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The Lawfare Podcast

Author: The Lawfare Institute

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The Lawfare Podcast features discussions with experts, policymakers, and opinion leaders at the nexus of national security, law, and policy. On issues from foreign policy, homeland security, intelligence, and cybersecurity to governance and law, we have doubled down on seriousness at a time when others are running away from it. Visit us at
455 Episodes
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.
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."
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday. Pompeo was asked about the threats posed by China and Russia, the decision to withdraw 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, the upcoming presidential election and much more. The hearing did include 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.
This week on Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Kate Klonick and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Jillian C. York, the director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She’s been an activist working on issues of internet freedom and free expression for many years, which gives her a unique perspective on debates over disinformation and platform governance. Jillian and Kate discussed Facebook’s Oversight Board—the entity designed to provide accountability for the platform’s content moderation decisions—whose development they have watched closely, and about which Kate has written a recent article. They also discussed why Jillian thinks content moderation is broken, what technology companies could do better and how discussions of platform governance tend to focus on the United States to the exclusion of much of the rest of the world.
Attorney General William Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Barr was asked about the federal government's response to protests, the upcoming presidential election, the dismissal of former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman and much more. The hearing did include a lot of bickering and grandstanding, but we cut out all of the unnecessary repetition and theatrics to leave you with just the questions and answers that you need to hear.
For a while, there have been large numbers of alleged former Islamic State state fighters and affiliates detained by the Iraqi government and by autonomous authorities in Syria. The fate of these detainees—and the more than 60,000 people affiliated with the men who live in refugee camps in the region—remains a pressing national security issue for countries in the region, as well as the United States and its Western allies. To talk about the situation, Jacob Schulz spoke with Bobby Chesney, Lawfare co-founder and professor of law at the University of Texas; Vera Mironova, a research fellow at Harvard and, among other things, author of a recent Lawfare post on trials of Islamic State fighters in Iraq; and Leah West, a lecturer at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University and a fellow at the McCain Institute. They talked about how the trials have gone in Iraq and Syria; how the U.S., Canada and European countries have responded to the situation; and what lessons can be drawn from U.S. experiences with post-9/11 detention and trials of suspected terrorists.
Anne Applebaum is a columnist, writer, historian and most recently, the author of "Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lore of Authoritarianism," a book that explores why authoritarian ideologies are on the ascendance in countries as diverse as Poland, Hungary, Spain, the United States and Great Britain. Benjamin Wittes spoke with Anne about the themes of the book: Why are all of these authoritarian ideologies on the rise now? What is the role of social media in their rise? What are the major themes that they have in common, and how different are they location by location? How did conservative ideology come to fracture the way it has over so brief a period of time? And how is the modern wave of authoritarianism different from earlier iterations of it?
Why has modern China prospered in spite of vast corruption? On this episode of ChinaTalk, Jordan Schneider talks with Yuen Yuen Ang, associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan, about her new book, "China's Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption." She draws comparisons between U.S. history and the China of today, arguing that access money in China functions like campaign finance in the States. They also discuss the implications of corruption for regime stability.
This week on Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, whose work focuses on analyzing and identifying altered photo and video—what’s known as digital image forensics. Recently, he has done work on deep fakes—realistic synthetic media in which a person’s likeness is altered to show them doing or saying something they never did or said. He’s also helped develop technology used by platforms to identify and remove material related to child sexual abuse. They talked about how dangerous deep fakes really are, how much of that danger is the technology itself and how much of it has to do with how big platforms amplify incendiary content, and whether platforms should moderate disinformation and misinformation in the same aggressive way they take down sexually abusive material.
Last week, the European Court of Justice released its much awaited decision in Data Protection Commissioner v Maximilian Schrems, commonly known as Schrems II, which addressed which privacy requirements governments and corporations within the European Union will be required to secure before participating in international data transfers. The court's decision casts serious doubt on many of the measures currently in place, most notably in relation to the United States's own national security and surveillance activities, and thus raises new questions about how the European Union would continue to interact with the global digital economy. To discuss these developments, Scott R. Anderson sat down with Peter Swire, professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology and himself a former privacy official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, and Stewart Baker, currently of counsel at Steptoe & Johnson and previously the assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration.
Yesterday, Lawfare published an article revealing and analyzing a document from the Department of Homeland Security that offers legal guidance to analysts in its Office of Intelligence and Analysis regarding the appropriate intelligence activities to mitigate the threat to monuments, memorials and statues, among other things. To discuss this new information and its implications, David Priess spoke with not only the two authors of the article —Lawfare's editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes and University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck—but also Carrie Cordero, senior fellow and general counsel at the Center for a New American Security, who has researched and written extensively on DHS authorities and policies, and Paul Rosenzweig, senior fellow for National Security & Cybersecurity at the R Street Institute and a former deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War. Though often called the "Forgotten War," the Korean War has highly conditioned much of our contemporary international politics in East Asia, and the people of Korea continue to live with its aftermath, both in the north and in the south. And the shadow of the Korean War looms large over something we often debate on Lawfare—war powers. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the U.S. entry into the Korean War, Benjamin Wittes spoke with Katharine Moon, a professor of political science at Wellesley College and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Center for East Asia Policy; Matt Waxman, a professor at Columbia University Law School and long-time Lawfare contributor; and Scott R. Anderson, senior editor of Lawfare and a specialist on war powers, among other things. They talked about what happened on the Korean peninsula during the war, how it affected the way we talk about war powers, and the international law status of the conflict in Korea.
Darrell West is vice president of the Brookings Institution and director of Governance Studies at Brookings. John Allen is the president of the Brookings Institution and a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general. Together, they are the authors of the book, "Turning Point: Policymaking in the Era of Artificial Intelligence," a broad look at the impact that artificial intelligence systems are likely to have on everything from the military, to health care, to vehicles and transportation, and to international great power competition. They joined Benjamin Wittes to discuss the book and the question of how we should govern AI systems. What makes for ethical uses of AI? What makes it scary? What are the anxieties that people have about artificial intelligence and to what extent are the fears legitimate?
This week on our Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Jane Lytvynenko, a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News who focuses on disinformation. If you use Twitter regularly and have looked at the platform during any major media events—disasters, protests, you name it—you’ve likely seen her enormous tweet threads where she debunks hoaxes and misinformation. Recently, she’s turned her debunking skills toward misinformation and disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic, reporting on the various “fake experts” peddling misleading stories about the virus and the long half-life of the conspiratorial “Plandemic” video. She’s also written on the rise of “disinformation for hire”—PR firms that turn to disinformation as a marketing tool. So what is it like to report on disinformation and misinformation in real time? How can journalists help readers understand and spot that bad information? And, is there any cause to be optimistic?
We talk a lot about Chinese policy in Hong Kong, but there's another human rights crisis going on in China in the province of Xinjiang. It concerns the Turkic minority known as the Uighurs whom the Chinese government has been rounding up and putting in reeducation camps. It is an ugly story—one that the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to keep from international attention, with some degree of success. To walk us through the situation in Xinjiang, Benjamin Wittes spoke with Jessica Batke, a senior editor at ChinaFile; Darren Byler, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder whose research focuses on Uighur dispossession; and Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch, who has written extensively on the use of biometrics, artificial intelligence and big data in mass surveillance in China.
Comments (55)

linda cohen

It's a fucking building & I don't see anyone concerned about the lungs of the protesters who are tear gassed multiple times a night, night after night. Or press who's first amendment rights are violated night after night. Over a fucking building!

Aug 10th

Richard Thornton

I enjoyed the David’s Rhode episode but I have some comments which center around an apparent rationalization regarding the Barr attitudes and Trumps view of “the deep state.” Number one: Stone is not a typical political worker, he actually had a relationship with Assange, this doesn’t bother Barr?? Number two: Trump acts like a jerk and lies daily, but yet he still has a point regarding a deep mistrust of biased government officials against him?? He’s not an honest official and I welcome so called “deep state” obstruction to Trump and his cronies.

Jul 15th


Another excellent episode. Highly recommend podcasts.

Jun 17th

Nonya Bizness

you missed the salient point when talking about there being no such thing in the law as declaring a domestic terrorist group. sure, trump can't do that, legally speaking, but he never intended to. saying that antifa will be designated as a terrorist group has the intended effect of making his minions think that antifa IS a domestic terrorist group. we may see some of them act accordingly.

Jun 7th

Terry Durand

hey guys, I listen to this podcast regularly because although it tends to swing anti-Trump, it's usually fair. I just caught the AG Barr commentary on "history written by winners"...I find it highly suspect that you did not relay the entirety of his comment. Not really fair. The whole mess stinks to high heaven, however if you want professionals to keep listening, please be fair and objective. Also not mentioned were the notes about "getting Flynn to lie". As a legal professional from the prosecution side, who has spent a career in and out of Federal and State courtrooms, I can say that these things do make a difference.

May 11th


makes it obvious that the FBI became willing dupes of Russian disinformation during the 2016 campaign. I wish Trump was smart enough to know this.

May 1st


how about a piece on the dismantling of the justice department, or how to try to pick up the pieces when orange godzilla is done stomping through it. ODNI seems to be good and wrecked already.

Feb 26th

Cheri Anderson Phillips

Too bad Scott's(?) voice is gurgled while making very good points. It's an echo or someone else's voice walking on top of his. Why did this go to air with this flaw? Disappointing.

Jan 23rd


Quite a Term! Lawfare lays it out like no other podcast. Invaluable expositions make complexities more understandable. Recommended without reserve for all.

Nov 16th


Excellent episode and analysis on a complicated and esoteric subject.

Oct 1st

Jude Nance

Treason is recommended for this illegally elected person. every thing he has done must be totally voided.

Sep 27th

Terri Hunt Speechless...thanks, Lawfare, once again, for the deep dive into this latest crisis.

Sep 26th

Michael Kaer

another riveting episode. this concludes part 1 the report. listen. The survival of the Republic is at stake. that is not hyperbole.

Sep 2nd
Reply (1)

Julie Sobinsky

ᗩᕼEᗰᗰ. ᑭᒪEᗩᔕE ᒪOOK ᖴᑌᖇTᕼEᖇ IᑎTO ᗩᖴGᕼᗩᑎIᔕTᗩᑎ'ᔕ I ᕼᗩᐯE ᗷEEᑎ TᕼEᖇE ᑌᑎᗪEᖇGᖇOᑌᑎᗪ, ᗩᑎᗪ ᗩᗷOᐯE GᖇOᑌᑎᗪ. ᖇᑌᔕᔕIᗩᑎ ᑕᕼᗩᗰIᑎGOEᔕ ᗩᖇE ᑎEEᗪEᗪ. ᑕOᑎTᗩᑕT ᑌᑎ, ᑎᗩTO, ᗩᑎᗪ ᑎᗩᖴTᗩ, TOO.

Sep 1st

Julie Sobinsky

I ᑕᗩᑎᑎOT ᔕTᗩᑎᗪ ᗩᑎYᗰOᖇE ᖇᑌᔕᔕIᗩ ᗷᗩᔕᕼIᑎG ᗩᑎYᗰOᖇE.

Sep 1st
Reply (1)

Terri Hunt

I listened to the White Lies podcast previously, but it was interesting to hear the hosts explain more background of the times in which this event happened. Thanks for this!!

Aug 19th
Reply (1)

N A Davis

The interview with Glendon was awful. She was evasive, misleading, and imprecise. Most political philosophy professors could have--and almost surely would have--done a much better job of explaining the distinctions between pre-political and positive rights. The interviewer tried valiantly--and in vain-- to get something other than waffles, evasions, and just plain nonsense from Professor Glendon. No luck. I am a big Lawfare fan and supporter. But this interview just was unacceptably bad.

Aug 3rd


This is fascinating, thank you for sharing and for your service!

Aug 1st
Reply (1)


thank you Mrs. Mendez for sharing a piece of this thrilling story!

Jul 28th
Reply (1)

Alex Hamilton

Do you by any chance have a mailing address for Robert Mueller that you could post? I would like to send him a letter.

Jul 25th
Reply (1)
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