The Lawfare Podcast

Earlier this month, the Trump administration re-imposed tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada, signaling a new salvo in the now years-long trade war it has been waging with countless U.S. trading partners. But what gives the president the authority to pursue such measures unilaterally, even when he lacks support from members of his own party in Congress? To talk through this question, Scott R. Anderson sat down with Kathleen Claussen of the University of Miami School of Law and Timothy Meyer of Vanderbilt Law School. They discussed the scope of the president's authority over trade, where it came from and what a future Congress might be able to do about it.

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

In mid-May, President Trump fired the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. The ouster came as a surprise, and although it is clear that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Trump to fire him, the reasons Pompeo gave for it have changed over time. This is just one of a series of controversies coming out of the Department of State in recent months. With the House Foreign Affairs Committee investigating and additional Inspector General reports becoming public over the last month, Margaret Taylor sat down with Politico’s foreign affairs correspondent, Nahal Toosi, and Lawfare senior editor Scott Anderson, to sort through it all. They talked about the implications of Secretary Pompeo’s speech at the Republican National Convention, the IG’s report on Pompeo’s controversial decision to declare an emergency to expedite the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, questions about the use of Department resources in support of Susan Pompeo and the State Department’s responses to the House and Senate requests for documents related to Biden and Burisma.

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

This week on Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Emma Llansó, the director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). They discussed the Global Internet Forum, or GIFCT, a consortium which houses a shared database of content that platforms use to remove terrorism-related material. Emma makes the case for why it’s worth paying attention to—and why she finds it concerning.

They also talked about CDT’s lawsuit against President Trump over his recent executive order aiming to constrain platforms’ leeway to moderate content, which the CDT is arguing violates the First Amendment.

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

Yemen is home to the most tragic circumstances imaginable right now—years upon years of war, environmental disasters and severe humanitarian plight, exacerbated by cholera, diphtheria and now COVID-19. To discuss the ongoing situation, David Priess sat down with Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Pembroke College, Oxford University, who has spent extensive time on the ground in Yemen, and Mick Mulroy, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East. They talked about the roots of the Yemeni war and its humanitarian toll, its evolution through conflict and COVID-19, and prospects for improved conditions.

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

Jack Goldsmith spoke with Harold Holzer, director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, about his new book, "The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media from the Founding Fathers to Fake News." They discussed the long and interesting history of the contentious relationship between presidents and the press, and how President Trump's relationship with journalists has many precedents and is not the low point in president-press relations. They also discussed the likely arc of the battle between the White House and the media after Trump leaves office.

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

In recent months, relations between the United States and China seem to have reached a new low as disagreements over trade, tech, human rights and the coronavirus have led the two sides to exchange increasingly harsh rhetoric. Just weeks ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went so far as to suggest that the decades-long experiment of U.S. engagement with China had been a mistake. But is this heightened tension just a bump in the road, or is it a new direction for one of the United States's most important bilateral relationships? To discuss these issues, Scott R. Anderson sat down with an all-star panel of China watchers, including Tarun Chhabra of the Brookings Institution and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Elsa Kania of the Center for a New American Security, and Rob Williams, executive director of the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School.

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

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has released the final counterintelligence volume of its extensive report related to many aspects of the Russian information warfare and influence campaign surrounding the 2016 election. To dissect it, David Priess sat down with Lawfare's Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic and Margaret Taylor. They discussed what's in this report, how it relates to the Mueller report and what actions, if any, it will spur from its hard-hitting findings.

This week on Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and former chief security officer of Yahoo and Facebook. Alex has appeared on the podcast before, but this time, they discussed a new coalition he helped set up called the Election Integrity Partnership—a coalition focused on detecting and mitigating attempts to limit voting or delegitimize election results. Disinformation and misinformation around the U.S. presidential election has already started popping up online, and it’s only going to increase as November draws closer. The coalition aims to counter this in real time. So how will it actually work?

They also asked Alex for his hot takes on TikTok—the popular video sharing platform facing pressure over concern about influence from the Chinese government.

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

Late last week, the UN Security Council voted down a resolution, offered by the United States, to indefinitely extend a conventional arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October. The lifting of the arms embargo was one of the sweeteners that was part of the Obama administration's Iran nuclear agreement. Now, the Trump administration has announced it will begin the process of triggering the snapback of UN sanctions on Iran using procedures outlined in UNSCR 2231—a move that could be the death knell for the Iran nuclear agreement. Margaret Taylor sat down with Lawfare senior editor Scott Anderson, and Richard Gowan, the UN director for the Crisis Group, an independent research and advocacy organization, to talk through the legal and political issues, as well as what will unfold on this matter in the weeks and months to come.

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

President Trump's relationship with the intelligence community is back in the news again after allegations that his administration manipulated an intelligence report to show a false equivalency between Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 presidential election on his behalf and similar efforts by China and Iran on behalf of his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. But Trump isn't the first president to try to get the intelligence community to align its assessments with his preferred version of the facts, and he's most likely not the last. This week, Scott R. Anderson sat down with journalist Robert Draper to discuss his new book on one of the most infamous cases of intelligence manipulation in recent history, entitled "To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq." They also discussed his recent article for The New York Times Magazine detailing the Trump administration's efforts to change intelligence reports on election interference and what these cases can tell us about the relationship between the presidency and the intelligence community.

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

In a surprise announcement last week, the United Arab Emirates and Israel are normalizing relations, and Israel is putting on hold its plans for annexation of West Bank territory. To discuss the announcement and its diverse implications for various actors, Benjamin Wittes spoke with Lawfare senior editor Scott Anderson; Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist who is acting head of the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings; Natan Sachs, the director of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy; and Hady Amr, a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings who served as the United States deputy special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. They talked about what the deal covers; its implications for the domestic politics of Israel, Iran and the United States; how it might affect the larger regional dynamics and what it means for the Palestinians.

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

On July 30, former President Barack Obama, speaking at the funeral of Congressman John Lewis, threw his weight behind ending the Senate filibuster if necessary to pursue a voting rights agenda. His comments brought to the forefront a debate that has been simmering for years within the Democratic party. Margaret Taylor spoke with Adam Jentleson, who served as deputy chief of staff to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid during the Obama administration, and Brookings senior fellow Molly Reynolds, about the history of the filibuster, how it actually works and what the consequences could be if a Democratic-controlled Senate actually got rid of it.

This week on Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Alina Polyakova and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Shane Huntley, the director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group—a team that leads Google’s efforts to track threats from nation states and hacker groups. If you’ve ever received a notification from Google that a state-sponsored actor is trying to access your email account, you’ve heard from the Threat Analysis Group. The group examines everything from attempts to steal cryptocurrency to what Google calls “coordinated influence campaigns.”

Recently, the Threat Analysis Group has begun putting out blog posts with updates on their work against coordinated influence campaigns. Alina and Quinta asked Shane about his “bulletin” for the first quarter of 2020.

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

President Trump recently issued executive orders aimed at banning TikTok and WeChat from operating in the United States. To discuss the sanction, Bobby Chesney sat down with Dr. Sheena Chestnut Greitens, an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a faculty affiliate with the Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the Clements Center for National Security at UT; and Dr. Ronald Deibert, a professor of political science and the founder and director of The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. In addition to the executive orders concerning TikTok and WeChat, they also discussed the larger U.S.-China relationship and the role of technology competition in that space.

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

Last week, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington handed down a major en banc decision on the question of whether the president's former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, even needs to show up in response to a congressional subpoena, or whether he has absolute immunity from testifying before Congress. A strong seven judge majority of the DC Circuit overturned a panel opinion that had held that a congressional committee had no standing to sue to enforce its subpoena. The full DC Circuit ruled that yes, it does have standing. In a separate case, a lower court ruled on an internecine dispute within the House of Representatives over proxy voting instituted by speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The court ruled that Republicans could not challenge the proxy voting rule because of the Speech and Debate Clause. Benjamin Wittes spoke with Lawfare senior editors Margaret Taylor and Scott Anderson about what this all means for congressional oversight, whether these opinions will stand up on further review and what will happen next.

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

During the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon employed an unusual scare tactic in his efforts to reach a withdrawal—he led Vietnam to believe he was crazy enough to start a nuclear war, an approach he described as the madman theory. From his first days in office, President Trump has employed his own madman theory, from menacing North Korea with fire and fury to threatening withdrawal from NATO, leaving not just adversaries, but also U.S. allies and even his own advisors unsure of what he will do next. David Priess spoke with CNN's chief national security correspondent and anchor of CNN Newsroom, Jim Sciutto, who has analyzed Trump's foreign policy through this lens and written "The Madman Theory: Trump Takes On the World."

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

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday. He was asked about the recent DHS personnel deployments in the wake of mass protests, particularly in Portland, Oregon. The hearing included some grandstanding and repetition, but we cut out all of the theatrics to leave you with just the questions and answers that you need to hear.

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

This week on Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, reporters at NBC News. Writing at, they report on disinformation and misinformation in health and politics. Their work covers a lot of ground, but for this episode, they discussed one increasingly prominent issue on that beat: QAnon, a conspiracy theory built around anonymous posts on an internet forum claiming that Donald Trump is waging war against a deep state and a vast network of child sex traffickers. The conspiracy theory has inspired acts of violence and is becoming increasingly mainstream, with several candidates for U.S. Congress being QAnon believers. They talked about how QAnon started, why we need to take it seriously and how the internet—and big technology platforms—have allowed the theory to spread.

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

“What if J. Edgar Hoover Had Been a Moron?” That’s the question Lawfare’s editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes asks in a new article about his experience learning that his tweets had been written up in an intelligence report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. After reporting on an internal DHS document and publishing other documents to Twitter, Wittes learned that I&A had distributed intelligence reports about those tweets along with the tweets of New York Times reporter Mike Baker. After Shane Harris reported on I&A’s activities at the Washington Post, DHS announced that it was halting the practice of collecting information on journalists and the head of the office was reassigned. Quinta Jurecic discussed the bizarre story with Wittes and former Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris.

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

Last Friday the Lawfare Podcast brought you Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's full statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his question and answer session with the senators, all with "no bull." A few days before that hearing, the Democratic staff of the Committee released its most recent oversight report titled "Diplomacy in Crisis: The Trump Administration's Decimation of the State Department." Following remarks by Ranking Member Bob Menendez, Margaret Taylor moderated a panel discussion about the report featuring three distinguished former ambassadors with close to 75 years of diplomatic experience between them—Tom Shannon, Barbara Stephenson and Bonnie Jenkins—as well as Elizabeth Shackelford, who in 2017 resigned her career post in protest of the Trump administration. They talked about the contents of the minority staff report, the recommendations it contains and the long-term consequences of what the report documents for America's foreign policy and national security interests.

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

Michel Paradis is a scholar of international law and human rights who has worked for more than a decade for the U.S. Department of Defense Military Commissions Defense Organization, where he has worked on a number of the landmark court cases to arise out of Guantanamo Bay. Most recently, he is the author of the book "Last Mission to Tokyo: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raiders and Their Final Fight for Justice." It's the story of two military commissions that arose out of the first U.S. bombing raid over Japan during World War II: One, the trial by the Japanese of a number of Americans who participated in the raid, and the other after the war, of the Japanese who conducted the first trial for their conduct of that trial. Benjamin Wittes spoke with Michel about the extraordinary history he uncovered, how he came to be interested in these cases and how they relate to the ongoing U.S. experiments with military commissions.

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