The Lawfare Podcast
Foreign Agents and the Barrack Indictment
This past Monday, the criminal trial of Thomas Barrack began in federal court in the Eastern District of New York. Barrack, who served as an informal advisor to the 2016 Trump campaign and then as chair of Trump's inaugural committee, is alleged to have acted as a foreign agent of the United Arab Emirates. According to the indictment, Barrack acted as a back channel for the UAE to influence U.S. foreign policy.
Lawfare executive editor Natalie Orpett sat down with Alex Iftimie, a partner at the law firm Morrison Foerster, and a former Department of Justice attorney specializing in national security matters, including the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, and related statutes. They discussed the case against Barrack, the significance of the charges to broader enforcement strategy, and why foreign influence matters for U.S. national security.
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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.
Rational Security: The “We Need to Talk About Kevin ... Again” Edition59:47This week on Rational Security, with Scott traveling, Quinta and Alan were joined by Lawfare Senior Editor Molly Reynolds to break down the week’s big national security news stories, including:“What is Impeachment, Really?” Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has announced an impeachment inquiry against President Biden seemingly with the goal of finding something to impeach him over. Will this do anything to hold back the right flank of McCarthy’s caucus from coming for McCarthy’s speakership? “The Investigation of the Investigation of Donald Trump.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman and fearless Trump defender Rep. Jim Jordan has fired back against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over the Georgia state indictment of Donald Trump, announcing that he’s planning to investigate Willis for engaging in what he terms a politically motivated prosecution. Willis has responded by accusing Jordan of seeking “to obstruct a Georgia criminal proceeding.” What kind of authority, if any, does Congress actually have to conduct this kind of oversight?“Still Musky.” A new biography of Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson has sparked controversy thanks to Isaacson’s description of a decision by Musk to turn off Starlink coverage near Crimea to block a Ukrainian maneuver. Isaacson has already walked back his own reporting … but the incident still raises questions about Musk’s power on the global stage and his ability as a private actor to shape the course of war.For object lessons, Alan recommended the novel “Song of Achilles.” Molly shared a PBS documentary series about the Troubles called Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, and Quinta shouted out the HBO documentary series Telemarketers.
Trump’s Trials and Tribulations: An Update from Courthouses Around the Country01:25:09It's another episode of “Trump’s Trials and Tribulations,” our weekly video conversation with Lawfare editors and writers on the ongoing Trump trials. On Thursday afternoon, Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes sat down with Lawfare Senior Editor Roger Parloff and Lawfare Legal Fellows Saraphin Dhanani and Anna Bower. They talked about what's going on in Mar-a-Lago, what's going on in Fulton County, and what’s going on in Judge Tanya Chutkan’s courthouse in Washington. Will Judge Chutkan recuse herself? They also talked about Section 3 litigation under the 14th Amendment in Colorado, Minnesota, and elsewhere.Please join us next time by becoming a Material Supporter at our website, lawfaremedia.org/support, or subscribing to our YouTube channel.
Lawfare Archive: Iran, the U.S. and the Middle East at a Turning Point54:33From February 16, 2021: The Biden administration has promised significant changes to the U.S. relationship with Iran that could have a marked impact on the Middle East. What is the likelihood that this new administration will be successful? And how will other regional developments—from the Abraham Accords between Israel and a few Arab states, to the healing of the rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council, to the ongoing morass in Syria—affect the dynamics here?To address these questions, David Priess hosted a panel discussion on February 11 for the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy and International Security at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government. He sat down with Norman Roule, a 34-year veteran of the CIA, who served as the national intelligence manager for Iran for more than eight years; Kirsten Fontenrose, formerly the senior director for the Persian Gulf on the National Security Council staff and currently the director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council; and Ambassador Dennis Ross, who has served in U.S. government positions pertaining to the Middle East for some 40 years, and who is now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The Question of Removal55:03The question of whether the Fulton County trial of Donald Trump and his co-defendants will be removed to federal court is now before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and it's on its way to the Supreme Court. Judge Steve Jones of the District Court in the Northern District of Georgia denied Mark Meadows’ motion for removal. He has now also denied an emergency stay of that ruling, and so the question goes to the appeals court in the federal system, even as the underlying criminal case percolates along in Fulton County court in Georgia.To discuss it all, Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes sat down with Lawfare Legal Fellow Anna Bower, Lawfare Senior Editor Alan Rozenshtein, and Lee Kovarsky of the University of Texas Law School, who recently wrote a piece on the subject for Lawfare. They talked about the right standard for removal and whether Meadows should be yanked out of Fulton County court, what the Eleventh Circuit and the Supreme Court are likely to do with it, how long they are going to take, and whether the federal litigation will screw up the timing of the Fulton County prosecution.
Chatter: Shane Harris Wants to Believe01:18:08Chatter 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.