The Lawfare Podcast

The New York Times and Washington Post both report that a Russian intelligence unit is paying bounties to Taliban-affiliated militants for killing coalition, including U.S., soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan. The White House denies that the president has been briefed on the subject, although the newspapers report that the White House was alerted to it and didn't do anything about it. Congress is asking questions, and Trump's critics are certain that this is the latest example of the president bowing before Vladimir Putin.

Benjamin Wittes spoke with Scott Anderson, Susan Hennessey and David Priess of Lawfare, and Alina Polyakova, president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis, about how solid the intelligence is, what we can say about the president's knowledge—or lack thereof—of the situation, and why Russia would want to do this in the first place.

Direct download: About_Those_Russian_Bounties.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Jack Goldsmith sat down with Eric Posner, the Kirkland & Ellis Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, and the author of the new book, "The Demagogue's Playbook: The Battle for American Democracy from the Founders to Trump." They discussed why demagogues are a characteristic threat in democracies, how the founders of the U.S. Constitution tried to ensure elite control and prevent a demagogue from becoming president, how these safeguards weakened over time and how Donald Trump's demagoguery helped him win election as president. They also explored how Posner's perception of Trump as a threat to American democracy fits with his writings in support of a powerful president.

Direct download: Eric_Posner_on_the_Demagogues_Playbook.mp3
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Jordan Schneider, the host of ChinaTalk, sat down with Antony Dapiran, Hong Kong-based lawyer and author of two books on protests in Hong Kong. They discussed the history and legacy of the 2019 protests on the anniversary of one of the largest protests in human history, when two million Hongkongers marched against the extradition bill. They talked about the lead-up and aftermath of that day, how protests grew increasingly violent, the new national security law, and how these protests compare and contrast to Black Lives Matter.

Direct download: Hong_Kongs_Protests_One_Year_On.mp3
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In this episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner, authors of the new book, “You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape.” Phillips is an assistant professor in Communications and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University, and Milner is an associate professor of Communication at the College of Charleston. In “You Are Here,” they look at the uniquely disorienting aspects of the current online information environment and how that is exacerbated by aspects of “internet culture” that don’t make sense from the outside. They discussed the challenges for journalists in understanding and reporting on that culture and how that can fuel information pollution, how the internet got to this point where everything is so polluted, and, of course, what QAnon has to do with it.

COVID-19 is still rampaging around the country, primaries in several states did not go as planned, and, of course, there are Russians lurking in the background. With all of this happening around us, what is going to happen with the election we are about to hold in November? Benjamin Wittes checked in with Nate Persily, the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, a guru on conducting a safe and efficacious election in the era of COVID, and Lawfare senior editor Margaret Taylor, who has been tracking what, if anything, Congress is going to do about any of this. They talked about where we are, where we need to be and how long a road we can expect over the next few months.

Direct download: Election_Meltdown_Update.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Glenn Kessler is the head of the Fact Checker staff of the Washington Post. Along with Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, he is the author of the new book, "Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President's Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies." It is a compilation and distillation of the 19,000 false or misleading statements Donald Trump has made and the Washington Post has documented in its mammoth database of presidential untruths since the president took office. Kessler spoke with Benjamin Wittes about what makes Trump different from other presidents, the task of documenting the president's lack of candor on a daily basis and what it all means to have a president who lies this much.

Direct download: Glenn_Kessler_on_Donald_Trumps_Assault_on_Truth.mp3
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Former National Security Advisor John Bolton's White House memoir, titled “The Room Where it Happened,” has made a lot of waves recently. Not only has Bolton faced criticism for publishing his account of his time in the Trump administration in a book rather than testifying in the president’s impeachment trial, but the Justice Department is now suing Bolton for publishing what it claims is classified information. So what is the government arguing? And, is Bolton’s book any good? On Friday, June 19, Quinta Jurecic discussed it all with Benjamin Wittes, Jack Goldsmith and Marty Lederman.

Direct download: John_Boltons_Book_is_Out_of_the_Barn.mp3
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Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper is the Stephen A. Schwarzman senior fellow for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the new book, "Shields of the Republic: The Triumph and Peril of America's Alliances." Matthew Waxman spoke with Mira about the history and strategic importance of American alliances, some of the constitutional issues alliances raise and what the United States should do to revitalize its alliances going forward.

Direct download: Mira_Rapp-Hooper_on_Shields_of_the_Republic.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

On this episode of Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Alina Polyakova and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Laura Rosenberger, the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States. When it comes to information operations, most Americans probably think of Russia as the primary culprit. After all, the memory of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election is still fresh. But over the past year, Chinese information operations have gained prominence with the Chinese Communist Party involved in aggressive online campaigns regarding unrest in Hong Kong and the ongoing pandemic. They talked about how the Chinese government wields information online, how Chinese tactics are different from Russian tactics in the information space and how democracies should respond.

Direct download: Laura_Rosenberger_on_Chinese_Information_Operations.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Molly Reynolds spoke with Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center about the Continuity of Government Commission, an effort they helped to lead beginning in 2002 to ensure that our three branches of government would be able to function after a catastrophic attack that killed or incapacitated large numbers of our legislators, executive branch officials or judges. They discussed the findings of the Commission, how they relate to the challenges facing the federal government today and how the various branches of government have or have not acted to ensure smooth operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Direct download: Norm_Ornstein_and_John_Fortier_on_the_Continuity_of_Government.mp3
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The 2020 presidential election is less than five months away. As the election inches closer and closer, concerns have grown about the possibility that President Trump, should he lose the election, would refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the result. How can we think about that risk? Do we have adequate statutory and constitutional guardrails that protect us from electoral catastrophe? Jacob Schulz sat down with Lawrence Douglas, James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College, and author of the new book “Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020.” They talked about the vulnerabilities in our electoral system, historical examples of mishaps in presidential elections and how to think about the president’s continued hostility toward elections and, in particular, mail-in voting.

Direct download: Lawrence_Douglas_on_Presidential_Election_Concessions.mp3
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Patrick Skinner is a police officer in Savannah, Georgia, who brings diverse experience to that job. He served as a case officer at the Central Intelligence Agency, handling foreign intelligence sources in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Jordan. He also has previous law enforcement experience with the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Capitol Police and the U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service. David Priess spoke with Skinner about today's policing crisis, Pat's experiences with counterterrorism operations and what they taught him about effective law enforcement, and the hazards of the warrior mentality that is common across many police departments today.

Thanks to Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Direct download: Patrick_Skinner_on_Warrior_Cops_and_Neighborhood_Policing.mp3
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ChinaTalk is the newest member of the Lawfare Podcast family, and its impresario, Jordan Schneider, does a wide range of interviews related to China's economy and security. In this episode, Jordan interviews Evan Osnos of The New Yorker about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the relationship between that date and the clearing of Lafayette Square. They talk about everything from the psychological similarities and differences between Donald Trump, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, to Chinese hip hop and why it is not catching on internationally.

Direct download: Evan_Osnos_on_Tiananmen_and_Lafayette.mp3
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On this episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Alina Polyakova and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Eileen Donahoe, the Executive Director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University. There’s no shortage of controversies roiling right now about free expression and the future of the internet—from platforms aggressively removing misinformation about the ongoing pandemic, to President Trump’s executive order targeting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Eileen, Quinta and Alina take a step back and review the landscape of online speech as a whole, to get a more holistic sense of what things look like right now and where platforms and governments might be headed when it comes to regulating speech. They talked about the various debates over content moderation taking place within the United States and around the world, and Eileen made the case for why international human rights law should be used as the framework for both protecting and moderating online speech.

Direct download: Eileen_Donahoe_on_Protecting_Free_Expression_Online.mp3
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David Frum is one of the most prominent and eloquent conservative critics of the president. The former George W. Bush speechwriter and current writer for The Atlantic has written "Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy," a book about the Trump presidency, and in this case, what comes after it. David joined Benjamin Wittes for a wide-ranging conversation of the ground he covers in the book: how you rebuild after Trump, how you satisfy elements of Trumpism without letting them descend back into authoritarian populism, what policies and approaches a new administration should take and how we should treat the "Trumpists" and their most diehard supporters.

Direct download: David_Frum_on_Trumpocalypse.mp3
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High profile congressional hearings, like the 2015 Benghazi hearings, the 2019 Mueller Report hearings and most recently, the Ukraine impeachment proceedings are often described in derogatory terms like "political theater," "spectacle" or "circus." But do these exaggerated performances on Capitol Hill actually serve a constitutional purpose? Margaret Taylor sat down with Josh Chafetz, a law professor and author of the book "Congress's Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers." They talked about his most recent article, in which he argues that congressional overspeech, like congressional oversight, is actually an important tool of constitutional politics, even if it doesn't automatically produce good outcomes.

Direct download: Congressional_Overspeech_with_Josh_Chafetz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

On May 27, the Trump administration announced that it was withdrawing sanctions waivers that had allowed Russian, Chinese and European companies to work with Iran on sensitive Iranian nuclear sites in support of the goals of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. Margaret Taylor talked about what it really means with two experts: Peter Harrell, an attorney and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and Richard Nephew, senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. They talked about what has happened since the Trump Administration decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement in 2018 and what difficulties a new presidential administration may encounter in re-joining the agreement.  

Direct download: JCPOA_with_Harrell_and_Nephew.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

We normally think of international law as constraining leaders' actions, especially aggression toward other countries. But what if one effect of an established international principle actually spurs more covert action against other countries? Michael Poznansky is an assistant professor of International Affairs and Intelligence Studies in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, with a secondary appointment in the Political Science department, at the University of Pittsburgh. In his new book, "In the Shadow of International Law: Secrecy and Regime Change in the Postwar World," Mike argues just this—that the principle of non-intervention that has come up in the past century has actually created powerful motives for leaders to engage in covert action more frequently to spur regime change. David Priess sat down with Mike to talk through his thesis and its implications.

Direct download: Covert_Action_Regime_Change_and_International_Law.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

In this episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Ryan Merkley, the chief of staff to the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. We’ve spent a lot of time on this podcast discussing how social media platforms have handled issues of disinformation and misinformation. But what about Wikipedia? It’s a massive online encyclopedia written and edited entirely by volunteers—so, not a platform, but still an online service grappling with a wave of untruths in an uncertain time. Ryan, Evelyn and Quinta talked about Wikipedia’s unique structure, how the site has managed to become a reliable resource on an often untrustworthy internet, and how readers, writers and editors of Wikipedia are navigating the need for information amidst both the pandemic and ongoing protests over police abuse of Black Americans.

Direct download: Ryan_Merkley_on_Why_Wikipedia_Works.mp3
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Dr. Rashawn Ray is a David M. Rubenstein fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He's also an associate professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he directs the Lab for Applied Social Science Research (LASSR). He is a scholar of, among other things, police-civilian relations and has done a lot of work on police-involved killings. He joined Benjamin Wittes to discuss the mechanisms of police violence, what causes it, what can be done to address it and reduce it, and the role of race in this problem. They talked about police unions, implicit bias, the difference between legality and morality in police shootings and what policy levers are available to bring an end to the rash of police killings.

Direct download: Rashawn_Ray_on_Police_Violence.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

The president is threatening to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization. This evening, he appears to have ordered a tear gas attack on peaceful protesters near the White House in order to stage a photo op in front of a local church. And he has called out troops in Washington, DC, and threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act. To talk through the legal ins and outs of what the president has done (and not done), what he has the power to do and what he does not have the power to do, and what the federal response to the protests should be, Bobby Chesney, Steve Vladeck and Benjamin Wittes got together for this special joint episode of the National Security Law Podcast and the Lawfare Podcast.

Direct download: On_the_Brink_with_the_Insurrection_Act.mp3
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Journalist Bart Gellman is the author of the new book, "Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State." Jack Goldsmith sat down with Gellman to discuss the book. They spoke about Gellman's reporting on the Snowden affair, the scope of the National Security Agency's surveillance capabilities and press freedom as it relates to national security reporting.

Direct download: Bart_Gellman_on_Dark_Mirror.mp3
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