The Lawfare Podcast
Scott Anderson on an Overlooked Presidential Election Vulnerability
Scott R. Anderson is a senior editor at Lawfare, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a senior fellow with the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School. He’s also the author of a new Politico Magazine piece that raises an often overlooked vulnerability in the presidential election. A lot of attention after Jan. 6 and Nov. 2020 has rightly gone to the Electoral Count Act and other similar reforms, but Scott argues that if Congress really wants to protect the presidency, it can't just reform the process for counting electoral votes. Jacob Schulz sat down with Scott to talk about his Politico article and about the broader landscape of electoral reforms in the aftermath of 2020.
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Catching up with Jack Smith's Mar-A-Lago Investigation
On May 31, CNN reported that federal prosecutors investigating the unlawful removal of classified documents from the White House to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence have obtained an audio recording in which the former president acknowledges that he knowingly kept a classified Department of Defense document that contained details about a potential attack on Iran. According to CNN, the tape indicates that Trump “understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House.”Trump’s alleged comments made on the recording have sparked a debate about whether he will be charged with violating 18 U.S.C. 793(e) of the Espionage Act.What exactly did Trump say on the tape? Did he violate the Espionage Act? How does this change Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigations? And what does all of this mean for Trump’s reelection campaign? To go over everything that happened, Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes sat down for a live recording of the podcast alongside Lawfare Senior Editors Scott R. Anderson, Quinta Jurecic, and Roger Parloff, who unpack all of these questions and more.
Monday, June 5, 2023
Gabe Rottman on the Justice Department's New Guidelines on Press Subpoenas
It's been about six months since the Attorney General issued new guidelines on compulsory process to members of the press in criminal and national security investigations, and two officials of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press—Bruce Brown and Gabe Rottman—wrote a detailed analysis of the document in two parts for Lawfare. Rottman joined Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes to go through the document carefully: the long history that led to it, the shifting policies that have gotten more restrictive over the years since the Supreme Court ruled in Branzburg v. Hayes, the ramp-up of leak investigations and reporter subpoenas in the Obama and Trump administrations, and the new policy that creates a red line policy against them under most (but not all) circumstances. They talked about the document, about why the Justice Department has forsworn a historic and upheld authority, and about what it means for reporters and criminal investigations going forward.
Sunday, June 4, 2023
Rational Security: The “Pun Moll” Edition
This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott were joined by their Brookings and Lawfare colleague Molly Reynolds to talk all things Congress in the week’s national security news, including:Shattering the Must-Pass Ceiling.” Earlier this week, President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced a deal on raising the debt ceiling, and thereby avoiding a potential financial catastrophe. The question now is whether they can sell it to enough members of Congress, where right-wing members of McCarthy’s caucus are promising to sink it. Will the deal make it through? And if not, what might come next?“Recep Tayyip Erdo-won.” After a close fought contest, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has emerged victorious from run-offs in Türkiye’s national elections, positioning him for a third term in office and a third decade in power. Does the reelection of the increasingly autocratic figure mean the further decline of Turkish democracy? And Türkiye’s flagging relationship with the West?“I’m Sorry, Dave. I’m Afraid That’s Not Regulation.” The head of several leading AI developers are actively urging Congress to regulate the industry—even as they continue to roll out new products to the public with untested capabilities. How seriously should we take this plea? And is it aimed at the right risk?
Saturday, June 3, 2023
Lawfare Archive: Rosa Brooks on ‘How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything’
From October 1, 2016: At this week's Hoover Book Soiree, Rosa Brooks joined Benjamin Wittes to talk about her new book, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon.” The book covers an extraordinary range of territory, from Brooks' personal experiences working as a civilian advisor at the Pentagon, to the history of the laws of war, to an analysis of the U.S. military's expanded role in a world in which the lines between war and peace are increasingly uncertain.How should we think about the military’s responsibilities outside the realm of traditional warfare? And is it desirable, or even possible, to rethink the way we approach the distinctions between wartime and peacetime?
Friday, June 2, 2023
Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet
It is often said that “Russia is a country with an unpredictable past.” Such distortions of history can lead to trouble, as the world witnessed last year when Vladimir Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to “denazify” the neighboring country—one with a Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust. As Megan Buskey writes in her new memoir, “Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet: A Family Story of Exile and Return”: “How could a country know itself unless it knew all the things it had been?”Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien sat down with Megan, a nonfiction writer and former Fulbright Fellow to Ukraine, who has studied and written about the country for two decades. They discussed her book, the use and abuse of history in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the role of family histories in countering those false narratives. They also talked about the best way to get a Polish archive to give you the documents you need. Please note that this episode contains content that some people may find disturbing, including descriptions of sexual and other forms of violence. Listener discretion is advised.
Thursday, June 1, 2023
Chatter: Information Ecology with Alicia Wanless
Alicia Wanless is one of the pioneers of the idea of information ecology, the notion that we should think about information and disinformation as part of a complex ecosystem, the management of which she analogizes to environmental policy. Wanless has been complaining for several years that the war on “disinformation” skates over important question: What are the collateral effects of anti-disinformation policies? How do interventions against information pollution operate in the real world? In her conversation with Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare’s editor in chief and this week’s Chatter guest host, Wanless talks about how she became interested in information management, what’s wrong with the discussion of disinformation, what a more environmentalist approach to information spaces might look like, and what a useful research agenda for the nascent field would focus on. Among the works mentioned in this episode:Wanless’s latest essay on Lawfare: “There’s No Getting Ahead of Disinformation Without Moving Past It.”The book Network PropagandaChatter 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.
Thursday, June 1, 2023
The Wagner Group, Bakhmut, and a New Phase in the Ukraine War
The war in Ukraine is approaching a pivotal moment. Russia remains in control of the hotly contested city of Bakhmut. But the ruthlessly effective mercenary forces of the Wagner Group—the same group whose leader, Yevgeny Prighozin, has openly bickered with the regular Russian military and reportedly offered to trade Russian troop positions to Ukrainian intelligence—are withdrawing. Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, are preparing for a reported counteroffensive, even as unclaimed attacks are taking place across the border in Russia—including, most recently, on a civilian target in Moscow. To discuss these developments, Lawfare Senior Editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with two reporters covering the conflict for the Washington Post: Intelligence and National Security Reporter Shane Harris and Ukraine Bureau Chief Isabelle Khurshudyan. They discussed the peculiar role played by the Wagner Group, recent revelations stemming from the Discord leaks, and what to expect from the conflict in the months to come.
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Erdoğan Wins Reelection in Turkey
On Sunday, May 28, Turkey held a bitterly contested run-off election, with incumbent presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan winning reelection against opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Lawfare Legal Fellow Saraphin Dhanani sat down with Soli Özel, Senior Lecturer at Kadir Has University in Istanbul and a columnist at Habertürk daily newspaper, to discuss what was at stake in this election and the future of Turkey as Erdoğan’s next five-year term marks his 25th year in higher office.
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Tim Mak on The Counteroffensive
Tim Mak was an NPR reporter in Kyiv since the beginning of the full-scale invasion last year. He recently stepped down and started his own Substack from the Ukrainian capital, called The Counteroffensive, and Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes sat down with Tim to talk about the publication. What makes a reporter leave an established news organization like NPR to start a startup in a war zone? What is The Counteroffensive going to cover? How will it be different from other stuff you might be reading on the Ukraine war? And what are things like in Kyiv these days as the Ukrainians get ready for the counteroffensive for which the publication is named?