The Lawfare Podcast
Chatter: Private Equity and National Security with Brendan Ballou
Private equity firms rank among the largest employers in the United States and invest many billions of dollars in a wide variety of industries. Yet the public understanding of how private equity works and its impact on myriad areas of American life, including national security, remains limited.
Brendan Ballou is trying to change that. A federal prosecutor who works in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, he has written a new book, Plunder: Private Equity's Plan To Pillage America. David Priess spoke at length with him about his previous work in the Justice Department's National Security Division, his current role working antitrust issues, the origins of his interest in private equity, the business model of private equity, its effect on industries from mortgages to nursing homes, private equity's link to the SolarWinds hack, foreign involvement in private equity, the impact of private equity on U.S. competitiveness, and more.
Among the works mentioned in this episode:
The book Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It by Louis Brandeis
The book Plunder: Private Equity's Plan To Pillage America by Brendan Ballou
The movie This Is Spinal Tap
The book Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free by Jed Rakoff
The movie Alien
Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.
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Rational Security: The “Sara-FIN” Edition01:05:11This week on Rational Security, Quinta and Scott were joined by Lawfare colleagues Eric Ciaramella and Saraphin Dhanani, the latter for her last episode of RatSec before departing Lawfare, to break down the week’s big national security news stories, including:“UNGA UNGA Party.” President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy made back-to-back addresses to the U.N. General Assembly, which is gathered in New York for its annual summit this week. What should we make of their statements? Might this be a turning point for the conflict—and, if so, in which direction?“Et Tu, Modi?” Canada has leveled a serious allegation against the government of India: that it was directly involved in the recent assassination of a Sikh separatist leader (and Canadian citizen) on Canadian soil—something that promises to complicate U.S. efforts to bring India into the fold as a balance to China. How credible are these claims and what might they mean?“Ransomwhere?” The Biden administration has struck a deal with the government of Iran, exchanging several imprisoned Iranian nationals and $6 billion in frozen oil revenue for five U.S. nationals held by Iran and their spouses. Is this negotiating with terrorists, a new opening for Iran negotiations, or something else entirely?For object lessons, Quinta recommended Tyler Austin Harper’s penetrating review of Richard Hanania’s “The Origins of Woke.” Eric also went the critic’s route and passed along Gary Shteyngart’s withering review of Walter Isaacson’s new Elon Musk biography. Scott urged anyone with a junior mycologist at home to run out and find Elise Gravel’s charming “The Mushroom Fan Club.” And Saraphin gave a double-headed finale: BBC’s controversial documentary “India: The Modi Question,” which has been banned in India; and David Brooks’ recent article, “How America Got Mean.”
Trump’s Trials and Tribulations: Removal, Gag Orders, and Disqualification, Oh My57:17This past Thursday, Lawfare Senior Editor Scott R. Anderson hosted “Trump’s Trials and Tribulations,” Lawfare’s weekly live video chat about developments in the many ongoing trials circulating around former President Trump. He was joined by Lawfare’s two leading court reporters, Senior Editor Roger Parloff and Legal Fellow Anna Bower, both of whom have been closely following developments in courthouses around the country, both from afar and sometimes up close and personal. They talked about removal proceedings in Georgia, a proposed gag order of the former president in Washington, D.C., and new news about how former President Trump allegedly mishandled classified information in Florida, as well as the coming wave of litigation around the country seeking to disqualify Trump from the presidency under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.This is a live conversation that happens online every Thursday at 4:00pm Eastern Time. If you would like to come join and ask a question, be sure to visit Lawfare’s Patreon account and become a Material Supporter.
Lawfare Archive: An NSI Conversation on U.S.-China Policy50:32From May 25, 2019: Our friends from the National Security Institute at George Mason University stopped by earlier this week to discuss U.S.-China relations. Lester Munson, Jodi Herman, Jamil Jaffer, and Dana Stroul, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers who collaborated and sometimes competed with one another on the Committee, had a lively discussion about Huawei, cyber and tech security, the South China sea, and Uighur internment.
How States Think01:10:51It is commonplace for American leaders to describe their fiercest foreign adversaries as irrational, crazy, delusional, or illogical. In their new book, “How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy,” political scientists John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Sebastian Rosato of the University of Notre Dame argue that these claims and many similar ones are often wrong because they're based on a flawed understanding of state rationality in international affairs.Jack Goldsmith questioned Mearsheimer and Rosato about why they think most states act rationally most of the time in developing grand strategy and managing crises. Among other topics, they discussed how their theory of state rationality differs from rational choice theorists and political psychologists, why understanding state rationality is important to success in international affairs, and why Mearsheimer, a harsh critic of U.S. expansion of NATO and of the U.S. choice to pursue liberal hegemony after the Cold War, nonetheless argues in this book that those decisions were rational.
Chatter: Secret Intelligence and the British Royal Family with Rory Cormac01:15:27The British royal family and UK intelligence operations have been linked since Queen Victoria's time, involving everything from personal protection to matters of international intrigue to concerns about blackmail. Professor and author Rory Cormac, who has conducted extensive research on the British intelligence services, has recently added to his corpus of writings in the field with a book about the modern royal-intelligence intersection: Crown, Cloak, and Dagger, co-authored with Richard Aldrich.David Priess and Rory discussed the difference in US and UK education about the royal family; intelligence foundations during the reign of the first Elizabeth; why it fell apart under her successor; the seeds of modern intelligence under Victoria; the involvement of UK intelligence officers in the death of Grigori Rasputin; the challenges and advances involving intelligence and Edward VII, George V, and Edward VIII; the contributions of George VI to the Allies' massive D-Day deception operations; Elizabeth II's reading of intelligence reports; Soviet spy Anthony Blunt's close relationship with the royal family; Elizabeth's role as a diplomatic "helper;" the exposures of Charles III and Prince Willliam to intelligence; why Clement Attlee was an underappreciated prime minister; and more.Among the works mentioned in this episode:The book Crown, Cloak, and Dagger by Richard J. Aldrich and Rory CormacThe book How To Stage a Coup by Rory CormacChatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.
The Tyranny of the Minority with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt50:53Democratic backsliding, a term that American political scientists usually use to describe the process by which other countries transition to autocracy, has come home. Freedom House’s Global Freedom Index, which attempts to track the health of democracies around the world, recently demoted the United States from a score of 90 in 2015 to 83 in 2021, lower than every established democracy in Western Europe. How did American democracy fall so far behind, and more importantly, what can we do about it? Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien spoke with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, authors of the new book, “Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point,” to answer these questions about our ailing democracy. They discussed the diagnoses and prescriptions of this breaking point, the most damaging counter-majoritarian features of the U.S. Constitution, and why constitutional and electoral reform is so damn difficult in the U.S.—but not impossible. They also got into how the Republican Party went off the rails.
A Weaponized World Economy with Henry Farrell and Abe Newman56:26Economic warfare isn’t a new concept. Protectionist policies, asymmetrical trade agreements, currency wars—those are just a few examples of the economic levers states have long used to control outcomes. But in their new book, two political scientists, Henry Farrell and Abe Newman, argue that a technological innovation spurred on by free market embracers and coopted by the U.S. was an accidental entry point into a new era of economic statecraft—an era whose precise contours and rules are still being ironed out today, as we are fighting in a so-called economic war. Lawfare Associate Editor Hyemin Han talked to them about how this weaponization came to be, how U.S. national security objectives are bleeding into economic warfare, and what policymakers might focus on in trying to ensure that the economic web that the U.S. currently sits at the center of is not ravaged by its own power.
The Mechanisms for Cybersecurity Aid with Eugenia Lostri41:41This week, the UN General Assembly will meet in New York to discuss, among other things, international cooperation to improve global cyber security challenges. This meeting builds on national and international commitments and initiatives that have already been made this past year. One such initiative is cyber-secure nations banding together to provide aid to cyber-risk nations.Lawfare Legal Fellow Saraphin Dhanani sat down with Eugenia Lostri, Lawfare's Fellow in Technology Policy and Law, who recently wrote an article titled, “What Will Mechanisms for Cybersecurity Aid Look Like?” They discussed why cybersecurity aid is necessary, the growing initiatives that the U.S., EU, and international bodies are making in this area, and the many challenges that await.
Trump’s Presidential Immunity Defense with Saraphin Dhanani and Benjamin Wittes40:21Some time soon, former President Donald Trump is expected to file a motion in U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s courtroom to dismiss the Jan. 6 case against him based on some theory of presidential immunity. In a recent piece for Lawfare, our very own Legal Fellow Saraphin Dhanani and Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes write, “The bottom line is that this defense is a bit of a moon shot for Trump, but it’s not a crazy moon shot.”Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien sat down with Saraphin and Ben to talk through their article, “The Trump Defense, Part II: The Presidential Immunity Gambit.” They discussed the general contours of the defense’s argument and strategy, the prosecution’s likely counterarguments, and all the murkiness and unknowns in between. They also talked about how, even if Judge Chutkan does not accept Trump’s immunity defense—and even if the appellate courts ultimately affirm her judgment on that score—the immunity defense could still be useful to the former president.