In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Evan Davis.
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Last night, we learnt that Jeff Sessions,
the Attorney-General of
the United States, who lied under oath to his colleagues in the Senate
and to the American people about his communications with the Russians.
They said that since I had involvement with
the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign
investigation - therefore I have recused myself in the matters that
Another huge row about the Russia connection.
The Attorney General is in the spotlight this time,
not just over his meetings with the Russian ambassador,
Is the administration accident prone, careless or unfairly treated?
On World Book Day, Stephen Smith meets Raymond Briggs.
I know there will be a last time I walk this path,
before the hospital, before the home, before something.
And the irony is, you never know that the time that it is to be the
We'll get the latest, as Francois Fillon's home is searched.
Is this really the future of communication?
Jeff Sessions - the second Trump appointment
to get into a tangle about Russia and about his honesty.
The Attorney General denied any Russian contact
But he in fact met the ambassador twice.
As one Twitter wit put it, he might as well have said,
"I did not have international relations with that country."
Sessions says the meetings didn't relate to Trump or the election,
which was the context of the questions he was answering.
But in the last 90 minutes, he has recused himself from any
investigation into the Trump campaign or its
Do you give him the benefit of the doubt?
Probably depends on whether you think Trump is a good thing or not.
Trump and Russia - once an apparently irresistible combination
for those marketing a vodka. This is their advertisement. But now, the
connection is a cocktail of political difficulties and a tonic
to his foes. Today's target, Trump's chief law officer, who, after a
stormy day, stepped back, from all investigations of links between the
campaign and washer. My staff recommended recusal. They said that
since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved
with any campaign investigation. I have studied the rules and
considered their comments and evaluation. I believe those
recommendations are right and just. That won't satisfy Senate Democrats,
who earlier today called for his resignation. Attorney General
Sessions cannot possibly lead an investigation into Russian
interference in our elections, or come anywhere near it. With these
revelations, he may very well become the subject of it. It would be of
Alice in Wonderland quality of this administration were to sanction him
to investigate himself. The cause of those difficulties is a written
denial from the US Attorney General that he had met Russian officials,
and this one during his Senate confirmation hearing. If there is
any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated
with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will
you do? Senator, I am not aware of any of those activities. I have been
called a surrogates in that campaign, and I did not have
communications with the Russians. Tonight, it became clear that he HAD
met the Russian ambassador last year and spoken him by phone, he argues
on previous Senate business, but critics now suggest there has been
deception. The Democrats are making political mischief out of Trump's
Russian connection. You can feel them paying them back for what they
did to Bill and Hillary Clinton. But the house and Senate are controlled
by Republicans, and it is signs of nervousness among THEM which make
today's story all the more interesting. During the day, several
influential Republicans had called on Sessions to recuse himself from
the matter. Based on what we have read, I think the Attorney General
should further clarify. In fact I think he's going to need to recuse
himself. The FBI has multiple lines of inquiry, drawing on intelligence
from many of America's 16 other agencies. The Senate and House
intelligence committees also have investigations. And under the
spotlight, former advisers Mike Flynn and Pohlman effort, Trump's
lawyer Michael Coen, and even the former business activities of the
commerce secretary. All of this, fuelled by secret information that's
been disseminated around Washington by the outgoing administration. So,
the Obama administration made sure that this secret information was
broadly spread among many people in the intelligence community, among
the 17 American intelligence agencies, because they were afraid
that once in office, Donald Trump and his minions would delete the
records and the evidence would disappear. It is clear now that
that, if it was a plan, will not work. It is also clear that Donald
Trump is absolutely desperate to make sure that no-one investigates
this. The president who once lent his name to a brand of vodka tonight
declared total confidence in his Attorney General. Look at the number
and compact cities of investigation is under way suggests the
administration could have a lasting Russia hangover.
Joining me now from Minneapolis is Richard Painter -
the former chief White House ethics adviser to George W Bush.
Good evening to you. Jeff Sessions has recused himself - is that
enough, in your view? Well, it is a step in the right direction. But we
have a very serious problem here in the United States, and this problem
has spread to Europe as well. The Russians are actively seeking to
destabilise our democracies by appealing to far right political
parties and engaging in espionage. For years they appealed to the
commonest party and the far left in espionage. We have been fighting
this battle with the Russians for a very long time. And it's critically
important to know what happened in 2016, what spying was going on
inside the United States and who was assisting the Russians, who
benefited from it, who was negotiating with them, perhaps
offering them something in return for their swaying an election? This
is a matter of national-security for the United States, just like what's
going on in France right now should be a matter of concern to the French
and other countries that Russia seeks to infiltrate in this way. The
Attorney General was asked questions by the Judiciary Committee, and he
did not provide candid answers. And that is very, very disappointing,
because how are we going to deal with Russian espionage and this type
of activity of our officials, our senior officials, cannot be honest
with each other and with the United States Senate? Before we go more
onto Jeff Sessions, I'm really interested in what you're saying
about the Russians and how serious you think it is just paint for me,
what is the worst case, what is for you the thing that would be most
awful to uncover here that is even faintly possible or plausible? What
is it that people are really scared off about the Trump campaign? Well,
we do not know which Americans have been cooperating with the Russians
in these efforts to subvert our democratic system. We've dealt with
this in the past. We had Americans, Communists, who assisted the
Russians in trying to subvert the United States, but they're not going
never got very far in our political system because communism does not
have much appeal over here. But when it comes to the far right, these
strange groups who are also on the rise in Europe, the Russians
realised they can gain a lot of traction in supporting these types
of groups and then trying to interfere in a general election.
It's a very dangerous thing which is going on, this type of interference.
We need to know what is happening and who here in the United States is
assisting it, and we need to make sure that people who were aware of
it, benefited from it, knowingly, are nowhere near positions of power
in the United States government. Let's go back to Jeff Sessions. You
said he wasn't candid, a lot of people would agree that he wasn't
candid, at the very least - why then would you not say he has to go? He
is the Attorney General, he was on oath, he has called for other people
to go when they said things which were not candid on both - why are
you not saying he has to resign? Well, that was the position I took
and indeed I published it in the New York Times earlier today. I believe
he should resign, that he is no longer going to be an effect of
Attorney General if he cannot be completely candid in discussions of
such critical importance. This is not a situation where we can talk
about the meaning of the word and that type of discussion we had after
Bill Clinton's misleading deposition testimony about his sex life. We are
not interested in the sex life of our public officials and less they
are sleeping with Russian spies. We are interested in who is talking
with the Russians and about what. A lot of those discussions are
perfectly fine, so long as people are honest about them. The Attorney
General said that he was not having contact with the Russians, when he
was, and that is very, very misleading. He also said he didn't
talk about the election or the campaign with the Russians, and that
was the distinction he drew. Do you think it is plausible that anybody
between August and November could have two conversations, senior
policymakers, Washington people, with someone, and not talk about the
American election at some point? Well, I don't know. But I don't
think it is only of interest whether he was talking about the American
election. Was he talking about what the Russians were doing inside the
United States or what the Russians wanted out of the United States and
might expect from President Trump if he were to be elected? It's
critically important that American senior officials be honest with each
other about their communications with the Russians of we're going to
deal with this problem. This is not a situation where we should be
passing words and trying to figure out how to interpret the question
and the answer. Once again, these are not questions about the public
officials' personal life, this is something going to the heart of our
national security and an intentional attack on our democratic processes
by a foreign country. Can I ask you what it says about the Republican
party, that the House speaker, Orion, said this morning in the US,
Jeff Sessions doesn't need to recuse himself, he doesn't think there was
any evidence of a Russian connection to worry about - what does that tell
you about the state of the party? Are they just running scared of
Trump because they misjudged his ability to win? Well, I don't know
what's going on with that. There's a lot of talk all over the place about
how to respond to this, and I've been back in the Republican party
for decades, and I served President George W Bush, and I can assure you
that there are many, many Republicans who are livid about what
Russia was doing in our country during 2016, spying on Americans. We
have had Republican senators say that they want to get to the bottom
of what Russia was doing. So, I think that's the view of the vast
majority of Americans, Republicans, we're not going to put up with this,
we're not going to put up with public officials showing any lack of
candour about their communications with the Russians. We would like to
have good relations with Russia, but that does not mean interference in
the American political system or spying on American citizens and
breaking into their computers and putting their documents up. We are
not going to allow that. How is all this being
seen in Russia itself? Igor Sutyagin is a Russia watcher at
the Royal United Services Institute. He is a nuclear expert,
who spent more than a decade in Russian prisons accused
of passing classified information Good to have you here. Tell us what
you think Russia's game is here. What is going on on the Russia side.
What are they trying to achieve? They tried to undermine legitimacy
of the newly elected president, which should be Hillary Clinton.
They tried to weaken her position to have her having serious row in the
domestically and weaken her position with Russia. That was their goal,
instead they got Trump that was an unpleasant surprise. They wanted a
destabilised Hillary Clinton not Trump. Trump was a spoiler. They
didn't plan to have him as a partner. That is an interesting cock
up theory of history. What do you think was going on? What would be
the kind of hypothesis of what might have gone on between the Russians
and the Trump campaign what, are we trying to see? Well, I think that
Russia did try to collect some Kompromat on Trump, it was good to
have him as a source of Kompromat on other politicians. You think they
got something on Trump because? Because he was owner of chain of
hotels and they're the perfect place to carry out intelligence
situations. But you need the security of hotel to have blind eye.
Well you have no evidence of this? No it is just logic. This is your
speculation? Yes. It is interesting you say they probably didn't mean to
get Trump, because it doesn't seem to be working for them f you look at
what Trump is doing, everyone is saying aren't they being nice to the
Russians, the only thing they have done is say we are going to spend
another $60 million on defence, that leaves the Russians standing. The
remilitarisation of the US and the remilitarisation of NATO. That is
not great for the Russians. It is not great, but that is not the worst
thing that Trump already done to Russia. The problem is that Trump
destroyed the very foundation of the Russian policy to the west. It was
the belief and knowledge that the west would act in the very
predictable way. So Vladimir Putin can always play these threshold war
not crossing red lines and the west plays according to the rules. Trump
is not going to play according to the rules, because he does not know
the rules and it is difficult to predicts where Trump's red line lay
and you can cross it because of miscalculation. So Trump is playing
a game more like Russians have played with other people and it is
difficult? Fundamentally it is similar and that is why Trump is
dangerous forrous. If Trump did lift sanctions, that would be a huge help
to the Russians, correct? It might be, the problem is Trump is a
businessman and does nothing for free. To make some service to Russia
with sanctions he wants something with return and Russia does not have
much to propose to Trump as the payment. So Trump will do nothing.
Do you think, do you see likenesses between Trump and Vladimir Putin?
People say they are both a big showy strong man, nays the same? They have
fully similar attitudes, the nature is similar. But that is the danger.
If you make it simple, it is two Harlem boys meeting each other and
they can be friend each other. But it is more probable that fight each
other. That is their nature. Two alpha males. The Russian saying is
two bears cannot live in one hole. Thank you very much.
If you are someone who thinks snap is a game for kids,
that goes well with a slice of bread and butter and a glass of orange
squash, you are probably not a user of Snapchat,
whose parent company, Snap, had its debut on the New York
It was quickly worth about $28 billion.
There is, needless to say, a debate to be had about
Perhaps it hinges on whether you think short video is to become
the dominant form of communication, rather than boring old text.
We'll reflect on that in a minute, but first, here's our technology
Sometimes only a very old form of communication will do. Like hanging
up a big sign outside the New York stock exchange or ringing an old
bell. But Snap's valuation if it is based on anything is based on the
idea that we have moved into a new era of communication. You might
think it is a grand claim for a company that began as a way for
people to send sexually explicit messages to each other that would
then self destruct, but according to their video... Snap is a camera
company, we feel we are at the beginning of what cameras can do.
They augment the we talk. They say that keyboards are over and the
cameras have preplaced -- replaced them. Plenty of investors are buying
that idea and Snap's shares. I think that the market is moving more
towards images and pictures than text. And we see this in everything.
We see this in our business as a move from writing documents to power
points. You see it in the dating industry and people used to be
online with match and now people have moved to tinder and when you
have new technologies like ARVR, where through you know the eye you
can actually interact with products, rather than reading a magazine, I
think this is definitely the trend. The founders will have been pleased
with their day's work, the Snap share price up nearly 50% at one
stage. Perhaps another sort of bell should be ringing about the fact
that the rise in Snap's daily active users has slowed in recent quarters.
I'm sceptical, I see it like a cargo cult, there are investment community
that wants to see the great days of dot.com era. It is a messenger boy
and carrying bits of messages, we have never put value on that. So it
presents itself as a camera company. Although it is not. If we look at
old new forms of communication, although they were revolutionary,
they were easily copied. Think of typewriters. Think of e-mail.
Although Snap from its beach front HQ in California has users, how
loyal are they and how easily may they be temped by the next ttd app.
I can see it being big like Facebook is big, but Facebook doesn't
generate a lot of revenue and destroys over revenue-creating
industries. The telephone network carried messages and that is what
Facebook does. It is like a distribution network. It is
important but not essential F we are living in a bubble era, we may look
back and think this was another era where companies were overvalued.
Snap has launched its own camera, it is built into a pair of spectacles,
the visual image it believes is the future of social media and other
text based apps like Twitter have struggled. People are not writing
two page text documents. Facebook is a company that is less than ten
years old and worth close to $300 billion, because people are spending
a lot of time on Facebook and putting up a lot of data. Snapchat
is no different, it is just a different demographic. Since Google
set the standard, they have been a mixed bunch. Some up hugely and
others losing their wings. We don't know whether Snap will crackle or
nop long-term. -- or pop long-term. I'm joined now by Mike Butcher,
editor-at-Large at Tech Crunch - which looks at all these
new technology And from San Fransisco, Sarah Lacy,
founder of the tech website Pando. How is going down in Silicon Valley?
Well, I think right now we are having an identity crisis with Snap
going public and being the fist big public mobile app, because it is not
a San Francisco company. It is a moment more LA. It has a curious
structure, they're not even shares, you can't vote. No vote. Four
billion dollars have been given to staff and they can sell their
shares, but still control the company. Did no one think maybe that
the investors should go on strike on this one? They may have thought it,
but it didn't happen. I mean, there is some bigger trends at play here.
One is the idea of the cult of the founder founder, where the founder
is a God in the company. You saw it with Elon Musk. And with Mark
Zuckerberg taking control of Facebook and now you're seeing it to
an extreme level with Snap. As long as people buy the shares, they can
get away with it. Snap is operating in a climate where these companies,
these private, highly valued companies have been unwilling to go
public. Uber doesn't want to. And so Snap went public relatively quickly,
set the terms it wanted and I think it was a smart move. In term of what
it represents, it is video, it is not text. There is something going
on here right? The funny thing is they describe themselves as a camera
company, but they're not. They're a media company. They are in a bind.
Essentially most of time you using Snapchat to send people messages.
Either singly or to many and they can only monetise the many. They're
getting media players and using stories to allow people to create
media and that is where they will insert advertising. Is the basic
thing, people want video and pictures apps and not text. Because
Twitter started as a very short message thing, and doesn't seem to
be doing as well as Snapchat. Absolutely. Twitter is about text
and you can see Instagram, many times bigger than Twitter and
Snapchat. Because it is about pictures and pictures speak a
thousand words. That is why snap chat is about pictures and video. Do
you buy that pictures are the future and text is old stuff. It is more
that are pictures, it is videos. Instagram leapfrogged Twitter, but
it has not done as well with video. And everyone is pushing, not just
that users want to express themselves in video, but Facebook
and Snap want TV money and that what is the internet than trying to get
its grubby little entrepreneurial hands on for decades and it has
never come over. If you read Snap, that is their gamble they will get
TV money. It seems interesting is this, that you can look at Twitter
and Instagram and the shelf life or the anxiety Guys life of these is
three or four years. That doesn't just Fay $30 billion valuation. This
is the why they're going to IPO and buying companieses and going for the
TV money. But many of these big companies are snapping at their heel
and all the big players, especially Facebook is looking at what Snap
does and copies them. Other mra platforms can replicate it. I that
is the big ask whether they can go as fast. Do you think Do you think
today's five-year-olds will be using Snap when they're 30. It seems
unlikely. They have the biggest engagement, young people, teens and
others use Snapchat about 18 times a day and half an hour a day. It is
the new TV for that generation. Thank you both very much.
All the views that are fit to print in this spot.
Today, the sociologist and cultural commentator Tiffany Jenkins explains
why she thinks we should be not be getting het up about Donald Trump.
You do not have to be an afficionado of European
politics to find the French presidential election riveting.
It is a two-stage election, the first vote is on 23rd April,
Before we take stock with one of our favourite French
political commentators, let's recap the three front runners.
Other candidates are available, but not looking likely
Now, the first of those three, Francois Fillon.
He is embroiled in a row. He said if there was a formal investigation, he
would step aside. There is, and he hasn't. In the first round, he is
polling at 19%. Next is Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right Front
National, these days likening herself to President Trump. She has
her own financial problem, accused of misusing EU Parliament funds for
French political activity and could be prosecuted for treating a graphic
picture of an Isis beheading. And the third is Emmanuel Macron, the
centrist candidate pitching himself as the freshfaced. No scandal yet,
but then as a fresh face, there is still time. He has dismissed chatter
that he's gay, saying that if he was, he would be open about it. He
is at 24% in the poles. Joining me from Paris
now is the political We have had him on the programme
several times, including standing in the freezing cold in Paris. Nice to
talk to you again! Can we start with Francois Fillon? He said he would
step aside, he hasn't, what is going on? It is a big mess. Yesterday he
was standing firm and reaffirming that he would go right to the end.
And today his campaign is just falling apart. . All, we heard that
this morning, police were searching his private home in Paris. Then he
had several desertions in his team, the deputy campaign manager, the
Treasurer, 45 MPs asked him to resign his candidacy and leave the
place to somebody else, and he refuses. He's gambling everything on
a big rally is organising on Sunday in Paris, which is very
controversial, because it's going to attack the judicial system. But if
that fails, and it is quite likely to fail, it's going to be
irresistible for him to step down. Is there time for the party to put a
new candidate in, because it is leaving it quite late now? Well,
they have another candidate, Alain Juppe, the former Prime Minister,
who came second in the primaries. Alain Juppe was for a long time the
favourite in the opinion polls. He's quite popular, he's a moderate
right-winger. The problem was that Nicholas are cosy was very much
against him and refused to consider him standing in the place of
Francois Fillon, but the party might not have any other option at the
moment. Now, Marine Le Pen we know has got a couple of little issues
around her funds and suchlike - am I right in thinking that her
supporters would just say, this is just people trying to put her down
because that is what the establishment does, and these are
not really affecting her? You're completely right. Both candidates
are in very different positions. Francois Fillon's voters are
conservatives who are shocked by what he is being accused of. Marine
Le Pen's voters agree that she was right to take Europe's money and use
it for something else. They believe she's right when she says there is a
plot to prevent her from reaching power, that the judges are in the
hands of the government. So in a way, this is not affecting her at
all in her call voting section. It makes it difficult for her to reach
other voters, however, people who are not yet convinced by the
National Front. She will need to reach 50% in the second run if she
wants to win. And these problems are quite handy for her to go beyond her
natural supporters. Who is supporting her? I have heard
actually she has quite a lot of younger voters, which would be I
suppose a bit of a surprise, to some extent? Not really. She has been
supported by the losers of globalisation, to use a phrase that
has been used during the Trump election in the US. And these would
be people particularly in the north of France, former industrialised
regions more people who have no job suspects and a lot of young people.
There are neighbourhoods in northern France, where unemployment is
reaching more than 40%. These are people who are angry and very
resentful against what they call the system, and I support her for that.
We have not left much time to do Macron, but briefly, he launched his
manifesto today, people say the centre-left has had nothing today to
say for ten years - what did he have to say, has he got a good message? I
think so. I think he's trying to be neither right nor left, which is
strange but fits the present state of politics in France. He's a social
liberal, which means he wants to liberalise the economy but still
bring the social protection the French like and want to continue to
enjoy. Thank you very much, we will talk to you soon.
Raymond Briggs, creator of Fungus the Bogeyman, the Snowman,
and many other much loved stories, was recently honoured
with a lifetime achievement award by Book Trust.
Now in his 80's, he's finally emerged from a long period of caring
for his late partner, and is working on something
altogether more adult than his usual fare -
it's a darkly comic meditation on age and death.
What better way to mark World Book Day than to have our own
Stephen Smith meet Raymond Briggs at his cottage in Sussex.
# We're floating in the moonlit sky...
How do you feel when you're doing Christmas shopping and you
hear Aled Jones singing, we're walking in the air?
He is a big fan of this programme, so
I did an introduction to The Snowman film, and
the Americans wanted somebody more important than me to do it.
And they somehow got David Bowie to do it.
One winter, I made a really big snowman.
Wearing these wonderful glittering pink shoes.
Never seen pink shoes before on a man.
And he says, "I greatly admire your work."
I said, "God, wish I could say the same!"
Raymond Briggs is finally getting down to
the project which may be his swansong and mordant masterpiece.
You see, that could be nobody else but you.
Time For Lights Out - Poems And Drawings Inspired By
He's showing the drafts here for the first time.
The little girl said that, "Old men's legs look like celery!"
Very observant, I think, absolutely brilliant.
Briggs always wanted to be a cartoonist,
considered the lowest of the low artistically, or so he reckons.
Of course they've got these things called graphic novels.
They're getting more and respectable.
Mine, this is supposed to be a graphic novel.
I don't like the term, really, but it makes it sound
Not only that, but Briggs has just won a lifetime achievement award
"Nice cold filthy water, good head of scum on
The readers of his children's stories like Fungus The
Bogeyman seem to appreciate a certain darkness, a little grot, to
I don't think about what children want, you get
You don't think, oh, children of ten won't want this.
You've just got this idea in your head and you can do it how
But is Briggs getting soft in his old age?
He says he can't watch his own account of his
mum and dad and his early years without weeping.
Her in black stockings - and just look at his hair.
Well, they're art students, dear, he'll
grow out of it when he gets a proper job.
He'll never get a proper job with hair like that.
And yet, Briggs says, he has no regrets that his
When they're tiny, they're absolutely wonderful.
My wife, Jean, had schizophrenia, so she couldn't have any.
So that was that - childless throughout - lovely!
Can you explain the shoe collection that we saw
Oh, no, that started, I got those, one or two
pairs over the years as joke presents for Liz's daughter.
Of course, she didn't want them, of course.
So I chucked them in the cupboard or something.
People think I'm some outrageous perv who totters around
Well, why shouldn't you if you want to?
But don't let the Imelda Marcos of mid-Sussex fool you -
childish hugs are things he will miss.
One day, I know I will walk it for the last time.
Last time your little boy climbed on to your shoulders.
The last time your little girl wrapped her arms around your neck
I know there will be a last time I walk this path
before the hospital, before the home, before something.
And the irony is, you never know at the time
What do you think about older people choosing when they have had enough?
Well, it depends, it's very dodgy, isn't it, to make
sure they're not mentally ill with depression or something.
It's your own life, you can do what the hell you
like with it, as far as I can see, no business of anybody else.
But before we go, King Salman of Saudi Arabia has been paying
It's fair to say he likes to travel in style.
A reported 500 tonnes of luggage, 150 chefs, limos,
a custom-made toilet and, perhaps most important of all,