A major terrorist attack, the largest since 9/11, hit multiple locations targeting Christians in Sri Lanka on Easter morning. The violence was different from the usual terrorism that rocks Sri Lanka from time to time, and Benjamin Wittes asked Christine Fair, an expert on South Asian politics and extremist groups, to come in and talk us through it.
Jared Cohen is also the author of a new book on the presidency called, "Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America." It describes the times in American history when a president has died in office, forcing eight other men, who are neither the voters' nor their party's choice, to confront unparalleled challenges. David Priess spoke with Jared recently about their stories and the lessons we can learn from their experiences.
John Sipher on Mueller's Report on Russian Intelligence Operations
Earlier this week, Benjamin Wittes spoke to John Sipher, who ran Russia operations for the CIA in Moscow. They talked about how Sipher read the Mueller report, the respective roles of the CIA and the FBI in counterintelligence investigations and operations, and whether an investigation like Mueller’s really had a chance of understanding the full scope of Russia’s intentions and activities in the 2016 election.
Bonus Edition: Jim Baker on the Russia Investigation
On May 10, the Brookings Institution hosted a public conversation between former FBI General Counsel Jim Baker, who is now the Director of National Security and Cybersecurity at the R Street Institute, and Brookings Senior Fellow Benjamin Wittes. The conversation was recorded live as a Bonus Edition of the Lawfare Podcast. The conversation covered how the FBI thought about the Russia investigation in those fateful months both before and after the president fired FBI Director James Comey. How did the president’s conduct toward the bureau impact the institution? How does it affect career public servants like Baker? And how does Baker feel now about the president and his conduct after reading the Mueller report?
Bonus Edition: Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman on 'Of Privacy and Power'
On April 23, the Hoover Institution hosted the latest iteration of the Security by the Book series, where Jack Goldsmith interviewed Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman about their new book, “Of Privacy and Power, The Transatlantic Struggle Over Freedom and Security.” They talked about how the relationship between Europe and U.S. has changed in response to regulations and other government action in the security and privacy spheres on both sides of the Atlantic.
Bill Galston wrote his column this week in the Wall Street Journal arguing against impeachment in a fashion that sharply diverges from arguments made by others on Lawfare. He argues that polling data shows that an impeachment inquiry would be an irresponsible direction for anyone hoping to remove Trump from office. Benjamin Wittes sat down with Bill to discuss his column, as well as his recent book, "Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy."
Bonus Edition: Attorney General Barr vs. the Committee with No Bull
Attorney General Bill Barr appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to discuss the Mueller report and the Justice Department’s wider efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. The evening before the testimony, multiple outlets reported that Mueller had sent Barr a letter expressing concerns that the attorney general’s summary of the report’s conclusions “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel’s work. The hearing became contentious, and covered a wide array of topics ranging from Barr’s conduct to the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But we cut out all the unnecessary repetition and theatrics to leave you with just the questions and answers that you need to hear. It's the Lawfare Podcast, Bonus Edition: Barr vs. the Committee with No Bull.
A BuzzFeed After-Action Report with Leopold and Cormier
On January 17, 2019, BuzzFeed News reported 'President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project.'
The reporters who wrote the story, Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, joined Ben Wittes to discuss how they came to report what they reported, what parts of the story they stand by, what parts they think they messed up on, how the story was sourced, and what the discrepancy between the story and the Mueller report tells us about the conduct of Donald Trump.
Congress, Congress, and More Congress with Margaret Taylor and Molly Reynolds
The action has shifted to Congress, the Mueller report is filed, and a blizzard of subpoena fights between the White House and various congressional committees is already underway. The president has sued a committee chairman, there's a question about whether Don McGahn will testify or whether the White House will exert executive privilege over it, and looming over it all is the question of how congressional Democrats and Republicans are thinking about impeachment.
Bonus Edition: A Brookings Discussion on What We Learned From the Mueller Report
On April 23, Benjamin Wittes hosted a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution unpacking what we learned from the redacted version of the Mueller report. The panel featured Susan Hennessey, Chuck Rosenberg and Margaret Taylor. They discussed the factual record Mueller established on Russian interference and collusion, whether the president's conduct constitutes obstruction of justice and how Congress and the American people might react to the report. The full audio of the event is available here.
Michael Anton, former Trump administration national security official and a research fellow at Hillsdale College, has published an essay in Foreign Policy explaining what he calls the 'Trump Doctrine' on foreign policy. Recently Anton sat down with Jack Goldsmith to discuss the new article and the philosophy behind Trump's foreign policy, particularly with respect to liberal internationalism and international institutions.
Special Edition: What to Make of the Mueller Report
A redacted version of the 448-page Mueller report dropped yesterday, and there’s a lot to say about it. In this Special Edition of the Lawfare Podcast, Bob Bauer, Susan Hennessey, Mary McCord, Paul Rosenzweig, Charlie Savage and Benjamin Wittes discuss what the report says about obstruction and collusion, Mueller’s legal theories and what this all means for the president and the presidency.
Special Edition: The Mueller Report in Under an Hour
The Justice Department released on Thursday morning a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The Mueller team divided the report into two volumes: one on Russian interference and potential coordination with the Trump campaign, and the other exploring the president’s conduct in relation to the investigation. Each volume features its own executive summary, chronicling the investigation’s central findings and conclusions. On this special edition episode of the Lawfare Podcast Benjamin Wittes reads those executive summaries in full. It’s a Mueller Report instant audio-book.
Michelle Melton on Climate Change as a National Security Threat
Michelle Melton has written on Lawfare about Climate Change and National Security, examining the implication of the threat.
She and Benjamin Wittes sat down last week to talk about why we should think about climate change as a national security threat, the challenges of viewing climate change through this paradigm, the long-standing relationship between climate change and the U.S. national security apparatus, and how climate change may affect global migration.
Julian Mortenson, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, is the author of a remarkable new article entitled "Article II Vests Executive Power, Not the Royal Prerogative."
Recently, Benjamin Wittes spoke with the professor about the article, which Mortenson has been working on for years—as long as the two have known each other. The article explores the history of exactly three words of the U.S. Constitution—the first three words of Article II, to be precise: "the executive power."
On Thursday morning, Susan Hennessey spoke to former FBI director James Comey about encryption, China, Attorney General Bill Barr's comments to the Senate about the opening of the Russia investigation, and more.
Shorts: Memo to the Press: How Not to Screw Up on the Mueller Report
Attorney General Bill Barr announced on Wednesday, April 10, that the Mueller report will be released next week. While we wait for the release, Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes have written a "Memo to the Press: How Not to Screw Up on the Mueller Report." Jurecic and Wittes argue that the press got lost in the confusion of Barr's letter to Congress announcing the special counsel's top-line conclusions, and they offer nine principles for how to "[do] better the second time." You can listen to Quinta Jurecic read that article in the latest edition of the Lawfare Podcast Shorts.
An NSI Conversation on Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and U.S. Policy
Our friends at the National Security Institute at George Mason University have a discussion about Yemen and the U.S.-Saudi alliance. The conversation was moderated by Lester Munson, and it included Jodi Herman, Jamil Jaffer, and Dana Stroul.
Mary Louise Kelly and Shane Harris on Covering the CIA
Back in February, we hosted Bill Harlow and Marie Harf to discuss how the CIA interacts with reporters on sensitive national security topics. For this episode, we thought it only fair to turn that around and also talk about how it's seen on the other side.
David Priess recently sat down with Mary Louise Kelly and Shane Harris to discuss the challenges of covering national security, to address myths about the intelligence beat, and, unsuccessfully, to uncover their sources.
Ambassador Kim Darroch on the State of the Special Relationship
British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, sat down with Benjamin Wittes last week to talk about the US/UK alliance, particularly in moments of uncertainty for both countries. They talked briefly about Brexit, but they mostly discussed other key areas of mutual cooperation, like counterterrorism in the Middle East, countering Russian aggression, and what to do about a rising China.
Sue Biniaz on the Trump Administration and International Climate Policy
From 1989 to early 2017, Sue Biniaz was the lead climate lawyer and a climate negotiator at the State Department. Sue sat down with Lawfare's Jack Goldsmith to talk about the early days of U.S. and international climate action, how the Paris Agreement came into force and the predecessor agreements that gave rise to it, how it was supposed to operate, and what impacts Trump's actions have had on international climate policy.
Special Edition: The Mueller Report and the Barr Letter
Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent his report to Bill Barr on Friday, and the attorney general sent a letter to Congress on Sunday detailing the principal conclusions of the Mueller report. Benjamin Wittes talks about it all with Lawfare Executive Editor Susan Hennessey, former senior Justice Department official Carrie Cordero and former assistant attorney general for national security David Kris.
Culper Partners Rule of Law Series: Sen. Saxby Chambliss
In this third episode of the special Culper Partners Rule of Law series, David Kris and Nate Jones speak with former Senator Saxby Chambliss, who served as a senator from Georgia from 2003–2015, and in the House of Representatives from 1995–2003.
Demographic, technological, and geostrategic developments are disrupting the electoral landscape in sub-Saharan Africa. How do these shifts affect the political climate for democracy and participation across Africa? What have recent elections in Nigeria illustrated about these? And what about the clash between China and the United States in Africa?
Shorts: ‘Speaking Indictments’ by Robert S. Mueller III
It’s Robert Mueller as you’ve never heard him before. We have something special for you on the podcast today. Something very different. The Mueller report is coming. We all know that. We don’t know what’s going to be in it. We don't know when it's showing up. But Bob Mueller has already told a remarkable story. He’s told it scattered through different court filings in a variety of cases, indictments, plea agreements, stipulations of fact. We decided to distill it, to organize it, to put it all in one place, to tell the story of the Russia investigation orally, to let a remarkable group of speakers read the speaking indictments that Mueller has issued. So here’s the story of the Russia conspiracy, distilled to a brief audiobook in seven chapters. What you’re about to hear is all taken nearly verbatim from actual Bob Mueller filings. We’ve cut a lot, moved stuff around, and changed a few words here and there to make it sound more like a narrative. We have changed the meaning not at all.
Bill Browder and Jago Russell Debate Interpol and Authoritarian Governments
Bill Browder, human rights campaigner and foe of Vladimir Putin, seems to get arrested whenever he travels abroad as a result of red notices and diffusion orders issued by Putin through the Interpol police organization. These incidents have highlighted the abuse of Interpol by authoritarian governments, and they raise a really important question: Should we be participating in an international police organization with governments that use that organization to harass and arrest their enemies?
As the nation braces for the forthcoming end of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into President Trump and his associates, The Lawfare Podcast decided to take a look back at the complete history of special prosecutors.
War Powers History You Never Knew with Matt Waxman
For the past year, Matt Waxman has been writing Lawfare vignettes about interesting—and usually overlooked—historical episodes of American constitutional war powers in action, and relating them to modern debates. These include the stories of St. Claire’s Defeat and the Whiskey Rebellion during the Washington administration, congressional war powers and the surprisingly late termination of World War I, the proposed Ludlow Amendment during the interwar years, and Eisenhower’s Taiwan force authorizatio
Shorts: FBI Director Wray on Combating Cyberthreats
On Tuesday, Susan Hennessey interviewed FBI Director Chris Wray at the 2019 RSA Conference. They discussed about how the Director views the cyber threat landscape 18 months into his term, his concerns about the threats posed by Russia and China, what the FBI is doing to protect the 2020 elections, and more.
Political trends in recent years have seen a rise of right-leaning nationalism and populism around the globe, including in the United States. What are the sources of nationalism, and what are its effects on modern politics?
Luke Murry and Daniel Silverberg on National Security in Congress
This week, Margaret Taylor sat down with seemingly unlikely partners: Luke Murray, National Security Advisor to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Daniel Silverberg, National Security Advisor to Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. They spoke about national security issues facing this Congress, what staffers do on a day-to-day basis, and how the two of them actually work together.
Bonus Edition: Michael Cohen vs. the Committee with No Bull
On Wednesday, Michael Cohen—the former executive vice president of the Trump Organization, former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, and former personal lawyer to Donald Trump—paid a visit to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Cohen accused the president of campaign finance violations after taking office. He alleged that he was present when Roger Stone gave Trump advance notice of the WikiLeaks dump of the hacked DNC emails. And he claimed that the president's statements in a meeting with Jay Sekulow led Cohen to conclude that the president wanted Cohen to make false statements to Congress. So we cut out all of the bickering, all of the procedural obstructions, and all the rest of the frivolity, to bring you just the one hour of testimony you need to hear.
In this second episode of the special Culper Partners Rule of Law Series, David Kris and Nates Jones, the founders of the Culper Partners consulting firm, speak with Eric Holder, who served as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States from 2009 to 2015.
Each year, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London publishes The Military Balance, an annual assessment of the military capabilities and defense economics of 171 countries around the world. Last week, Benjamin Wittes sat down with Bastian Giegerich, director of defense and military analysis for IISS, who leads the research and publication of The Military Balance, which has just come out for 2019.
Shorts: Four Principles for Reading the Mueller Report
It’s looking more and more like Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation is finally reaching an end. The regulations under which he is operating require Mueller to write and submit a final, confidential report to the attorney general. Who, in turn, must then decide when and how much of the report to release to Congress and the public. No one outside of the Justice Department knows what will be in the report, which makes this the perfect to set ground rules regarding how people should engage this material, regardless of their political affiliations or view of the L’Affaire Russe scandal. Today, Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes and I detailed what, we believe, those ground rules should be. In the latest edition of the Lawfare Podcast Shorts, you can listen to that article in-full, read by one of the authors, Susan Hennessey.
Marie Harf and Bill Harlow on CIA Public Relations
The Central Intelligence Agency, by its very nature, is a secretive organization, yet it has a robust public affairs and media relations operation. How does the agency resolve this tension? How do its employees, from the director of the CIA to the officers needed to assist in this effort, deal with the difficult questions of how open to be? To find out, David Priess sat down with Bill Harlow and Marie Harf, two former CIA officers who were in the middle of it all.
Something a little different on the podcast today: the launch of a special series—the Culper Partners Rule of Law Series. David Kris and Nates Jones, the founders of the Culper Partners consulting firm, have recorded a limited-edition podcast series exploring various aspects of the rule of law, particularly as it relates to U.S. national security and criminal law enforcement. Over the course of several episodes, which we will be dropping into the Lawfare Podcast feed over the coming weeks and months, David and Nate examine topics including legislative and judicial oversight of the executive branch, the rule of law in counterterrorism, the relationship between law, economic security, and national security, foreign relations and the rule of law, and law and politics. Each episode features an interview with a current or former senior government official, or a leader in the private sector. In this first episode, Nate and David talk with Judge John Bates, Senior Judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Bates has had a long and distinguished career in government and private practice, including work at two private law firms, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in DC, and as Deputy Independent Counsel in the Whitewater investigation. Most recently, from 2013 to 2015, he was Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Judge Bates became a federal judge in 2001, and from 2006 to 2013 he served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where he was the court’s Presiding Judge beginning in 2009.
On March 29, in approximately six weeks, the United Kingdom is scheduled to crash out of the European Union. As of the date of this podcast, there is no deal governing how that exit will work. To understand the stakes, Benjamin Wittes sat down last week in the new Jungle Studio with Amanda Sloat, a senior fellow at the Brookings Center for the United States and Europe, to talk about all things Brexit.
Bonus Edition: Whitaker vs. the Committee with No Bull
After the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee assured that he would be allowed to appear voluntarily, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker gave testimony on Friday before the panel on oversight of the department he has led since Jeff Sessions left office in November 2018. He answered questions for over six hours about everything from his decision not to recuse from the Mueller investigation to the department's pretrial release program. But we cut out all the unnecessary repetition and theatrics to leave you with just the questions and answers about national security law that you need to hear.
From the increasing development of autonomous weapons systems to the expansion of the traditional battlefield to cyber and outer space, the evolution of warfare invites ethical and legal questions about what the future holds. In November 2018, Arnold & Porter's Veterans and Affiliates Leadership Organization hosted a panel discussion to explain what warfare will be like for the military veterans of the future.
Many critics of Donald Trump’s foreign policy say the president has undermined the liberal international order, but some progressives question whether liberal internationalism was worthwhile to begin with. On Sunday, Jack Goldsmith had a conversation with Samuel Moyn to talk through how to understand the successes and failures of liberal internationalism, the significance of Donald Trump’s effect on it, and what the future holds for the liberal international order.
Shorts: Why the FBI Sent So Many Agents to Roger Stone’s Home
In the wake of Roger Stone’s arrest on Jan. 25, 2019, Chuck Rosenberg, a longtime U.S. federal law enforcement official, explained on Lawfare why the tactics used during the arrest were wholly appropriate. Nonetheless, some politicians, including the president and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, have raised questions about the FBI’s operational decisions—in particular regarding the allegedly excessive number of FBI officials who were present for the arrest and search of Stone’s home. In a second article for Lawfare, Rosenberg detailed why it was entirely appropriate for the FBI to send roughly 29 agents to Stone’s house. In the latest edition of the Lawfare Podcast Shorts, you can listen to that article in-full, read by the author.
Herb Lin and Amy Zegart on “Bytes, Bombs, and Spies”
Last week, as part of the Hoover Institution’s “Security by the Book” series, Jack Goldsmith spoke with Herb Lin and Amy Zegart, co-directors of the Stanford Cyber Policy Program. Lin and Zegart edited a volume on offensive cyber operations entitled: “Bytes, Bombs, and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations.” Goldsmith, Lin, and Zegart discussed the book’s inception, its contents, and what role offensive cyber operations have played and continue to play in U.S. strategy.
Shorts: What a Watergate Document Can Teach the House Judiciary Committee
While researching the Watergate Road Map, Benjamin Wittes discovered a letter written by the then-Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary Peter Rodino to the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In the letter, Rodino requested that any material relevant to the House’s impeachment inquiry be transferred to his committee. This morning, Wittes analyzed in a Lawfare article how the letter could instruct current Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler on what steps he can take to ensure his committee properly executes its constitutional obligation. In the latest edition of the Lawfare Podcast Shorts, you can listen to that article in-full, read by the author.
Shorts: The Intelligence Chiefs vs. the Committee with No Bull
On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee heard testimony on global threats to U.S. national security from six heads of intelligence agencies: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray, NSA Director Paul Nakasone, NGIA Director Robert Cardillo, and DIA Director Robert Ashley. In a three-hour open session, they gave testimony about North Korea, they gave testimony about Iran, and they gave some testimony that clashed with statements made by the president of the United States. But we cut out all of the bull, and left you with just the 15 minutes of the hearing that you need.
Stan Brand on Congressional Subpoenas and Contempt
With the Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, the 116th Congress is expected to be one of vigorous oversight of the executive branch, complete with requests for documents and for testimony from executive branch officials. But how does this actually work, and what happens when the executive branch refuses to comply?
To hash it all out, Brookings Senior Fellow Molly Reynolds spoke with Stan Brand, who served as the general counsel to the House of Representatives from 1976 to 1983.
Jeffrey Tulis on 'The Rhetorical Presidency' on Steroids
On a flight recently, Benjamin Wittes read a book that knocked his socks off: "The Rhetorical Presidency" by political scientist Jeffrey Tulis.
Ben got on the phone with Jeffrey Tulis to talk about the book, how the speaking style of presidents changed from the Founding era through the 20th century, and how the hyper-rhetorical style of Donald Trump is really an extension of developments that had been going on all through the 20th century.
Molly Reynolds and Margaret Taylor on National Security and the 116th Congress
It's a new year with a new Congress, and the Democrats now control the House of Representatives. But how will that change affect the state of play for national security legal issues? To find out, Benjamin Wittes spoke last Friday with Brookings senior fellow and expert on all things Congress, Molly Reynolds, and Brookings fellow, Lawfare senior editor, and former Chief Democratic Counsel for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Margaret Taylor.
At the dawn of the Trump administration, Ian Bassin became the impresario behind the litigating organization Protect Democracy. Benjamin Wittes sat down with Ian to talk about the differences between Protect Democracy and more traditional litigating organizations, what sort of projects they do take on, and what sort of projects they don't take on. And they talked about the role litigation can and cannot play in preserving the norms that make democracy vibrant.
Special Edition: Bill Barr vs. the Committee with No Bull
Bill Barr spent Tuesday testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to take over the reins of the Justice Department as attorney general, a role he previously held during the George H.W. Bush administration. Barr spent more than eight hours before the senators. But on this episode of the Lawfare Podcast, we cut out all the BS: No repeated questions, no repeated answers, no ums, no uhs. And we took out everything except the national security questions, leaving you just the questions and responses about Lawfare topics that you want to hear.
Special Edition: The FBI’s Counterintelligence Investigation of Donald Trump
Benjamin Wittes talks to Carrie Cordero, Chuck Rosenberg, David Kris, Jack Goldsmith and Susan Hennessey about the New York Times's report that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump after the president fired Director James Comey in May 2017.
Greg Miller on “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy”
Last week, Jack Goldsmith got on the phone with Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist Greg Miller to discuss Miller’s new book, “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy.” Miller’s book chronicles Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the interactions among members of the Trump campaign, transition, and administration, and officials and representatives of the Russian government.
Special Edition: Jaimie Nawaday on the Veselnitskaya Indictment
Benjamin Wittes talks to Jaimie Nawaday, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, to discuss the indictment of Natalia Veselnitskaya over alleged obstruction of justice in a case Nawaday handled. Nawaday talks about Russian abuse of the American justice system and how Veselnitskaya colluded with the Russian chief prosecutor's office to frustrate American prosecutors.
John Sipher on Spy Swaps: Past, Present, and Future
The Russian government's recent arrest of American Paul Whelan and its charges against him have many politicians and pundits speculating about the possibility of an intended spy swap for Maria Butina. There's a lot going on here, but there's also a lot of misunderstanding about the history of spy swaps, what they are, and what they aren't.
Earlier this week, David Priess sat down with his former CIA colleague John Sipher to talk about it all.
Mary McCord and Jason Blazakis on Criminalizing Domestic Terrorism
The murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville in 2017 and other recent events have drawn into the public discourse the fact that domestic terrorism is not a crime in and of itself. Earlier this week, Benjamin Wittes sat down with two experts on domestic terrorism—Mary McCord and Jason Blazakis—to talk about ways that it might be incorporated into our criminal statutes.
For this end-of-the-year episode of the Lawfare Podcast, we wanted to hear from you and get your voice on the podcast. You called us with questions, you tweeted your questions using #LawfareAMA, and Benjamin Wittes, Scott Anderson, Bob Bauer, Bobby Chesney, Susan Hennessey, Matthew Kahn, Alina Polyakova, David Priess, and Tamara Cofman Wittes all came together to answer them. We talked about everything from the 25th Amendment, to cyberwarfare, to what's happening in the Middle East.
This week, President Trump made the unexpected announcement that he was immediately withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. To help us make sense of all that has happened over the last 72 hours, Lawfare's Scott R. Anderson sat down on Friday with a panel of Middle East experts at the Brookings Institution: Dan Byman, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Mara Karlin. They talked about the Syria withdrawal, what it means for U.S. policy in the Middle East moving forward, and about James Mattis's resignation.
Since leaving government, Priess has become a historian of national security, intelligence, and the presidency, most recently writing on the history of presidential removal in the book "How to Get Rid of a President: History's Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives." Lawfare's Mikhaila Fogel sat down with David to discuss his recent book, his research process, and the national security implications for these historic episodes.
Last week, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia addressed a crowd at the Center for New American Security (CNAS), offering what he called a “New Doctrine for Cyberwarfare & Information Operations.” Sen. Warner currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In that role, he helps to oversee that committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Ben Wittes sat down with Gregory Johnsen, a former member of the U.N. Security Council Panel of Experts on Yemen, to do a deep dive on the conflict in Yemen. Joining them was Daniel Byman, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy.
After Ben and Dan’s conversation with Greg, Brookings Fellow Molly Reynolds and Lawfare's Scott R. Anderson sat down for a conversation about Yemen-related legislation that is currently churning on Capitol Hill.
Congressman Adam Schiff on the Future of the House Intelligence Committee
On Jan. 3, Democrats will take control of the House and all of its committees. Congressman Adam Schiff, the current ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), is expected to take control of the committee. This week, Susan Hennessey and Ben Wittes sat down with Rep. Schiff to discuss the agenda for HPSCI and the upcoming Congress, the challenges facing the Democratic majority as they attempt to rebuild bipartisanship on the committee, and the Russia investigation.
Special Edition: Preet Bharara Discusses…Everything
Today Benjamin Wittes got on the phone with former U.S. attorney and podcast empresario Preet Bharara to discuss a recent report Preet has published along with the National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy, a group which Preet co-chairs along with former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman. The conversation took a turn towards the news: They talked about a hot-of-the-presses Washington Post story naming former attorney general William Barr as President Trump’s leading candidate to be the next attorney general. And, of course, they discussed the Mueller investigation. After that, they turned back to their original purpose, the Task Force report.
Global Developments in Encryption and Surveillance Law
In August, legal and technical experts gathered in Santa Barbara for the Crypto 2018 Workshop on Encryption and Surveillance to further the ongoing debate over the impact of strong encryption and law enforcement surveillance capabilities. On this episode, we’ve brought you one of the conversations from the event, in which Jim Baker, Cindy Cohn, Sven Herpig, Adam Ingle, and Ian Levy discussed recent developments in the laws and policy governing encryption and surveillance around the world.
Special Edition: Michael Cohen’s Trump Tower Moscow Plea
Thursday saw another plea deal from Michael Cohen: this time with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress regarding how long into the 2016 campaign the Trump Organization sought to build Trump Tower in Moscow and who exactly knew about the efforts. The criminal information validates to a remarkable degree a May 2018 report from Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold of Buzzfeed news, chronicling the details of Michael Cohen and associate Felix Sater’s efforts to cement the real estate deal (you can also listen to a special edition of the Lawfare Podcast on the story here). Immediately after new of the plea broke, Benjamin Wittes sat down with Cormier, Susan Hennessey and Paul Rosenzweig to discuss the story, the implications of the plea for the Mueller investigation, and who just might have legal exposure and for what.
This week, Russia and Ukraine went at it in the Kerch Strait, which separates the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov. It's the latest salvo in Russia's (not-so-secret) war against Ukraine and its eastern provinces.
To understand it all, Ben Wittes spoke today with Alina Polyakova and Scott Anderson. They talked about what happened this week, the international law implications, and the domestic politics in both Ukraine and Russia.
In his new book with Garrett Graff, called “Dawn of the Code War,” John Carlin explains the cyber conflicts the U.S. faces and how the government fights back. Benjamin Wittes sat down with Carlin last week to talk about the book. They talked about about the FBI and Justice Department’s fight against cyber theft, about how the Justice Department attributes cyberattacks to the responsible actors, and about Carlin’s experience as FBI director Robert Mueller’s chief of staff.
Earlier this year, just as the United States was preparing to kick-off its national elections, the country of Iraq was finalizing the results of its own and finally installing a new government after months of debate. To understand what this new government may mean for Iraq and its relationship to the United States, Scott R. Anderson spoke with Jared Levy and Rasha al-Aqeedi.
Following the #NatSecGirlSquad’s first conference, Benjamin Wittes sat down with Jung Pak before a live audience at the Bier Baron in Washington, DC. Jung is a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy program and a long-time North Korea CIA analyst. They talked about North Korean missile development, what reasonable expectations the U.S. might have when it comes to relations with North Korea, and why we tolerate and sometimes embrace comical representations of the North Korean regime.
On October 23, the Brookings Center on the United States and Europe hosted a panel discussion on the endgame of the Brexit negotiations with Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador to the United States; Amanda Sloat, senior fellow at Brookings; Douglas Alexander, former U.K. shadow foreign secretary; and Lucinda Creighton, a former Irish minister for European affairs. Edward Luce of the Financial Times moderated the discussion.
Paul Rosenzweig on Investigating American Presidents
On Tuesday morning, Ben Wittes sat down with Paul Rosenzweig to discuss Paul’s recent 12-part lecture series on presidential investigations released through the online educational platform The Great Courses.
They talked about how Paul structured the lecture series, Paul’s own experience on Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s team investigating the Clinton White House, and the course’s relevance to the Mueller investigation. Check out the course at www.thegreatcourses.com.
President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday and replaced him on an interim basis with the attorney general’s own chief of staff, a man named Matt Whitaker. Whitaker has made repeated public statements expressing skepticism about the Mueller investigation, which he will now be supervising. Benjamin Wittes got on a recorded conference line with Susan Hennessey, Paul Rosenzweig, Steve Vladeck, Chuck Rosenberg and Bob Bauer to discuss the day’s events: the president’s action, how we should understand Whitaker, and what congressional pushback we can expect, both now and when the new congress comes in.
The rate and intensity of cyber attacks on financial institutions has increased in recent years, but the risk that these attacks pose to our financial stability remains understudied. On October 11, Susan Hennessey spoke to three senior research scholars from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs about how to understand financial stability, the unique risks that cyber threats pose to it, and what gaps remain in how to mitigate those risks.
To shed light on the complicated dynamic of the conflict in Yemen, on October 25, the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings hosted a panel discussion on U.S. policy in Yemen, featuring Brookings senior fellows Daniel Byman and Bruce Riedel, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dafna Rand, and Arabia Foundation senior analyst Fatima Abo Alasrar. They talked about the U.S.’s role in the conflict, the extent of the humanitarian crisis, and how the dire conditions on the ground can be alleviated.
On Friday, Benjamin Wittes caught up with Stephanie Leutert to talk about her time on the Mexico-Guatemala border traveling with migrants who are following a trail not unlike that of the caravan. They talked about why people are joining this caravan, what the alternatives to it are, why certain migrants are shunning it, the pushes out of countries like Honduras and Guatemala, and what it's like to be a child on the long trek to the United States.
András Pap on Viktor Orbán and the Decline of Hungarian Democracy
Last week, Ben Wittes met up with András Pap, a Hungarian scholar of constitutional law. Pap is a professor with Central European University’s Nationalist Studies Program in Budapest, and the two spoke about the decline of Hungarian democracy. They talked about the Fidesz party, Hungary's strongman ruler Viktor Orbán, to what extent Hungary is similar to and different from other European countries, and why Pap could talk about these things and not fear what would happen to him when he returns to Budapes
In recent decades, both democratic and republican administrations have tried to guide other countries toward liberal democracy. But John Mearsheimer’s latest book, “The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realties,” says that strategy has made the U.S. a “highly militarized state fighting wars that undermine peace, harm human rights, and threaten liberal values at home.” Last week at the Hoover Institution’s Washington office, Jack Goldsmith sat down with Mearsheimer to talk about t
The State of Rule of Law in the U.S.: National Security and Law Enforcement
On October 3, Benjamin Wittes co-hosted an event with his Brookings colleague, Norm Eisen, on The State of Rule of Law in the U.S. Ben moderated a panel on national security and law enforcement with Lawfare contributor and long-time Department of Justice official Mary McCord; former head of the DEA Chuck Rosenberg; and Representative Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Through the Looking Glass with Mike Doran, An Update
Back in January, Benjamin Wittes sat down with Mike Doran to discuss his support of President Trump and dismissal of the Trump-Russia allegations and the investigation of L’Affaire Russe.
Earlier this week, the two sat down again over Scotch to talk through Doran’s views on—among other things—the Mueller investigation, the Steele dossier, Carter Page’s FISA warrant, and the congressional investigations into L’Affaire Russe.
Ambassador David O'Sullivan on the US-EU Relationship
How is the US-EU relationship faring in the age of tariffs, presidential blusters, Brexit, and tensions over Iran sanctions?
To figure that out, Shannon Togawa Mercer and Benjamin Wittes spoke to David O'Sullivan, the EU Ambassador to the United States. They talked about the US-EU trade relationship, Iran and Russia sanctions, Privacy Shield, the rule of law in deconsolidating democracies in the EU, and more.
On Wednesday, Benjamin Wittes sat down with Mark Risher, Director of Product Management for Security and Privacy for Google, to talk about how his team is thinking about the current and future threats posed by malicious cyber actors.
They discussed Google Advanced Protection, how Google works with “targeted” individuals to set up secure systems, the growing sophistication of phishing emails, and how you might be able to protect yourself.
Anna Salvatore is the impresario behind the High School SCOTUS blog. She got in touch with Benjamin Wittes a number of months ago asking for an interview, and produced a fascinating character study of him. On Tuesday, Ben returned the favor. Anna joined Ben in the Jungle Studio for a wide-ranging discussion of the Supreme Court, high school, blogging, and building an army to produce legal journalism.
Robert Kagan on 'The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World'
On Wednesday, Brookings Senior Fellow Robert Kagan sat down with Susan Glasser of 'The New Yorker' to discuss Kagan's new book 'The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World.' Kagan and Glasser discussed whether the American public tends to support foreign policy that focuses on international withdrawal or unilateral intervention, whether the Trump foreign policy will enable faster growth of dangerous actors, and whether the America of 2018 has parallels to the U.S. in the 1920s or 1930s.
The United States has become the global leader in both defense and private-sector AI. Inevitably, this has led to an environment in which adversary and ally governments alike may seek to identify and steal AI information.
Jim Baker sat down with Benjamin Wittes to discuss how to understand AI as an intelligence asset, how we might protect this valuable asset against a range of threats from hostile foreign actors, and how we can protect ourselves against the threat from AI in the hands of adversaries.
Over the last several years, the People’s Republic of China has built up an aggressive state-driven campaign to accelerate the development of quantum technology—a set of policies intended to put it at the very front of the pack of the next technological revolution, and all the competitive advantages it is likely to bring. Scott R. Anderson sat down with Elsa Kania to discuss this development, what it may mean for the future, and how the United States should respond.
Security technologist Bruce Schneier's latest book, Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World, argues that it won't be long before everything modern society relies on will be computerized and on the internet. Benjamin Wittes sat down with Schneier to talk about what it would mean to live in a world where everything was a computer, and how Schneier's latest work adds to his decades of advocacy for principled government regulation and oversight of "smart devices."
On Friday, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort entered a plea agreement with the special counsel. To figure out what it means for Manafort, the Mueller investigation, and President Trump, Benjamin Wittes spoke to former Obama White House counsel Bob Bauer, independent counsel prosector Paul Rosenzweig, and Lawfare managing editor Quinta Jurecic.
John Brennan and Jerrold Nadler on 20 Months Under Trump
On September 4, at the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, Representative Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and former CIA Director John Brennan, both outspoken critics of the president, sat down for a conversation about what they've seen in the past 20 months under the Trump administration, including their takes on threats to the rule of law, the investigations of the president, and ongoing vulnerability of American democracy to cyber threats.
Special Edition: Kavanaugh vs. the Committee with No Bull, Part II
Brett Kavanaugh spent Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his second day of marathon questioning about his qualifications to join the Supreme Court. But on this podcast, we cut down more than 8 hours of testimony to bring you only the national-security content Lawfare readers and Lawfare Podcast listeners need. Every question and every answer on national security, presidential power and the Mueller investigation.
Special Edition: Kavanaugh vs. the Committee with No Bull, Part I
Judge Brett Kavanaugh faced the Senate Judiciary Committee in Day 1 of a two-day marathon Q&A session for his nomination as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. We sat through it all so you don't have to. We've cut out all the garbage and are bringing you just the questions and answers on legal matters related to national security, presidential power, and presidential investigation.
The NYT reports that CIA human sources in Moscow are drying up, speculating that this may be because of the political environment in the United States.
John Sipher joined Benjamin Wittes in the Jungle Studio to talk about the fragility of CIA operations in Moscow, the plausibility of the NYT story, and what we could do tamp down negative impacts on intelligence collection.
What is Too Far When Former Intelligence Community Leadership Criticizes the President?
What is appropriate for intelligence community leaders to say about the president? What is going too far? What is outside their lane? And what is required by the current moment when intelligence community leaders face a rogue elephant of a president who is violating every norm we know?
There are three people in the world who have interviewed a sitting president as part of a grand jury investigation. On Thursday, Benjamin Wittes sat down with one of them—Solomon Wisenberg—to discuss Wisenberg's experience interviewing Bill Clinton, how that can inform thinking on the next possible presidential interview, and how both prosecutors and the president's lawyers can think strategically about next steps.
Special Edition: The Mueller Investigation's Weird Weekend
What a weird weekend it has been. The Manafort jury is deliberating, the White House lawyer is cooperating with the special prosecutor and giving 30 hours of interview about presidential conduct, and Michael Cohen seems poised to either be indicted or form a cooperation deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.
Brad Moss on Presidential Power and Security Clearances
The President of the United States this week stripped the former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance in a dramatic White House statement by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The White House is threatening more adverse security clearance actions against presidential critics, and former senior security officials are outraged. Benjamin Wittes sat down with Bradley Moss to discuss the president's move, how different it is, and what we can expect if a lawsuit develops.
Canada and Saudi Arabia have been at loggerheads over the past week ever since the Canadian Foreign Minister condemned Saudi Arabia’s arrest of Samar Badawi, a human rights activist. Saudi Arabia's reactions were extreme, including expelling the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, halting trade negotiations and the pulling of the Saudi Arabian ambassador for diplomatic consultation. To sort this all out, Lawfare senior editor Shannon Togawa Mercer spoke to Scott Anderson, former diplomat and international lawyer, and Canadian professors Stephanie Carvin of The Intrepid Podcast and Carleton University, Bessma Momani of the Stimpson Center, and Thomas Juneau of the University of Ottowa. They spoke about Saudi Arabian and Canadian strategy, international legal considerations and what comes next.
Special Edition: Buzzfeed Follows Peter Smith’s Money
There’s a new twist in one of the stranger subplots of L’Affaire Russe: Buzzfeed News reports that Peter Smith, a Republican operative who reportedly sought to obtain missing Hillary Clinton emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, made several suspicious withdrawals from bank accounts during the timeframe of his quest for Clinton’s emails—suggesting that he may have paid people he believed were Russian hackers. Benjamin Wittes is joined by Buzzfeed reporter Anthony Cormier and former Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris to make sense of it all.
Encryption usually takes center stage in debates over digital evidence, and the sensitivities around the issue often halt discussions before reaching practical solutions. But the CSIS recently unveiled a new report detailing solutions to other, less-fraught challenges that digital evidence presents to federal law enforcement. The launch event featured a panel discussion moderated by Jen Daskal, with Lawfare contributing editor David Kris, David Bitkower, Ethan Arenson, Jane Horvath, and Michael Sachs.