s what we’re looking at. Some of those swing states have margins that are reasonably tight, and, while the Democrats have taken the presidency, the Republicans have done quite well in every other aspect. In other words, this was not a blue wave. It’s hard to describe this even as a blue ripple. I mean, if I’m a Republican. As you know, I’m not affiliated with a party, but if I were a Republican, I think I’d be pretty happy with this outcome. I mean, just objectively speaking, I think the Republicans end up with significant power, in some ways more power than the Democrats, coming out of this election in January.

Preet Bharara:

Could we talk for a second about how people got this wrong? You’re not a pollster, but you deal in data and analytics a lot. What went wrong? How did the predictions and projections generally, in the country, get it wrong? Then, specifically, why was it so wrong in Maine and in other places? I guess, specifically, I want to ask you about something that I know people have been talking about, this sort of Trump voter non-response bias.

Ian Bremmer:

Completely.

Preet Bharara:

What’s that about?

Ian Bremmer:

So what’s really interesting is you know I spend so much of my time not thinking about the US, but thinking about the rest of the world. When you compare the polling error in the United States in this election to polling error in any other major advanced industrial democracy, the US is such a clear outlier. It’s so much worse here. It’s the same polling methodology. Same companies, in many cases, so-

Preet Bharara:

Has that always been true, or is that more recent?

Ian Bremmer:

It’s becoming worse. It’s becoming worse in the US. Why? Why is that? I mean, one obvious reason is because the United States has a larger percentage of the population that feels like the institutions are illegitimate, and those institutions include mainstream media and polling agencies. I think you’re getting a large percentage of the population. By large, in some cases, 10, 20%, that simply will not take a call from a polling agency that represents a media organization. They say, “Well, these people aren’t helping me.” It’s not even a question of lying to them. It’s a question of I will not talk to them, so your sample is automatically skewed to not include many people that are delegitimized. Those people tend to vote much more for anti-establishment candidates. Certainly, in 2016 and 2020, we know who that candidate was.

Preet Bharara:

As a quantitative matter, if that’s the diagnosis, and you know the degree to which people feel that way, that the system is so broken they’re not going to participate, can you adjust for that?

Ian Bremmer:

I think it’s really hard.

Preet Bharara:

To be more accurate in the future? Why not?

Ian Bremmer:

I think it’s really hard, because I don’t think you do know how many people feel that way. You don’t know how many of them are necessarily voting one way or the other, because they’re simply not talking to you. It’s a black box. It’s an absence of data. I mean, your polling can be really good in understanding a sample that you have some information from, but if there’s a black hole with a part of your sample, I don’t care what methodology you’re using. You’re not getting at that black hole. That’s a problem. I think the presumption has been, all the way through 2016, 2020, if there are people that we’re not getting, well, we’re just going to treat them as if they’re representative. There’s no other way. I mean, you can use judgment, but that judgment is not going to be informed by data.

Preet Bharara:

Do you know people, personally, who fall into that category?

Ian Bremmer:

Absolutely. Absolutely. My mother used to fall into that category, by the way.

Preet Bharara:

Why is that?

Ian Bremmer:

My mother?

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. What causes-

Ian Bremmer:

You really want to get into this, because it’s interesting.

Preet Bharara:

Well, we don’t have to talk about your mother. We can.

Ian Bremmer:

We can.

Preet Bharara:

Are you lying down on your couch?

Ian Bremmer:

Not yet.

Preet Bharara:

I saw you have a nice couch on the Zoom earlier.

Ian Bremmer:

I took my shoes off. I mean, I could.

Preet Bharara:

You took your shoes off?

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

I should tell the audience that Ian likes to let us know what’s going on. Even though we are not on video and only audio, he decided to inform me and the team that he was taking his shoes off. The question is, you can make your answer in reference to your mother or not, what is the thing that’s been going on in our politics, or in our society, or in our culture, that is causing people to almost, in a way, disenfranchise themselves, or at least disassociate themselves from what’s going on? What has caused them to go over the edge, with respect for the system?

Ian Bremmer:

It’s displacement. It’s a sense that there is no opportunity for themselves or for their kids. That they’re forgotten. That the country has moved on. That nobody cares about them. It’s reflected in greater suicide rates, in drugs addictions. Part of it is, of course, directly economic. We see that with yawning gap of economic inequality in the US compared to other countries, but it’s not just that. It’s wars that we fight on the back of the same people that aren’t successful. They’re not treated like heroes when they come back. It’s a country that’s changing quite a bit demographically. We’re bringing in a lot of immigrants. Whites in America will be a minority by 2045. Yet, it’s kind of acceptable, in many circles, to be racist against white, rural, undereducated, underclass in the United States, in a way that you would never think it was okay. It’s the Barack thing, right, in a way that it would never be okay to make fun of blacks in the US like that, or Hispanics, or Muslims. I think all of those things together.

Ian Bremmer:

People say Trump has been so bad to the base. He’s lied. Certainly, Trump has. If you look at his regulatory rollback, if you look at his tax policies, he’s not drained the swamp at all. Right? I mean, he’s been great for billionaires. He’s been great for you and me, economically. He’s been great for big businesses, and banks, and the rest.

Preet Bharara:

Are you suggesting that we’re billionaires?

Ian Bremmer:

No. I started with billionaires, and then I went one step down.

Preet Bharara:

It’s not exclusive. I see.

Ian Bremmer:

I mean, Jesus. If you and I just set up shop someplace, we could buy a really nice house. You know?

Preet Bharara:

Could we buy OANN?

Ian Bremmer:

I don’t think we could buy OANN. There’s going to be competition for that. It’s going to get more expensive. We could’ve probably bought it just before.

Preet Bharara:

Before?

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

Right?

Ian Bremmer:

But now it sounds hard. What would we do with it, though? We would just troll it? We’d just buy it to make fun of it?

Preet Bharara:

Game shows. I think we’d make it a game show network.

Ian Bremmer:

That’s not actually a bad idea. Right?

Preet Bharara:

I think game shows are going to become more popular.

Ian Bremmer:

Now that Alex Trebek has died?

Preet Bharara:

No. Now that people are turning away from politics once this race is settled. I think that when-

Ian Bremmer:

I’m like, that just felt like such a bad coincidence for you to bring that up.

Preet Bharara:

No. I didn’t-

Ian Bremmer:

As I’m still mourning.

Preet Bharara:

So am I.

Ian Bremmer:

Oh, okay.

Preet Bharara:

Have you ever been a Jeopardy question?

Ian Bremmer:

Have you?

Alex Trebek:

With a knack for explaining complex legal issues with simple language, stay tuned with Preet. Preet being this ex US Attorney. Jonathan?

Jonathan:

Who is Bharara?

Alex Trebek:

Good.

Ian Bremmer:

I’ve been a crossword puzzle clue twice.

Preet Bharara:

I’m going to ask you a question that I’ve asked a lot of people, because it’s been sticking in my head since I’ve had the philosopher Michael Sandel on the show. Part of what you’re talking about, he says, is how liberals and progressives have valorized college and made college sort of the holy grail. It’s great, and all the statistics show that you have a higher income over your lifetime and longer life expectancy, and all of that, if you have a college degree. But two thirds of Americans don’t get a college degree.

Ian Bremmer:

That’s right. That’s exactly right.

Preet Bharara:

So this inordinate stress on college and going to college is good, but, on the flip side, there is the implication. If you don’t go to college, you’re not worthy and you’re not good. That’s terrible. Do you agree with that? If so, what do we do about that?

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah. I think it’s a big part of the problem, and I also think lack of access to gate keepers, even if you get into college, but it’s not a first tier or second tier college. It’s becoming a big problem. You and I remember the varsity blues thing. Right? When you’ve got these wealthy parents that are doing everything possible to ensure that that wealth continues, and that connectivity continues. You and I didn’t have that growing up. A lot of these kids, a lot of these adults, will never have anything remotely like that. What do we do about it? We’re going to have to really invest in universal lifetime training and education. Right? I mean, it’s not about teaching people to code. Not only the fact that once AI gets better, coding is going to be useless. We have to teach critical thinking. We have to actually improve people’s ability to engage in real organizational and management conversations. We have to train them to function in a modern society, and that’s not necessarily a four year college degree, but it’s very different than forgetting about such a large piece of our population.

Ian Bremmer:

This is going to get so much worse next year, because we’ve just experienced a year of pandemic. The one thing we know about pandemic is it has so accelerated the efficiencies of technology companies and the knowledge economy. If you’re not a part of that, you are so fucked.

Preet Bharara:

I want to talk more about all of this and how people are disaffected, but I don’t want to lose sight of what we began talking about, and that is why we’re in trouble. Are you surprised at all, in the aftermath of Biden being projected as the winner, that virtually every US Senator is taking Trump’s side? Did you think that they would fold it up once that happened?

Ian Bremmer:

I’m not sure they have. I’m not sure they have. First of all, we’ve already seen a number of senators. It’s not just Mitt Romney that have already called to congratulate Biden on winning the presidency.

Preet Bharara:

But it’s the usual suspects. It’s Mitt Romney. It’s Lisa Murkowski. It’s Susan Collins.

Ian Bremmer:

Susan Collins. It was Ben Sasse, I think. We’ve had at least four, maybe. I think five. I think there was one more that said that. He may not have called, but he said that Trump had to start the transition and get that process going, so-

Preet Bharara:

But why isn’t it more? Is it because they’re afraid of Trump? Is it because they’re like Trump? Is it because they’re trying to protect their own reputations with the base of Trump?

Ian Bremmer:

Well, I think there are a few things. First of all, even though the media, including Fox News, has called the outcome. It was funny, because I was on with Maria Bartiromo the other morning. Well after Fox News had called the outcome, she starts the interview with saying with me, “Well, if it turns out that Biden becomes the president.” I just stopped her. I’m like, “Maria, since we’re on your show on Fox News, I actually think we should go with the call of your company. I’m going to, just for the purposes of this interview.” I mean, to give her credit, she didn’t try to undermine that or anything, but she just kind of had to throw it in, because all these people are posturing for Trump himself and for the family. They want to be well thought of in their graces. Right?

Ian Bremmer:

No. I think that we need to understand that where we are right now is that, despite the fact that these media companies have called it, Trump has every legal right to contest these outcomes through cases. Well, you know that much better than I do. As that goes on, if you’re McConnell, I don’t think there’s any harm in saying, “Let’s allow those legal cases to proceed.” He will exhaust them in very short order. Once he exhausts them, there will be nothing else for him to do. There’ll still be some Republicans that stick with him, but I think once the legal process is over, you will have nothing close to the Republicans that would be necessary to effectively try to contest or overturn this outcome, which would require, eventually, [crosstalk 00:27:50]

Preet Bharara:

Well, I hope that’s right. I’m not quite as optimistic.

Ian Bremmer:

I feel very confident about that. I feel very confident.

Preet Bharara:

Look, and there are harms.

Ian Bremmer:

Yes, that’s right.

Preet Bharara:

Notably among the harms is a delay in transition.

Ian Bremmer:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

A delay in President Elect Biden getting national security briefings. That’s not good. They only have 70 some days.

Ian Bremmer:

Not only that, but also just looking like our political system is massively dysfunctional to every other country around the world, and making the average American. I saw a poll yesterday said 70% of Republicans think the election has been stolen. Just the level of divide in the United States right now, politically, I think is significantly greater than that of any other major advanced industrial democracy.

Ian Bremmer:

Europe this year has been moving in the other direction. They’ve been actually redistributing income from the wealthy North to the South. I mean, I spoke with the Greek Prime Minister. He said, “We’re doing a martial plan right now because the Germans, and the Dutch, and the French are helping us out.” That’s not what we were talking about 10 years ago when they were almost at Grexit. That reduces Euroscepticism. It reduces the polarization, the extremes. In the United States, it’s exactly the opposite that’s happening, and that hurts our country. It hurts the power of our country. It hurts the effectiveness of our institutions. It damages us. Trump will not be the president on January 21st, but he is causing more damage, and I think that damage will persist well beyond, into the Biden administration.

Preet Bharara:

On the spectrum of well functioning, and stable, and open democracies, is it true that you would’ve always placed America, in the past, at the far end of the spectrum in a good way?

Ian Bremmer:

What’s the past?

Preet Bharara:

Well, 30 years ago.

Ian Bremmer:

Ah, okay. Yes. 30 years ago, yes.

Preet Bharara:

Where would you place it today?

Ian Bremmer:

That’s a really painful question, Preet, because I think if you have a spectrum, and, let’s say, China, Russia, North Korea, the extreme, but China, Russia, on one side of the spectrum, which is strongly authoritarian, closed, illegitimate system. Not representative of its people. And on the other side of the spectrum, Canada, Germany, the Nordics. The United States, 30 years ago, absolutely was solidly in that camp, and today is not. I mean, significantly has eroded. In the middle would be something like Hungary or Turkey, and we aren’t Hungary or Turkey. Certainly we’re not remotely close to being an authoritarian state, and all of the people on social media that warn about this. That’s not where we are, but we have eroded significantly, and-

Preet Bharara:

Why? Why?

Ian Bremmer:

Well, many reasons. I mean, if you look at the bureaucracy in the United States and the role that special interests and big money have played in capturing the regulatory process. That’s one way that the US legitimacy of our institutions has eroded. If you look at the elections that now take two years and costs billions and billions of dollars. Reflected by an electoral college that demographically increasingly is very far from what the people of the United States actually look like, and the efforts to suppress the vote to allow for, functionally, minority rule. That has delegitimized and eroded the process. If you look at just how divided the legislature is and how incapable. Even someone like Joe Biden, who’s a centrist that would want to be bipartisan, but how incapable he is of reaching out across the aisle to the right, or even reaching out across the aisle effectively, come next year, to his own left. That’s eroded the process. The executive and how we just had an impeachment process, which one Republican voted to convict. We just had two presidential debates. The word impeachment wasn’t mentioned once in either debate. That’s an erosion of our institutions.

Ian Bremmer:

Now, I don’t think all of our institutions have eroded dramatically. I don’t think the military has, even with Esper and some of his Confederates being thrown out unceremoniously by Trump yesterday. I think the judiciary still is reasonably [crosstalk 00:32:02]

Preet Bharara:

Wait. Can we talk about that for a second?

Ian Bremmer:

Sure. I’m just saying, across the board. The answer to your question, 2020, you cannot say the United States deserves to be lumped with Germany, and Canada, and the Nordics, and Japan as well functioning representative democracies. You can’t. When our Secretary of State comes out, in the last week, and says there have been significant irregularities in elections in Myanmar, and the Côte d’Ivoire, and Tanzania. We criticize that. We have no credibility. We have no business criticizing the elections. We should let the Canadians do it for a few years. We just have no business. No people around the world are looking to the US and say, “I want my political system to run like that.” That reflects the answer to your question, that we can no longer put the United States in this exceptional camp.

Preet Bharara:

Where do you put the UK?

Ian Bremmer:

It has not eroded as far as the United States, but in many ways. Again, the role of money in the UK in the political system is dramatically diminished from the United States. I mean, the mainstream media has become deeply politicized. Social media is incredibly dysfunctional. I think the checks and balances in the UK have become more problematic.

Preet Bharara:

You mentioned the firing of Secretary Esper? I’ve been getting a lot of texts and messages from people who are really concerned about what the hell is going on at the Department of Defense. The acting secretary is somebody who folks don’t believe is anywhere near qualified. They put in a chief of staff to that person who people have a lot of worries about, party loyalists. Not to be sensationalist, but is there any reason at all to be concerned about what’s going on at DOD, in terms of Donald Trump planning to engage in certain kinds of behavior, or erase certain kinds of material or information? Are you worried about that at all, or am I being dramatic?

Ian Bremmer:

Let me ask you. In terms of level of incoming breathless panic that you’re receiving, would you say this is greater, about the same, or less than you got when Rick Grenell was appointed acting Head of Intelligence?

Preet Bharara:

It’s of a different nature. It’s coming from people who know the folks involved personally, and know their backgrounds, so it’s not dramatic people getting the vapors. It’s from people who I trust and respect. Again, who are not in freak out mode, but are really sort of raising their eyebrows at what kinds of things are going on at DOD, in a way that I have not seen with respect to other things.

Ian Bremmer:

First of all, I think that the professionalization of the military in the United States is very high, and that will remain the case irrespective of who the group of four or five people that are running the DOD are. The joint Chiefs of Staff, again, absolutely. You saw the letter that came from them during the horrible charade in Lafayette Square during the Black Lives Matter protests. I’m not worried about that. I’m not worried about engineering or orchestrating a coup. You see a lot of language like this out there. I do-

Preet Bharara:

We’ve normalized all that language: coup, treason, lock them up. That’s what people just say, and people don’t bat an eye at it anymore.

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah. John Hodgman wrote me a couple days ago and said that he thought it was coup cosplay. I thought that that was evocative. That was a nice turn of phrase. Right? It’s dress up, but it’s not-

Preet Bharara:

You’re saying don’t worry about it.

Ian Bremmer:

I’m saying don’t worry about it. I think that the most credible intel I’ve heard on this, that is substantive, is that Esper, et al., were refusing Trump’s demand to take all troops out of Afghanistan by inauguration, so Trump can say, “I have accomplished this as I promised.” That’s what led to the firing. As you know, there was already a resignation letter that had been written, and I’m sure it was written well before that it was actually leaked.

Preet Bharara:

I want to go back to the issue of why the country is so divided and whether there are two Americas. Both Trump and Biden got over 70 million votes. Biden got more.

Ian Bremmer:

Which is pretty extraordinary.

Preet Bharara:

But 70 million, that’s a big deal. There’s a lot of discussion about how Biden supporters need to understand Trump supporters and the Democrats, in particular, if they want to win majorities and build coalitions in the future, even though they have won. Even though there’s a fairly significant popular vote advantage, that they should do some soul searching and try to understand the other side. This leads me to, I think, the Tweet you were referring to earlier, where you wrote, “Now is the time for every Biden supporter to reach out to one person who voted for Trump.” By the way, you sent this while people were dancing in jubilation in the streets of the cities of the United States of America.

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah, I’m clear the timing was great. I’m with you on that.

Preet Bharara:

I just want to give the context for our listeners. “Now is the time for every Biden supporter to reach out to one person who voted for Trump. Empathize with them. Tell them you know how they feel. You do, from 2016. Come up with one issue you can agree on.” Explain yourself.

Ian Bremmer:

It’s funny. I mean, here it is.

Preet Bharara:

It’s funny, because I was watching on TV. I didn’t realize you had sent that tweet, and I saw the people dancing in Washington Square Park. Then, suddenly, hundreds of them picked up their cellphones and, I think, started to make phone calls to Trump supporters because of your tweet. I saw that.

Ian Bremmer:

You know the funny thing. I see it, and everyone’s been waiting, waiting, waiting. We all know, for the whole week, who’s won the election, but no one’s making the call. Still waiting. It’s all the way through. It’s Saturday. Finally the call. Jubilation. Everyone can let out their collective. They can exhale. See, for me, the misread people had on that tweet. The timing was obviously bad, but the misread that people had on that tweet was that this was not about calling up white supremacists who want you to die. This is about the average American actually doesn’t care that much about politics. We’ve been so divided for four years. Really, what we care about is PTA, and our kids’ soccer matches, and going out and having a beer with folks, and all of that. Trump has been an enormous problem, and now he’s gone. That should allow us to actually reach out and be Americans more again. Look, I know. I wrote a whole book on us versus them, and how globalism has failed, and how divided this country is. You and I have been talking about this.

Ian Bremmer:

I thought that that would be a useful message to send, especially because so many people were in vindictive mode, and so many people were in denial and butt hurt mode. I’m neither of those things, and especially because the elections themselves were so divided. Everyone has something to be disappointed about. The Trump supporters have lost their president. They’ve lost their megaphone. The Democrats have lost seats in the House. They’ve lost state legislatures. They’ve got a six, three Supreme Court against them, and they probably still don’t have the Senate. This is an outcome that should make you think, “The only way we can do anything is if we start to work together, at least a little.” Did you at least note the almost immediate response that I wrote to my own tweet?

Preet Bharara:

I think I missed that.

Ian Bremmer:

Did you really?

Preet Bharara:

What was your response? Look, I watch your Twitter feed like a hawk, sir.

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah, but this one was a big one, because it performed well.

Preet Bharara:

That’s the measure.

Ian Bremmer:

So here it was. It was 15 minutes later. I just looked it up while we were talking. Then I wrote, “Alternately, you can just tell me to fuck off. If that’s more cathartic, I’m okay with it.”

Preet Bharara:

I did see that. I did see that.

Ian Bremmer:

Here’s the beautiful thing is like 16,000 like the first tweet. 30,000 people immediately. The one thing we could all agree about, Democrat, Republican was-

Preet Bharara:

Tell you to F off.

Ian Bremmer:

Was telling me to fuck off. I’m like, well, that’s cool. You know? I mean, if you’re going to own yourself, you might as well really do it. That was my view.

Preet Bharara:

But, seriously, with respect to the spirit of your comment, there are lots of folks hand wringing on the progressive side, on the Biden side, who say some version of what you just said, that we need to come to some understanding, and we need to heal. Then some people on that side say, what are you talking about? We won. It’s not just Trump voters who have been demonized, but we urban dwellers, liberals, people who live on the coasts, we’re people too. The cities are bastions of commerce. They provide for the country. They contribute to the GDP. With impunity, Trump, even though Trump comes from a city, grew up in a city, made his fortune in a city. Why don’t they make some effort to understand us? Fair?

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah, and I went after Megyn Kelly for that, for precisely that. She responded, and she was pretty clueless.

Preet Bharara:

Remind people about Megyn Kelly.

Ian Bremmer:

Megyn Kelly went after Biden. Biden was offering a message of unity, basically saying in his speech the same thing that I said in my tweet a few hours later, which was, “I’m going to govern for people that voted for me, voted against me. By the way, why don’t you go and reach out to someone, one of your neighbors, that has a Trump flag, and go talk to them on their lawn.” I mean, people didn’t drag Biden the way they dragged me, because he’s going to be the president, but it’s the same point. Then Megyn Kelly comes out and says, “Spoken like someone who’s been in his basement for the last year.” I said, “Megyn, you’re an influencer that actually has a reach that really matters to a lot of Americans.”

Preet Bharara:

Does she? Does she still?

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah, she still does. Absolutely she does. I mean, she has an enormous following. Even though she doesn’t have a job, she still has an enormous following. There are a lot of people like that. I just said, “I think you need to lead by example. Honestly, I think that you can do better.” That got a lot of responses. I mean, I don’t think this message is only for the left. I mean, why is it that the left always has to turn the other cheek and reach out? I think anyone in a position in power. I’m not talking about folks that have been truly abused. I’m not talking. I mean, my comment was not for someone that’s been some black kid on the wrong side of police in an urban center in the United States. I’m talking about the average rank and file American who has been, frankly, complacent and lazy over the last four years while all of this has been going on on both sides of the political spectrum.

Ian Bremmer:

Especially those with a following. Especially those with some money. Especially those who get listened to at the Thanksgiving table. Everyone says, “Well, what do you have to say?” Those are the people, no matter what their political inclinations, that have to do better. They just have to do better, and they’re not. I feel like you are. I mean, one of the things I really like about you, Preet, is you are. You have a political perspective. I agree with you sometimes. I don’t agree with you all the time, but I feel like you actually have empathy. You care. You’re authentic. You don’t just take shots at people to make them feel bad at a political side, and I think that’s increasingly very rare in our country.

Preet Bharara:

Well, Twitter makes it worse. Look, I’ve said from the beginning, after Trump’s election in the first place, that he was right about a number of things.

Ian Bremmer:

Absolutely.

Preet Bharara:

He’s right about that there is a swamp. He’s right that a lot of the system is rigged, and he’s right that a lot of people have been forgotten. Those three things, he’s absolutely 100% right about. I don’t think he’s fixed any of those things. Some of those issues still remain the case, but-

Ian Bremmer:

You say that he hasn’t done anything. Right? I want to push back on that, because I agree with you.

Preet Bharara:

On those. Well, look, this is true. He has caused, as you see from the vote in 2020, a large section of the population to believe that he remembers them and has not forgotten about them. I don’t think he has done much by way of deed to do that. He’s done more by way of rhetoric. If that’s the concession you wanted me to give, I’ll give that.

Ian Bremmer:

I wanted to give a little more than that. Again, there’s no way he’s draining the swamp. He’s got a cabinet full of billionaires and private sector guys promoting their interests, but he has worked a hell of a lot harder to end the wars than Hillary Clinton would have, and than Obama/Biden did. I think that matters. He’s also pushed really hard to limit immigration into the United States. As much as you and I think that more immigration is good, there are a lot of people in the United States that do not, because they don’t feel like they’re benefiting from it. Why would you take care of these other people when you’re not taking care of me? Then you’ve got him pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama tried to get done.

Ian Bremmer:

I think, for a lot of Americans, they have very strong justifications for why there should not be more free trade deals unless you’re going to do something to address their needs and interests. I’m not even talking about the subsidies for the farmers or the coal workers and the rest, which were obvious giveaways that were kind of stupid, and bad for the country, and inefficient. I’m talking about things that legitimately, if you were a Trump voter back in 2016, you look back four years later and you say, “Yeah, he made good on those things.” He also works really hard to own the libs and say the mainstream media is full of it, and they love that. I don’t find that constructive at all. It’s unpresidential. It’s not becoming our leader. I mean, I’m just saying that I think that there are many strong and legitimate reasons why someone that voted in 2016 would vote for Trump in 2020. It doesn’t mean they’re a white supremacist. I’ve just been stunned.

Preet Bharara:

Although there are some.

Ian Bremmer:

How many friends of mine believe that the only people that support Trump are racist.

Preet Bharara:

As some people might formulate, the racists tend to support Trump. Fair or not?

Ian Bremmer:

Absolutely … The causality works-

Preet Bharara:

They’re not coextensive, right.

Ian Bremmer:

In two complete directions. Yeah, exactly. No, but I want to say, I think that Islamic extremists probably voted overwhelmingly for Obama, as opposed to McCain or Romney, in the United States. I don’t think that reality in any way reflects the fact that he should be tarred with that. Now, it is absolutely true that Trump has dog whistled for racism a lot, but conflating that with the idea that all Trump supporters are racist is insane, and I-

Preet Bharara:

Right, but that’s an important caveat that you just mentioned.

Ian Bremmer:

That’s right.

Preet Bharara:

It’s not just the fact that some people who think a certain way are drawn to Trump. Is it he invites their approval. He invites their support. He sometimes more than dog whistles.

Ian Bremmer:

That’s right, and that was the problem.

Preet Bharara:

That sticks in people’s claw and causes people to have … I’m not saying this is right. Causes some people to think, well, if the leader of the country, and the leader of the party thrives on that support and both sides things, after Charlottesville, it causes them to have a negative view, maybe overgeneralized, of Trump supporters.

Ian Bremmer:

Of everyone that supports him, and I think that that’s a serious problem in our country. I think one of the reasons that the tweet did so badly is I have no problem with people. I, myself, call Trump unfit for office, the worst character of any leader I’ve seen in my life in the United States. I mean, authoritarian tendencies, all of these things. You want to demonize Trump? Have at it, but the idea that you can use that to broad brush 70 plus million Americans is crazy and so damaging. Yet, it seems to be where a very large piece of the population is right now.

Preet Bharara:

I have always been, maybe it’s idealistic, drawn to politicians who, both by action, but also in their rhetoric, talk about unity. I mean, Barack Obama comes on the national stage in 2004. Joe Biden, 16 years later, basically quotes from that Obama speech on a regular basis, leading up to the election day. “There are no red states, no blue states. They’re just the United States of America.” I appreciate and cherish Biden’s words about unity and about healing, but it’s kind of a controversial term. One of the other things that Megyn Kelly said was, “After bashing Trump supporters like maniacs for a long period of time, now you want to heal because you won the election?” Are we ready to heal yet? Does there have to be a period of examination and reflection before we can sort of adopt bromides like let’s heal? How does it sound to the 70 million Americans who didn’t vote for Joe Biden?

Ian Bremmer:

So let’s leave the United States for a second. Greece has just gone through a depression, a depression that was worse than the depression, both in scale and depth, from what we experienced in the Great Depression 100 plus years ago. That is extraordinary. Yet, one could argue that it was caused in significant part by the rapaciousness and the unwillingness to treat as fellow humans the Greeks by Germany and by others in Northern Europe. Yet, today, there is a healing that is going on. There’s a healing that’s going on because we’re in the middle of Coronavirus, and the Europeans are acting like all Europeans are in the same boat. They’re reaching out. It makes a difference.

Ian Bremmer:

So, the thing that would’ve made me happiest is if Biden had been able to pull off a Senate majority, so that you get a three trillion plus stimulus that includes big money for infrastructure, includes big money for municipalities and for states, and allows Biden to actually govern with the resources that shows that he is a president for the red and blue states at a time that the people really need it, in the teeth of the worst crisis of our lifetimes. Of course, that is not going to happen. That is not going to happen, but I absolutely think that you can begin healing if you have some policies that show that the leaders of the United States really care. They’re really committed to making a difference. They’re not just talking at you but lying. That’s a problem for us.

Preet Bharara:

Pick one policy that is feasible to accomplish with a Republican Senate, that Joe Biden could champion, that would cause some subset of those 70 million people to think, “You know what? It wasn’t just talk about healing and unity, but Joe Biden means it. He hears us and sees us, too.”

Ian Bremmer:

Certainly, you want to see at least extended unemployment support. It’s absolutely critical. We need to make sure that all these people that are facing getting evicted from their homes, or defaulting on their debt. I think that’s a serious problem. The rubber is going to hit the road for a bunch of these people in really short order, so he needs to do that. If that means that they need to hold their nose and compromise on a bunch of other things that, otherwise, they don’t want to spend. They got to do it. They got to try. Unless they take both seats in Georgia, and they’re going to fight like hell to do it. In which case, they’ll be able to push it through themselves.

Ian Bremmer:

Look, I’ll tell you the thing I am much more, because this is a governance I’m quite negative on, divided governance in the US. Next year, I think in many ways Biden will be the weakest president since Carter in ’76. But I also saw the news that just came out on the vaccine from Pfizer. If we’ve got vaccines that are 90% effective, and they are rolling out at the beginning of the Biden administration, you may not get three trillion dollars in stimulus, but those vaccines may well represent a 2% GDP bump next year for the United States. That’s massive. That allows you to get your kids back to school. That allows people to go back to work in places where you can’t socially distance. That gets us back to normal by the end of Biden’s first year. If you can do that, wages are going to go up. Then you’ve got more flexibility, so we know-

Preet Bharara:

That’s a big if.

Ian Bremmer:

It’s a big if. It’s a big if, but you asked, “What’s something that can happen?” That’s something we can be hopeful about.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. Do you want to go in and jointly invest in companies that are building refrigerators that can go to -80 degrees celsius?

Ian Bremmer:

We’re going to need them globally, huh? I mean, this is something that the United States will have very little problem getting those to our people, and-

Preet Bharara:

I mean, we couldn’t have PPE some months ago. Right? We were running out of masks and toilet paper. Ian, we ran out of toilet paper in the stores. I don’t mean to sound negative, but I’m very worried that you’ll have a vaccine, but not a lot of vaccinations.

Ian Bremmer:

Yeah, I feel better about that. I mean, we got PPE up and running within a matter of weeks, and no hospitals in the United States ended up having to triage the way they did in Northern Italy, for example. For everyone that has said that Trump has mishandled the Coronavirus, let’s be clear that the second wave that Europe is experiencing right now, both per capita in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, considerably worse than the United States today. This is a hard disease to deal with. I want to be optimistic. In the last eight months, mortality rates of this disease that we have never seen before are down 30 to 50%.

Preet Bharara:

That’s true.

Ian Bremmer:

Because we’ve learned a lot, and that’s going to continue. If you add that, I’ll tell you. I’m actually a little bit worried. Remember, Trump lost because of Coronavirus. If Coronavirus had been handled a little bit better, or if the timing had been different, Trump probably would’ve won. I am worried that Biden and his new Coronavirus taskforce, staffed by some mutual friends of yours and mine, are going to focus so much on the epidemiology they don’t also engage with the economists. Let’s face it. If 2020 was mostly about the epidemiology, 2021 is probably going to be mostly about the economic knock on effects. We have to be erring more towards, balancing more towards, opening economies when mortality rates are going down, when we have more effective treatment, and when we have vaccines. We have to do that, so I think that there is a balance here. Right now, it’s red state versus blue state. It’s lock it all down versus White House super spreader event. That is not a comfortable place for our country to be.

Preet Bharara:

You said that you spend much of your time, if not most of your time, thinking about things outside of the United States. Of course, I’ve made you talk mostly about domestic policy, but let me ask you this. The fact that Biden will be weakened, in part, because of a Republican majority in the Senate, which is likely to be so, is that going to make Biden a foreign policy focused president? If so, how do you think that will look?

Ian Bremmer:

It’s interesting. Biden is much more different from Trump in domestic policy, but also very constrained. Biden is much less constrained in foreign policy, but in many ways he’s aligned with a lot of Trump’s policies. I mean, certainly in terms of the relatively hawkish stance on China. Certainly in terms of less US military footprint. Not like Hillary at all. Biden is someone that will want to end that war in Afghanistan. I don’t think that trade relations are going to be all that different under Biden. You know he supports the USMCA. You know he supports the South Korea deal, all that kind of thing. The things that will be very different under Biden, in terms of foreign policy, I would say there are two.

Ian Bremmer:

The first is the equivalent of executive orders, but internationally, to just rejoin multilateral institutions. 76 days later, we rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. We rejoin the World Health Organization. We join COVAX for vaccine development and distribution. We rejoin the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement with the Russians. These are fairly significant deals that will help to build confidence with allies of the United States. I think it matters.

Ian Bremmer:

Secondly, there will be a honeymoon with Biden, simply because so many foreign leaders felt like they were walking on eggshells when they met with Trump. They publicly would want to say good things, because he’s so much more powerful, but they viewed him as someone that could go off at any moment, that could explode. That would be a real problem for them. That’s why the Mexican president still hasn’t actually congratulated Biden, because he knows how vulnerable he is if Trump decides that he wants to take a whack. Just can’t afford it. So, I think the Mexicans, the Canadians, the Japanese, the South Koreans, almost all the Europeans, literally that’s most of the American Allies, will just have a honeymoon for the first, second, and third summit meetings they have with Biden. Doesn’t mean they don’t still have problems. Doesn’t mean they’re not angry at the United States for not doing things.

Ian Bremmer:

Obama/Biden were criticized very heartily for leading from behind, for not reacting effectively on Russian intervention in Ukraine, or on Assad in Syria, or so many other things. There will be more normalization, and I think that’s a helpful thing. Climate will be the area that Biden will try to make his mark to the greatest degree internationally. 2021 is going to be a very big year for big international announcements to improve focus on climate.

Preet Bharara:

Can you talk to me about Saudi Arabia?

Ian Bremmer:

Sure.

Preet Bharara:

What’s that going to look like?

Ian Bremmer:

MBS has had a very close personal relationship with Jared. Has had a very good relationship with Trump. The Saudis definitely see themselves as one of the losers from Biden winning. I think that the United States will care less about maintaining a big military footprint. Will care less, certainly, if Biden’s focusing mostly on climate, and we are energy, more or less, independent now as the United States. Why does Saudi Arabia matter as much? Plus, most importantly, Biden will try to rejoin the JCPOA, the Iranian Nuclear Deal. That’s something that the Saudis strongly oppose. Most American allies support it. The Saudis, one of the reasons you got the Abraham Accords, with are the normalization of relations between Israel, and the UAE, and Bahrain. Not yet Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis are even allowing Israeli planes through their air space. That was in large part because Iran is considered to be the principle geopolitical concern in the region.

Ian Bremmer:

Biden comes in and suddenly starts allowing the Iranians to produce more oil. Tries to rejoin. Takes some of those sanctions off. The Saudis are going to feel like they’re in a really difficult position, because the UAE has diversified their economy immensely. Saudi Arabia is still mostly about oil and petro-chem. That is not our fuel of the future. It’s not the way you want your country to grow.

Preet Bharara:

If memory serves, at the beginning of the Obama Administration, there was all sorts of talk, some of which affected cases that we were trying to bring in the Southern District, relating to Russian spying. There was all this talk about a reset with Russia. Not going to happen, right?

Ian Bremmer:

Nope. Not even a chance.

Preet Bharara:

It’s going to be the opposite.

Ian Bremmer:

No, it’s not going to be the opposite, because even though Trump personally wanted a reset with Putin, his administration did not. His cabinet did not. There were whistle blowers inside the bureaucracy that did not. The Republics and the GOP did not. The journalists were doing their damnedest to make it hard. I would argue that actual US policy towards Russia under Trump has, if anything, gotten slightly more hawkish. The US now provides missiles to Ukraine. This was, of course, a big piece of the Javelin missiles of the impeachment case against Trump, something he tried to delay but couldn’t do. US sanctions against Russia, specifically for their intervention in Southeast Ukraine, have continued to escalate over the last four years. Biden will continue in that direction, but I don’t think it’s going to change very much. The actual policy between those two administrations on Russia will be virtually identical.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think Trump runs again in 2024, or at least doesn’t take it off the table for a while?

Ian Bremmer:

Why would he take it off the table?

Preet Bharara:

No reason.

Ian Bremmer:

I mean-

Preet Bharara:

I mean, I think there’s a decent chance that he announces in the near future.

Ian Bremmer:

He might. If he decides to buy OANN, how could he not do an Apprentice, an actual Apprentice, for the Republican nominee in 2024?

Preet Bharara:

Do we need to explain to people what OANN is?

Ian Bremmer:

It is the One-

Preet Bharara:

I know what it stands for.

Ian Bremmer:

America News Network.

Preet Bharara:

One America News Network.

Ian Bremmer:

It is far more uniformly pro-Trump than Fox News. Take Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity and then imagine they get really drunk, and it goes until 2:00, 3:00 AM in the morning. That’s your morning edition of OANN.

Preet Bharara:

In Vegas.

Ian Bremmer:

Definitely in Vegas. Definitely to throw in some Alec Jones. I mean, OANN is. I think watching five minutes of OANN every once in a while is amusing. I think that makes me a bad person.

Preet Bharara:

Not terrifying? Just amusing.

Ian Bremmer:

I think it makes me a bad person, because I should not take amusement in people that are so obviously misguided. I shouldn’t. That’s a bad characteristic that I have.

Preet Bharara:

It is, but it’s endearing.

Ian Bremmer:

Really? Do you find it endearing?

Preet Bharara:

It seems to me. No, not really.

Ian Bremmer:

Oh, okay.

Preet Bharara:

I was just trying to say something nice.

Ian Bremmer:

That’s too bad, because I appreciated that for a second.

Preet Bharara:

For our listeners. I’ve said this before. I really think that Trump’s ambition in life was not necessarily to be the president, but to be the most talked about person on Earth. He’s in it for attention, not achievement, not accomplishment, not patriotism, [crosstalk 01:02:41]

Ian Bremmer:

But it’s hard to do that from jail, right?

Preet Bharara:

It is, and we’ve come to that.

Ian Bremmer:

So what’s he going to do about it? I mean, I got to ask you this.

Preet Bharara:

Wait a sec. Wait a sec.

Ian Bremmer:

What’s he going to do about that?

Preet Bharara:

Wait a sec. Wait a second.

Ian Bremmer:

What? Okay, fine.

Preet Bharara:

Part of the reason why I think he must run, or at least look like he’s running, is that immediately makes him the center of attention. Is he going to seed that stuff? I said yesterday, is he going to seed the spotlight like someone like Josh Holly, or Tom Cotton?

Ian Bremmer:

No.

Preet Bharara:

That’s horrifying from his perspective. Right?

Ian Bremmer:

It’s horrifying. It’s horrifying.

Preet Bharara:

He sort of thinks he might clear the field for a little while. Look how afraid people are of offending his base still.

Ian Bremmer:

He could be the first president since FDR to win three elections in a row. Right?

Preet Bharara:

You’re being facetious there.

Ian Bremmer:

That’s what he’s going to say. Absolutely. I mean, that can be his slogan.

Preet Bharara:

Going back to the initial question of the whole show, in a universe in which Donald Trump is actively suggesting that he is going to run against Biden and recapture the White House in 2024, how much worse does that make this whole problem of divisiveness? How are you going to have unity and healing if the guy who lost is out there, not just talking smack, but talking smack as the punitive future candidate for president?

Ian Bremmer:

That’s yet one more reason why I think Biden is going to be such a weak president. It’s so unfortunate, but the country is so divided. Trump is not going away. His ability to drive an agenda, you saw. Eric Trump came out and basically told these Republicans in name only, rhinos, these are our voters. These are not your voters. They’re Trump’s voters, and Trump is wielding his voters as a club over a Democratic institution that has basically seeded power to him, or the Republican Party. That’s a problem for them. I mean, this election has gone really well for the Republicans, because they’ve won basically everything except the presidency, and Trump never was a Republican anyway. He’s not a Democrat either. He’s just his own thing. So, to the extent that they can get rid of him, that would be useful for the future of the Republican Party. As you just suggested, I don’t think they can unless he ends up in jail.

Ian Bremmer:

I wonder. I mean, this is the question I have for you. Leaving aside the issue of pardoning for federal crimes, how credible are these New York cases that are going to be coming up against him? Could he actually? Do you think it’s plausible he could end up in prison before 2024?

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. Look, I think it’s possible. As a former prosecutor, hearing people on the outside who didn’t see the Grand Jury material, who didn’t see the documents, who didn’t see the subpoena returns, I would sometimes be amused at their speculation about how strong a likelihood there was of a particular person in the public eye being charged or not charged. There were lots of times when we were investigating someone, and people thought no way would that happen, and it did. Vice versa, too. With that caveat, I don’t know all the details of what’s going on in the investigation by Cy Vance. I would not be shocked if nothing ever came of them, because that’s the nature of those kinds of inquiries. I would also not be shocked if there was some kind of tax charge or bank fraud charge that is brought.

Preet Bharara:

I also think, on this question that you didn’t ask, but that keeps getting asked. What happens in the future putting the pardon possibility aside for a moment, a self pardon aside for a moment? Does the Biden Administration look forward, or do they look backward and try to figure out accountability for potential bad acts by the president? I don’t know that they’re going to have the luxury of making that decision on their own, because revelations have a momentum of their own. Right? It’s one thing that we all know about the second volume of the Muller Report, and there’s a credible basis for charges to be brought against the president based just on that.

Preet Bharara:

You can make the argument. Biden might, or his Attorney General might, but you know what? That’s been aired. There was an impeachment proceeding. It’s kind of old news. Let’s move on and not get mired in this, because we believe in unity and healing. That’s one thing. That, itself, will be very controversial, and people will be very upset about it on the progressive side. It’s quite a different matter if, in the beginning of February, or even earlier than that you have what I predict there’s a reasonable likelihood of: people from the Trump Administration coming out and blowing the whistle on all sorts of other stuff that nobody has any idea of yet. By the way, a lot of that could be stuff that’s happening in the next 74 days.

Ian Bremmer:

Sure, absolutely. I fully expect that’s going to happen. Right? I mean, there are books being written about that. There’s no question.

Preet Bharara:

So now imagine the world. You wake up on February 1. Biden, let’s assume he’s talked about healing moving forward, and now there’s, on the front page of the New York Times, on the front page of the Washington Post, very sort of bad stories about destruction of documents, about false testimony, and all sorts of other things that Trump and his people might have done that nobody had any idea of before. The momentum in favor of opening an investigation in some fashion, on the federal side, is going to be enormous. I don’t know if you’re going to have the luxury of being able to say we’re going to move on or not, because the record is not closed. It’s an open record.

Ian Bremmer:

Even though there’s, in my view, zero chance that Biden doesn’t become president on January 20th, I think the legacy of the last four years is going to be so much more toxic and problematic than people presently presume. Again, there’s no other advanced industrial democracy in the world that has this problem right now. We’re the only one. We just happen to be the biggest. That’s a serious, serious problem, especially when you still have all of this displacement and crisis going on.

Preet Bharara:

Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the Eurasia Group, GZERO Media.

Ian Bremmer:

I love you, man.

Preet Bharara:

Same.

Ian Bremmer:

Good. There you go. You can’t even say it.

Preet Bharara:

I love you too, Ian.

Ian Bremmer:

It’s too hard. It’s too hard for him. It’s okay. I’m working on Preet. It takes time.

Preet Bharara:

My conversation with Ian Bremmer continues for members of the CAFE Insider community. To try out the membership free for two weeks, head to Cafe.com/insider. Again, that’s Cafe.com/insider.

Preet Bharara:

So, folks, it’s been a pretty eventful week or eight days. We had an election. We had a delay in the projection of who was going to win, and we have a delay in the losing party conceding the loss, as we have been discussing. I want to mention something that I wrote about last week, last Thursday, in between the day of the election and the time on Saturday, when Joe Biden was projected to be the winner of the Electoral College. It’s a note I write every week to CAFE Insiders. I made an observation. I said, “You know, like me, I’m sure you’re all glued to the news, waiting for the moment that Joe Biden secures enough votes to be declared the President Elect. I’m very confident that this will happen soon.” Then I also said, “And, yet, among many long suffering Democrats, there is no ecstasy, no euphoria.”

Preet Bharara:

I said that for a couple of reasons. One, the Senate may not be won by Democrats. And, two, it looks like it was a relatively close election. I think people wanted a repudiating humiliation of Trump and Trumpism. The reason I mention it is, there was this feeling of kind of glumness, even though it looked like Biden was very, very likely, if not almost certainly, to be declared the winner. Because, then when we got to Saturday, all over the country supporters of Biden, when the AP, and NBC News, and Fox News, and CNN, and all the networks called it for Biden, when the vote tally in Pennsylvania became too much for Trump to overcome, guess what we saw? We saw a lot of ecstasy. We saw a lot of euphoria. People celebrating in the streets. People honking their horns. People dancing. People singing. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Preet Bharara:

So, I want to admit error, that my conclusion of the lack of those two intense feelings of ecstasy, euphoria, and joy were missing, maybe for the few days, until the result became clear. But then, boy, did we see it last Saturday. I think that’s a good thing, and I think there was some catharsis in it. I think some people, myself included, didn’t even fully understand emotionally, although maybe they did intellectually, but not emotionally, how much they needed Trump to lose, and how much better it is for the country. There was a nationwide exhale and relief, and that’s all good. That was all deserved. That was all legitimate.

Preet Bharara:

In the three or four days since, because maybe that’s the nature of our DNA, there has been a little bit of return to concern and anxiety, even though the result was great. That’s because Donald Trump won’t concede, and that’s because some people still think there’s a way for Trump to prevail. Given that most Senators are taking Trump’s side, given that the Attorney General of the United States seems to have issued guidance that caused the Public Servant Election Lawyer in the Justice Department to resign from his position. All I want to say is, I get that, and I get that we have been trained to expect the worst from Donald Trump. If he had his druthers, and he had the ability to do so in our system, to steal the election, he would.

Preet Bharara:

But I think it’s important to say, based on everything, I’m just one person, and I’m not infallible. But based on everything I see, with respect to the Department of Justice, with respect to how electors work, with respect to the various lawsuits, most of which have been dismissed, and many of which are outright laughable, that the Trump campaign has sought to bring, up to and including the crazy press conference by Rudy Giuliani, at that spot called Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Not withstanding all of that, I don’t see any way that he’s going to get the job done, that Donald Trump is going to get the job done. These are face saving mechanisms. These are ego soothing machinations. At the end of the day, and by the end of the day I mean noon on January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to be sworn in as the next president and vice president of the United States.

Preet Bharara:

There will be twists and turns between now and then, and there will be moments where people will be anxious, and will be tweeting, and emailing, and saying, “Can this happen?” The answer, almost certainly, will be no, so hold on to that feeling of elation, if you were one of those people who wanted Joe Biden to win, because it’s deserved, and it will come to pass.

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 @PreetBharara with the #AskPreet, 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] Stay Tuned is presented by CAFE Studios. Your host is Preet Bharara. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior producer is Adam Waller. The senior audio producer is David Tatasciore. The CAFE team is Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Sam Ozer-Staton, Noa Azulai, Nat Weiner, Jake Kaplan, Calvin Lord, Geoff Isenman, Chris Boilen, Sean Walsh, and Margot Maley. Our music is by Andrew Dost. I’m Preet Bharara. Stay tuned.

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Stay Tuned Bonus 11/12: Ian Bremmer